My top three challenges as Scrum Master

Sharing my top three challenges as Scrum Master between 2014 and 2019 (Scrum Master Developmental Guide #1).

Slides –

Transcript :

Hi, My name is Wan, a coach based in Singapore.  In this session, I’m going to share with you my three challenges as Scrum Master between 2014 and 2019. Before I share my challenges, please spend  a couple of moments to consider your top three challenges as Scrum Master and share that with us in the comment section.


Between 2014 and 2019 I was a Scrum Master.  Here are my top 3 challenges.  First one is underdevelopment in terms of skills. Two, hold Scrum too tightly. Third, hold myself back. Let me explain more. What does that mean underdevelopment as a Scrum Master?  I’m sure you are aware there are different expectations from different stakeholders.  These are the eight roles a stakeholder may expect  Scrum Master to be.  And it is quite obvious it would take a while to develop these skills for these different roles.  And that is one perspective. From the other perspective, there  are also common skills across these different roles. For example, listening skills, e.g. listening beyond the words spoken. What are the relationships between statements?  What are possible interpretations?  And what I have not said?  The other skill  which I didn’t have at that time was generative dialogue. That means having conversation to gain clarity, to go deeper beyond what has been shared. From example, going from doing something to what it is the assumption, believe or value behind the behaviour.  That is generative dialogue.


Second challenge was holding Scrum too tightly. As an expert in Scrum, my aspiration was following Scrum guide as closely as possible. This is a statement from Scrum Guide.  In the 2017 version, it says “The Scrum framework here is immutable”.   That means I need to follow or in my interpretation, I need to follow Scrum Guide as closely as possible, if not 100 percent. And that created a challenge because in some situations I may not deliver the values that the team expected or the hope of the stakeholder because I’m trying to follow the Scrum Guide, based on my interpretation, or my abilities at that time.  Of course, in the latter part, some of the gurus in Agile said, Agile is a means, not the goal.  And what I discovered is that the skill that I need is not to hold Scrum too tightly.  I don’t mean mixing Scrum and other methodologies.  What I mean is in one team, I am a Scrum Master and for another team, I may practise Scrum. And the other thinking  I may explore is polarity thinking. How could I hold Scrum and another way of working together?


The third challenge is holding myself back.  This is a statement from Scrum Guide(2017 version).  It says, “The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximise the value created by the Scrum Team.”  By the way, in the 2020 Scrum Guide, the phrase “servant leader” has been replaced by “true leader”.  At that time I was heavily influenced by the word “help”.  I helped with this. I helped that.  There was a side effect, I held myself back.  I was thinking of other ways for me to help?  Did that mean I took notes for the meeting?  I became the facilitator or whatever they thought I could help in that context.  And as a consequence, I am not bringing my full self into the situation, my whole self in hindsight.  What could I learn? Assertiveness.  How would I bring myself in that situation, whether in the Scrum team or not?  And how would I be a true leader?


And these are the 3 top challenges when I was Scrum Master between 2014 and 2019.  In the next few sharings, I will share what I have learned since then.  Some of the skills that I do not have when I was a Scrum Master. To receive notification using email about the new sessions or videos, please subscribe to the email notification service. If you would like to discuss a challenge with me, here is a link to book a time slot. Thank you.


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