Scrum Master’s biggest challenge of all

Scrum but not Agile?

Scrum raised as one of the Agile development frameworks to help deliver better results. First, to fit emergent complex systems and allow us to be able to adapt, as necessary. To be able to come to stable, productive team/s, that can be predictable and reliable.

What I keep seeing is that it has become a fancy word, which everyone wants to have in their portfolio and job ads. It’s grown to a world’s most wanted Agile framework.

I’m sure everyone knows the idea, history and values. So how come that, after having such an understandable framework, growing community and interest all over the world, followed with some great results, majority still continues failing at doing the right thing, fast and doing it right.


What do we do (wrong)?

Scrum guide itself has only 19 pages in total, including front one, and the one with contents, so it looks like an easy thing to do. They just need to read it, and there, they’ve got it. Just rename Project Manager to Product Owner, give someone to be a Scrum Master, to make sure there is someone to put the meetings in the calendar, and let’s rock. If they are lucky enough, they would also have someone trained for one of the Scrum roles or have an internal training for the whole team.

It would all look so perfect, but they’d actually get nowhere. And it is unclear how did that happen… I mean they read the book, had the training, they have daily’s, so what’s going on. They’d think that it must be that it just doesn’t work. Others are just faking it. It could never work.

Well, unfortunately for them, it does work, and it works great, they just didn’t get there.

Scrum is not just about the meetings and schedule. It’s not about Sprints, meetings and having different roles named to fit Scrum roles. It’s not about just being able to say Scrum, ‘cause it’s not a magic word to be used when you need it.

Scrum is belonging, trust, commitment, lots of hard and high-quality work
You can not fit your organisation/team to Scrum, it has to belong there, YOU have to belong there. That means you all understand values: Focus, Openness, Commitment, Respect, Courage, and are willing to do what it takes, to get there. All of you. Top management. All C roles. Everyone.


Letting go…

Well, from the very young age we are taught to be individuals. We are encouraged not to share our knowledge, our first-grade homework. We are said that we’re all alone and that we need to fight hard to get somewhere. The “somewhere” that we are aiming is a completely different subject, we’ll not get into that now. So, we have been rewarded or punished for everything that we have done. We just storm around, chasing our recognition, power, money, careers… Now someone tells us to cut the hierarchy, to form flat organisation/team, diversity, trust each other, be compassionate, loving… They tell us to forget what we’ve been taught and leave our beliefs behind. To let go.
But, thanks to that self-empowerment you have managed to get there, they made you a C something, why would you leave it? How will you ever prove that you are better than someone else? What have you worked for?

This is the hardest thing to overcome, when trying to make an Agile organisation.

When trying to introduce Agile culture and Scrum there are lots of different difficulties and things that can go wrong. But you can usually get over them, with the proper time and energy investment. Letting go, is the hardest thing, for each and every individual in an organisation, and the most frightening one for the management. So, the biggest challenge for a Scrum Master – having others understand the true nature and culture of Agile, and accept it as the most natural thing in the world.


How can we change?

Actually, once we realize what I’m about to say, this is the easiest thing to do.

People are not made to be alone, they are not meant to work or live alone. The one “I was born alone, and I’ll die alone” is just not true. At the same time, you were born, so were so many people all over the world, and when you die, the same thing will happen. And there were a lot of people around experiencing the greatest happiness of all when you were born, and they will feel the greatest grief of all when you leave this world.

We are able to speak, enjoy love and having meaningful social life, as opposed to animals. So, we have to be able to have more sense in our relationships, private or business ones, and leave Apex urge.

Loving relationships are what keeps us healthy and strong. They give meaning to everything we do on this planet. And it just spreads around as a disease.


What can you do?

There is no easy nor short answer. There is a difference between things being understood on a cognitive level and having them experienced in a safe environment.
It starts with you and your team. One is for sure, you need to be the first one to Show Up. You need to create that safety, by culturing transparency and respect within a team. You have to give everyone enough time and space to express their worries and concerns. If they are quiet, it is not because they don’t have anything to say, it’s because they don’t feel comfortable doing so. In Scrum there are no individual heroes. You should never encourage hero worshiping, cause once you have one person responsible for the success, you will always have one responsible for the failure. That will create an environment where pointing fingers is a way of denying responsibility, creating a hostile environment where people are being pointed at, feeling ashamed. And that is not the way things work in Scrum. As a team, you grow together, you are all equally accountable for ups and downs. You need to be there and show them how to take responsibility. You are to be the first one to open up, show vulnerability, express clearly when you do not understand, don’t know, did wrong, need help with and/or are confused. That leaves space for other to do so, when they need to. That creates safety, boosts transparency and commitment.

So once you get that, and realize that when you become a Committed, Respectful Leader, with Courage and Focus, Opened and Honest with your team/organisation, you will create an environment where everyone wants to work.
You will create micro world where people are willing to do what it takes for a product/project to succeed, where creativity blooms and motivated people create miracles… Where no one cares what’s the role on the card, where there are no heroes or victims… Where the team is one and trust is the core of their productivity… Where everyone is respected equally… Where organisation is your true other home…
Than, and only then you will have what it takes to wrap it up.

That is when, You BELONG. When you stop fitting in.

That is when Scrum is powerful and Organisation is Agile.


This was a brief overview of the Scrum Master biggest challenges. If you found this text relevant with possibility of improvement your business environment, Certified Scrum Master Course is your best choice. The next one is within the upcoming Agile Month.

Milica Lubinić

Milica is a Agile enthusiast, Scrum Master who is focused on improving transparency and building team trust. She is passionate about Agile Software Development, focused on team performance, encouraging compassion, consistency and commitment. Also, Milica is a member of the Agile Serbia Coaching Club. Her background has an extensive experience in Digital Marketing with high developed communications skills and successful record of accomplishments in Project management, Marketing and Public Relations.