Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches — is it now your time to be indispensible?
Is the new normal raising a unique opportunity for Scrum Masters and coaches?
There’s been a debate about what value the Scrum Master role brings to the party almost since the inception of agile. Articles such as What does a Scrum Master do all day?, How to Prove the Value of Scrum Masters to the Organization? and Do Organizations Really Need Full-Time Scrum Masters? are commonplace on LinkedIn and other platforms and I doubt any Scrum Master has ever worked anywhere where the value they bring to the table hasn’t been questioned by someone. What is this person who hangs around the office all day chatting to developers and Product Owners actually doing (apart from “running” standups and retros)?
And now, of course, the landscape in which they operate has changed dramatically. Despite a few nay sayers like Goldman Sachs, it seems likely that, post pandemic, working from home, or otherwise remotely, will be a normal part of working patterns. One very large company — BP is mandating WFH 2 days a week , and I suspect this will be common place for many organisations; 2 to 3 days WFH per week. Lots of companies have seen great benefits from employees working at home, and “flexible working options” is a term we hear increasingly from companies of all sizes.
And this will re-ignite the debate. This Scrum Master person — what are they doing all day if they’re not even sat chatting to the team (because all the devs are at home on a Tuesday)? What are they doing at home all day?
On any particular day, agile teams — and their Scrum Master, could all be in the office, all at home, or a mixture of the two. As Scrum Masters, we’ve had plenty of practice of the first of these before the pandemic, and up to a year practising the last one since. However, the hybrid, some in/some out, team is something potentially new and difficult to deal with. Anyone who has worked in any form of this hybrid model knows there is a distinct advantage to being in the office — those water cooler chats, those accidental meetings in corridors, overheard comments and all that body language; none of that is available at home. And depriving a Scrum Master of the ability to base a meeting around Lego or PostIts because not everyone is in the room, is akin to putting them in a straightjacket!
However, this environment is precisely where Scrum Masters and coaches can really come into their own and provide — beyond question — enormous value to the team. Being aware of the issues, and working out ways to overcome them is exactly their strong suit. Holding a mirror up to the team to help them identify problems and work out a solution is what they do best. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to need a lot of research and creativity, but the rewards for the team will be enormous.
How do we ensure there is no “in-office bias” in terms of rewards, promotions, work assignments, etc. — how do we ensure everybody’s voice is heard equally, even if some are remote? These are very real problems that a Scrum Master can monitor and help solve.
As an example, what technology is available to help team engagement? It doesn’t have to be Teams and Miro; what works best for the team? Zoom? Slack? Any of the plethora of new and exciting collaboration platforms? What about a richer social experience like Wonder Me?
What about extending that tech for this new situation? Many of thes tools have rich APIs (e.g. Zoom) which could be exploited to improve team communication and engagement.
What about online workshops like the No Estimates game? What about delving into a virtual environment like MineCraft (this company does precisely this for agile training courses…)? What about new working models like meeting up in a remote office or a coffee shop for a mob programming session? What about process supporting technology like virtual pairing software such as Motepair or Codeanywhere? I’m sure there are many other avenues to explore, and researching them should become part of the Scrum Master’s new arsenal if they are going to really help their teams be effective in these new ways of working.
Exciting times; now is the time to really prove your worth beyond any reasonable doubt…