Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ScrumMasters, Be Different from the Inside Out

Reading up on Design Thinking, I came across this part of the process and was dumbfounded.

"Set aside emotion and ownership of ideas."

Oh, really? Is it that simple?

Personally, I've practiced self-awareness, servant leadership, and been coaching teams and individuals for years, and I struggle with setting aside emotion and ownership of ideas. What about people who don't even understand others, much less themselves?

And here's where I think Scrum and Agile struggle. We can teach the framework and values, but it doesn't equip us for

  • the people issues, 
  • the resistance to change, 
  • the turf wars and politics, 
  • and the fear, uncertainty and doubt that these newly minted ScrumMasters will face back at their organizations.

Besides the classic resources I would recommend, I can honestly say that I think the ScrumMaster or agile servant leader needs to be a different person from most of the people in the workplace, different inside than 95% of the people around them.

  1. They need to be hopeful and believe they will prevail, regardless of the circumstances. And when bad things happen, they need to believe that good will come out of it.
  2. They need to be patient, continuing to work and work towards the goals. Not patient in terms of days or weeks of not seeing results, but sometimes months or years.
  3. They need to look for the good in people, while having firm and respectful boundaries that cordon off the bad.
  4. They need to know the worst of humanity that impacts our efforts in the workplace - ego, selfishness, inability to admit mistakes or lack of knowledge, revenge, fear, control, but not react to these when they come out

Not should they not be naive about these negative aspects of the workplace we navigate. In fact, they will have even greater impact if they have been the victim of some of these abuses and not only come through it, but have no resentments. They dealt with the emotional baggage, have forgiven the person or people, and let it go. These are people that no how the game is played, don't get angry about that reality, and are still effective in getting immediate results with that environment, while slowly helping to change it and make it less dysfunctional. When South Africa began to deal with all the residue from apartheid, Desmond Tutu actually asked for just these sort of people to lead the cultural change.

Finally, they need to have a source of fulfillment that doesn't depend on their results - personally or with their projects, because these results may or may not come, not fully in this person's control. Yet they should still be a leader in that they always have something to give others, and they can if their personal tanks are full. This could come from their own personal growth, or how they've helped others grow.

We want these leaders in our workplace, but they are rare gems indeed. Be the change you want to see. Don't try to act like someone amazing, that will run out. But start becoming someone amazing, and then the actions just become natural.

Find a guide to help you grow:

and be inspired - find some heros:

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