What are you saying to your team?

Photo by Thomas Bruce

Photo by Thomas Bruce

There's a particular song that is often played at swing dances for the Shim Sham to be danced called It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It).  It's a great song, and I found myself thinking about the title with relation to the way we communicate to and about our teams.

Recently I heard about a Scrum Master who wasn't listening to her team when they said that they would not be able to complete all of the sprint's work.  She insisted that the team had committed to the work and didn't want to hear anything more about it.  Sadly, it is situations just like this that surely caused the wording in the Scrum Guide to be updated in 2011:

Development Teams do not commit to completing the work planned during a Sprint Planning Meeting. The Development Team creates a forecast of work it believes will be done, but that forecast will change as more becomes known throughout the Sprint. 

The Scrum Master is described as a servant leader, and two of the characteristics of the servant leader are listening and empathy.  By refusing to acknowlege what the team is saying, the Scrum Master displays a lack of empathy, and the team is hurt by this.  It is not an easy role, but the Scrum Master must be a servant leader.  In the example I mentioned above, it seemed like management wanted the team to complete its work at any cost, but optimism, overtime, and additional team members weren't the quick fixes that management hoped they'd be.  Teams don't need cheerleaders--they need support.  They need the environment to get work done and impediments to be removed.  They need courage to deal with reality.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.