Once Upon a Time…
I’m aware that this article makes me sound like an old fart. And that’s probably true!
Hell, I’ve been in this business for over a quarter of a century. In fact, I think I’ve turned into my father, cause basically I’m shouting “The youth of today! When I was a Scrum Master, we didn’t need Jira!”.
However, I do think there’s a kernel of truth in some of what I have to say. Judge for yourself.
From Waterfall to Revolution
Compared to many of the Scrum Masters today, I grew up in a different time. Waterfall projects that ran for years and cost millions were the norm. No project was complete without a business case, a Gantt chart and a Project Structure Plan. Agile – if it existed in a company – was a subversive subculture. It wasn’t so much uncool as unheard of.
- We weren’t part of the system.
- We introduced Agile thinking by stealth.
- We swam against the current. We rebelled against the traditional waterfall approach.
- We were there to rock the boat (and sometimes get thrown out of it!).
- We learned from each other and taught ourselves along the way.
- We read books, attended conferences (sometimes at our own cost).
- We went to meet-ups.
Today you can’t move for all the Agile Meetups – back then it was Agile Tuesday in the Café Florianihof. That was it.
There was no official Scrum Master position in the company. HR had never heard of Scrum Masters – let alone Agile Coaches! Officially we worked as Project Managers, Architects, Developers – not Scrum Masters. These days, HR has Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches and even Senior Scrum Masters and Senior Agile Coaches on their books. Scrum Masters are now part of the system.
From Scrum Apprentices to Scrum Masters
Our qualification for the job came from years of suffering in waterfall projects, searching for a better way to deliver, and an eagerness to learn and experiment to get there. Now you can’t move for all the certifications you can get: Scrum Alliance, scrum.org, Scrum Inc., LeSS, SAFe, ICAgile, etc. The Agile-Industrial complex has truly arrived. While many of these courses have great trainers, they often only last a couple of days. That may be enough to waken your interest in a topic – but learning only really comes from doing.
Without really appreciating it at the time, we went from being Scrum Apprentices to Scrum Masters. It took years. And I think that was a good thing. A Scrum Master is a leadership position. A Scrum Master needs to have standing and earn the respect of the team if they are to lead them. It’s easier to lead a team if you have experience of what they do, how they think and where you want to go. It gives you credibility. It’s more challenging if you’re fresh out of college with just a CSM to your name.
The Institutionalization of Scrum Masters
So we now have the situation that Scrum Masters are an official role in a company. The role has become institutionalized. Show your CSM and sign on the dotted line – or even better, all group managers are now Scrum Masters.
For better or worse, you don’t have to spend time as a project manager or programmer first. You may never even have experienced a waterfall project. Or actually maybe you have, but you were told that it was agile and you didn’t know any different! Yet, I am convinced that you still need to grow from a Scrum Apprentice to a Scrum Master. Even if your title is Scrum Master! Which is where the Scrum Master Learning Journey comes in.
A 7-week Expedition: A Journey of Learning and Practice
The idea behind the Learning Journey is to expand Scrum Masters horizons to all the different aspects of their work. To lay more emphasis on values and principles rather than just executing practices. To explain the theories and models behind the thinking. To investigate how a Scrum Master can support and guide a Product Owner, without being a product development expert. How they can support that team, without being a technical expert. How to instigate small changes in a large organization. All the things that we learned how to do, over years of trying with varying degrees of success.
But we know that learning comes with practice. So we built that into the journey. We spread the learning out over seven weeks, so that there is time for both learning and practice. We start with two days training on-site, covering interesting models and methods. Then there are three weeks until the next on-site training day. In between, there are regular remote mentoring sessions to support participants in the practice of their new learnings. After the second on-site, there are three weeks until the final on-site day. Once more there is remote mentoring to support the learning. On top of that we also set some assignments, to help Scrum Masters dig deeper into aspects of their development that they feel they most need!
Let’s Learn from Each Other
The Scrum Master Learning Journey is our way of sharing our experience of going from Scrum Apprentices to Scrum Masters. We hope it can open up new horizons and encourages both personal and professional development that makes a good Scrum Master great.