Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, November 14, 2016

Reflecting on Why a Scrum Master is a Commander.

The aftermath of the U.S. Election has rubbed a lot of nerves raw.  I did not expect these results.  Between bouts of sleeplessness and eating comfort food, I did a lot of reflection.  I thought about what I stood for and what it means to the others around me.  I am scrum master and a servant leader.  I have spent the last twenty six years of my life attempting to reach this point.  During my dark night of the soul, I recalled the words of Former Secretary of State Collin Powell who said, “Command is Lonely.”  This week on my blog, I want to talk about how a scrum master is often in command.

The scrum guide is ambiguous about the authority of a scrum master.  It is very clear about the responsibilities and expectations of the role.  The agile community has filled in some of the blanks with talks about a scrum master being a servant leader.  I have written about this myself.

Over the last year, through a few successes and countless failures it has occurred to me that to be a scrum master is also about being in command.  It isn’t the typical command many of us think.  There is no barking of orders and obedient subordinates fulfilling those orders with the predatory efficiency of ants.  It is a different kind of command.  The kind of command where when things go wrong everyone turns to you.  Powell fought in Vietnam so he knows a few things about when things go horribly wrong.  This is why command is lonely.  When the metaphorical bullets are flying and you have situations which could cost money, careers, and lives; it is up to you to lead.

For a scrum master, that means staying up late with the development team when they are deploying code after hours.  It means being a calm head when others are panicking.  It means listening to others even people you find abhorrent.  It means many things and nothing at all because being a commander is not an official title bestowed by someone else.  It is earned.

This means each day as a scrum master, I have to earn my command.  I have to put in the effort to work with my development team.  I have to make sure that I am doing the best as I can to help the team improve.  I have to be able to work with people I disagree with better.  Other people are counting on me and need me to be an example, I will be a better example.  Not only do I need to know the agile manifesto and its principles but I need to practice what I preach every day.  I have to listen more and talk less.  Command is hard and it is going to be lonely.

Doing these things is not going to be easy but if I want to change the business culture of my company or found my own then I need steel myself for the hard work.  It is going to be a struggle but nothing worth fighting for should be easy.  Even in darkness we can find resolve and purpose.

Until next time.