Our beloved Scrum Master died, here are his last words

December 16, 2016  Giri Saran

Most people kill themselves because of a mental condition. This is true in my case too. The condition I suffer from is that I am not normal; I am not like every one of you “sane” people.

I still remember the happy days when I used to code. Those ecstatic moments after solving complex algorithm are still fresh. I used to be the most productive developer in my team and everyone just loved my cheerful nature. I used to work overnight and sometimes sleep in the office.

I had nothing else to worry about; my life revolved around the codes, the algorithm and the only girl we had on our team who used to pass a smile every time she needed my help for solving that complex algo!

My life took a U-turn when one fine day my boss announced that we are going Agile. I was “chosen” for the role of “Scrum Master.” The whole team was sent for training; we enjoyed the delicious food and extended company over the weekend:). All of us got awarded with the certificate and a badge of Certified Scrum Master.

All was good until the first sprint meeting. We sat as a team and decided on the backlog for Sprint Zero. Since I was the Scrum Master, I used to lead the early morning daily stand-ups.

My first breakdown happened when I was asked to come early in office to attend the daily stand-ups:). My late night habits still continued, and I used to feel like a brain-dead zombie in daily stand-ups.

All went well till the time we delivered our first sprint, but things started changing afterwards.

Did I try being a project manager?
I was very clear on the day one; scrum master is not a project manager, in fact, its anti-scrum master, I deliberately refrained from assigning the work. But over time, I observed people picking wrong stories or work items which I was convinced that they would not be able to complete. I found myself directing people for the greater good and that was the starting point of friction within the team.

It was painful for me to see that the backlog items are not clearly defined, often not well written, wrong stories getting prioritized, value stream mapping was missing. I could have held myself back and let the team learn, but I was under pressure to keep the velocity matrix going up. Was that the scale of my success?

Did I try being a boss?
Never, I always tried being cooperative and transparent. People started taking me as if I am a proxy of the boss and passing on all the information which team would otherwise like to keep to them. This resulted in side-talks. People were secretive and silent during morning stand-ups. During sprint planning meetings, I was the one keeping time and directing people to complete a session in 4 hours.

I tried removing impediments; I became impediment
Yes. I was overworked. Whatever was not working, I was there, trying to resolve it. Be a coding issue, conflict within team members or feedback from the client. I was there to resolve everything; I wanted to be everything to the team. That resulted in an increased dependency on me and caused frustration when I was unable to solve the problems.

I tried coordinating with clients; I became the bearer of bad news.
I was chosen to give a demo to the client, was I the right person? Did I take this role in an over enthusiasm to prove my value to the team? Yes, I worked overtime to communicate the client feedback, though it was not in my responsibility? But in my eagerness to solve the problems quickly, I started bypassing the lazy product owner and started taking feedback and orders directly from the client; this resulted in more backlog items coming directly in the next sprint with or without the consent of product owner.

I collected feedback; they started calling me spy
Yes, I was giving feedback to every team member about their performance. We used to discuss this in order morning meetings and retrospectives. Some people didn’t like that I could discuss the issues which they wanted me to keep to myself only. Moreover, I was sharing the feedback with client, which was not acceptable to many.

I worked as a developer; testers used to hate me
I was a developer from day one. Coding still runs in some of my veins. I would still code when any complex problem arises and often found myself on the side of developers in the “bug or not so bug” discussions within the team.

The sour experience of Sprint backlogs

In sprint planning meetings, I was perhaps the most confused soul. Was I required there? Whom should I have represented? My team, client or myself? For every backlog item, we used to have a heated discussion, and I found myself center of the controversy quite often. This wasn’t a healthy conflict; people were pointing the finger at each other and more at me.

Did velocity matrix kill me?
I love velocity matrix. But it quickly skyrocketed and peaked. Perhaps it was not a benchmark of our increasing speed. It came down, and there was a fight on estimations, backlog, and items in the current sprint. I saw people started taking less number of stories as the project progressed. The fight was more to increase the size of the story without adding more work :).

My role in Sprint review and retrospective
I was chosen to give a demo to the client. Was I the right person to do so? I feel, in my over enthusiasm to prove my value, I jumped on this opportunity. The closer you are to the client, the more value you have in the team.

Will the team be fine without me?
I think yes. I wish I could have understood my role better. I was over enthusiastic, but that’s my learning. May be they can replace me with someone who is easygoing and let people take their time to be at their best.

Now, I am back in my developer shoes, I started loving the code again, and noticed that the only girl in my team is smiling at me, does she have any problem or I failed to notice her in past few months?

Long live the scrum and the scrum master
Was this not for me? Maybe I was naive and over-enthusiastic? Do I need some leadership lessons or better understanding of scrum? What did I miss? Is scrum a faulty framework? Lots of questions are doing round in my head? Maybe I need a break right now? How about joining me for a drink this Friday?

Perhaps, it wasn’t my fault, neither it was the fault of the scrum. We both are fine. We can do better in life. I will come again to be a scrum master; I don’t need to prove anything. Scrum is proven, and people are proven to be good human beings. I would rather let them grow organically. That’s my learning of being a scrum master, what’s yours? Does my experience resonate to yours? Is this unique to me alone?

Article Summary
Article Name
Our beloved scrum master died, here are his last words
Description
The story of my struggle as a scrum master. Do read for some great lessons!
Author

Advance Scrum master online course

Giri Saran
Giri has around 10 years of experience in Marketing, Product devleopment, QA and Strategy. He is leading the marketing function at iZenbridge with focus ​on Sales strategy, Marketing and Promotions, Growth Hacking, Digital Marketing, content and Brand Building through various online and offline initiatives​. Certifications: Agile Coach, CSM, ISTQB

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