Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sharpening the Saw for the Scrum Master

Even a chain saw needs to be sharpened.
Being a scrum master is a calling.  It isn’t like being a catholic priest but is certainly is a calling because you are leading change in your organization.  It is not easy and it requires a bit of missionary zeal.  Because, if you are part of a business reformation it is going to require a level of commitment not typical in most cubical dwelling workplaces.  Having priests and nuns in my extended family, I always wondered why they went on retreats.  This week, it dawned on me why and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.

In the book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” one of the seven habits they suggest is known as sharpening the saw.  This is what author Stephen R. Covey calls the opportunity to take a break, train and learn new skills because if you do not you will be like a saw which is over used.  After a while the blade will dull and it will be unable to cut anything.  So highly effective people take time to read, learn new things, and relax.

Since working as a member of a religious order requires incredible people skills, hours of listening, and zero compensation; the risk of burn out is very high.  This is why I think the retreat came into being.  It is a chance for priests and nuns to be among their own kind.  They share stories.  They pray.  They spend time away from the people they are supposed to be serving.  It is not just about the religious mission of these people.  It occurs to me that it is a necessary survival tool in order to do their jobs.

Being a scrum master is one of the hardest jobs in technology.  You are a servant leader of software developers who are notoriously hard to lead.  Contemporary business culture is still struggling to integrate the message of the Agile Manifesto and the principles of agile.  Business leaders expect agile to work in organizations without training their people or hiring people to work full time as product owners.  It is exhausting.  For every success, there are countless failures and you are always expected to be upbeat and willing to continuously improve.

So this week, I am going to take some time to sharpen the saw.  I am going to clean my house, read a trashy pulp novel, and go to a museum or two.  I might even binge watch a few episodes of Dr. Who in order to prepare for the new season.  I am taking my retreat.  I suspect that it is just what the doctor ordered.

Until next time.