Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, May 30, 2016

Being a scrum master is about struggle.

This is what struggle looks like.
Some careers are prestigious.  Others people have high paying careers.  Finally, there are plenty of people who define their careers based of the daily struggles they give.  This week after a long three day weekend I want to talk about struggle.  

When I hear the word “struggle” it sounds like a cliche.  I have heard pampered athletes use it to describe contract negotiations.  I have seen interviews with escaped murderers talk about their “lives of struggle.”  I have even witnessed a teen-ager user the term “struggle” to describe efforts to find a liquor store to sell him beer under age.  Struggle can get to be pretty meaningless because it has so many different meaning to so many different people.   Describing struggle seems just as futile as describing “love.”

My definition of struggle requires personal sacrifice in the face of indifference and hostility.  The example I use to illustrate struggle is the lives of ballet dancers.  For years, they toil in obscurity.  A dancer can spend hours practicing and in rehearsal.  They contend with abusive instructors, self-doubt, eating disorders, and injury.  All of this pain and sacrifice for a chance to be on stage and hear the applause of the crowd.  Dancers also suffer a physical toll for this life and it is clear to see when you look at photographs of the feet of dancers.  To me, that is struggle.

A scrum master’s life is to be in a constant struggle with the organization, colleagues and the status quo.  You are like Don Quixote in Man of La Moncha jousting with windmills and upsetting the authorities.  It is not the kind of career which allows quick advancement up the corporate ladder.  A scrum master must listen like a minister, inspire like an apostle, and be ostracized like a martyr.  They should have good technical skills and social skills good enough to act like a therapist to the people around them.  It is not an easy job. 

So to be a scrum master is to live a life of struggle.  You don’t go into it for fame and fortune.  You do it in order to make a difference in the organization and if that is not why you are their then you need to be doing something else. 

Until next time.