Tanner Wortham is a ScrumMaster and coach who I’ve quoted on this blog before. He recently wrote a blog post entitled: When Can a ScrumMaster Say No which I read with interest.
I’ve been sharing of late around the notion of more prescriptive coaching stances and, at least in my mind, this seeps into the role of ScrumMaster. So I wanted to hear what Tanner had to say.
Here’s a snippet from the article:
[…] Doing away with the sprint review simply ignores the problem. Help the team experiment with new ways to conduct the review but that align with the intent. Over time, they will find their solution. At no point did we have to say no. In fact, we should avoid it. I believe our responsibility is to understand and to guide. Rarely is it to deny.
Even so, I occasionally encountered two situations where I’ll say no as a Scrum Master:
I submitted a talk to the North America Scrum Gathering this year that made me a bit nervous. It was entitled – Why the World Needs More Prescriptive Agile Coaches. And I was intentional with the title.
I’ve felt for quite a long time that agile coaching can be too soft, at least in the beginning with Shu-level (beginning) agile teams. Coaches are taught to never TELL teams what to do or be forceful in any way. At best, they might “hint” at a tactic or solution, but the real learning and evolution is “up to the team”.
Consider this the default coaching stance for the majority of agile coaches.
And while I understand it, I wanted to get the audience thinking differently in this session. And yes, see what the outcome might be. Does it resonate well OR do I get some tomatoes thrown at me was the question.
I remember it was approximately 2008-2009 when I read a blog post, then article/paper about this idea. At the time Jeff Sutherland mentioned it, but the leading voice behind the idea was Scott Downey who worked at MySpace at the time.
Part of the reason I was intrigued was that agile coaches were really struggling to find their hand or balance when it came to “spinning up” Scrum teams at this time. Quite often the approaches were really soft and non-prescriptive. The coaches often hinted at a combination of practices, perhaps giving the team a link to a basic reference (the Scrum Guide), and then the teams were left to fend for themselves.
Often the results were horrible. The teams picked the practices they were comfortable with and left behind the rest. Often they picked such a trivial combination, that the results were hardly agile and hardly effective. This was also the time when Ken Schwaber coined the term Scrum Butt and the Nokia Test was being used as a litmus test to see if you were really doing Scrum or not.