Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, October 31, 2016

Everyone has a bad day.

Everyone can have a bad day
Everyone is entitled to a bad day.  We live in an imperfect world where directions are not followed, colleagues don’t have the same sense of urgency, and the printer is out of toner.  It is worse for agile teams because they are expected to deliver at the end of each sprint and a few bad days can pile up into a failed sprint. As a scrum master it is up to you to accept bad days and help you team avoid future ones.  This week on my blog the emotional work necessary to make it through to bad times.

Each agile team depends on a scrum master.  It is part of the scrum guide and is a necessary to help teams improve.  When the team is having a bad day it is particularly important the scrum master is around to listen team member’s vent.  Listening is one of the most important skills of a scrum master.  It will help you diagnose problems with the team and learn about the obstacles which are creating that bad day.  Some of the issues are interpersonal, in this way it is up to the scrum master to play therapist and counselor to the individuals having problems.

This work is hard and emotionally draining.  Some of this work can be futile.  One employee spent most of their time not doing work instead of completing projects, it drove me insane.  If they spent as much effort doing what was expected as they did attempting to avoid work they would have been a valuable team member.  Instead, deadlines were missed and the morale of the remaining team was brought down.  I spent much of my time doing HR work documenting this individual’s malfeasance and senior leadership could not or would not remove this individual from the development team for cause.  It would take the entire team turning over and a series of layoffs before this individual would be let go.  It took three years to manage out a bad team member from a scrum team when it should have been a matter of weeks.

Other times you have members of your team who are whiny, entitled, and unable to follow directions.  The project management tool is too complex.  People are not returning phone calls and they can’t get work done on time because they won’t work more than forty hours.  When you attempt to coach these individuals they have an alibi for their behavior and ignore your direction.  These are people who are not good enough to keep and they too good fire.  You are going to spend most of your time working with these individuals.

Sometimes, I have to let down the mask of command and let the team know that I am sick, tired or angry, otherwise it will come out in a spasm of unprofessional behavior.  I am constantly on guard of mansplaining to a co-worker.  Sometimes it gets to the point where I have to say, “I am very angry with you and in order to be professional with you I have to walk away and cool off.”  It isn’t pretty, but for me it is necessary if I am going to do my job properly.

Sometimes I skip lunch with my team members so that I can collect my thoughts.  Other times, I leave the office to take a walk or go to the barber shop to try and improve my attitude.  The point is you cannot always be upbeat and inspirational every working day of your life.  You are allowed to have bad days.  This might explain why psychotherapists always have a professional therapist to speak with.  Dealing with all that mental illness and human suffering takes an emotional toll and they need to speak with somebody who understands.  I wish there was a service like that for scrum masters.

So don’t worry.  You are allowed to have a bad day.  What you are not allowed to have is that bad day effecting your long term effectiveness or your team.  Take time out to unwind and de-stress.  Walk away from situations which trigger anger and remember that the scrum team needs you in order to be successful.

Until next time.