Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Darkness of a Scrum Master

Each Scrum Master has their own version of the Darkness
The biggest challenges of a scrum master are personal challenges.  These are the emotions that well up inside while you are doing your job.  It is confronting personal failure and shortcomings of others. This week I want to talk about the emotional challenges of be scrum master.

David Foster Wallace was a famous author who publicly battled depression and alcoholism.   Wallace referred to his depression melodramatically as “The Darkness.”  It was an all-encompassing cloud or sludge which polluted his life.  I live with darkness myself each day.  Work is never on time.  Budgets are too tight. The hours are too long.  The coffee is either too hot or too cold.  Instead of being in control of my work and destiny; I am carried along by meetings and expectations I did not set.

This is when the darkness creeps into my life. It is the moment I do not feel like a professional but rather a cog in a large machine spinning endlessly spewing out profit and broken lives.  I am sure it would drive some to drink.

I asked some of my friends and colleagues in the Agile+ Community about how they deal with the stresses of the job. Some common themes came up in the conversation.  Talking to other scrum masters helps.  Taking time off and long lunches seem to help.  The consumption of alcohol came up often.  The most important theme was talking through the issues.  Scrum masters need to celebrate successes and learn from failures.  We need to find a healthy venue to complain about developers who are not living up to expectations.  Finally, we need a free and open exchange of experiences because it will help lessen the stress of the job.

As a scrum master, all eyes are on you.  The emotional toll of the job should not be ignored and everyone should take steps to beat back the “Darkness” which comes with the job.

Until next time.