Defend the Scrum Master role

Polling all Scrum apologists: Can you help me defend the value of the Scrum Master / Iteration Manager role?

Maybe it’s their [bad] experiences, or maybe it’s their culture, but I’ve been confronted on several occasions by developers who are convinced the Scrum Master doesn’t add value to the team. After all, they say, the SM doesn’t actually do anything. Really?? Where does this particular mindset come from? I just hope this doesn’t go viral, but I have been seeing this attitude in more and more places. Help!? Looking for a collaborative defense here, before I spout all my thoughts on the value the SM adds to solution development and delivery.


“While you were out…”

As I think more about addressing common User Story pitfalls, what keeps coming to mind is the idea of someone taking and noting a phone call for me while I was out.

I find the greatest challenge with user stories is indeed in writing them “right”.  Many Scrum teams struggle with this ‘staple diet’. Stories are not requirements on cards! (And Scrum is not waterfall on a board with daily status meetings!) As a visual aid to help form a better mindset on the best flavor and smell of user stories – expectations, writing, using, etc. – I offer the following image.

Think placeholder for a conversation...

Think placeholder for a conversation…

As Mike Cohn points out in his book User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development, user stories are not requirements, they are prompts for a conversation with the customer and/or user. A story card, then, is only a placeholder for follow-up communication, to get confirmation. Paper cards used to note these stories may be useful in this format of a “while you were out” message pad. It contains just enough abstract content as to understand WHO to talk to about WHAT, and ideally WHY (but that can be added later once the reason is communicated and understood.)

So, think “While you were out” during story writing/workshops so there is a backlog of “calls to make” (or conversations to have) in grooming stories for release and/or sprint planning.


For [much] more on User Stories Applied, see the book of same name by Mike Cohn.

Scrum Master or Agile Coach, and other coaching categorizations.

This is such a poignant post I have to plug it on my blog. Kudos to you Sandy Mamoli @smamol

Excellent article on distinctions of Agile Coaching un die limited title of Scrum Master. An easy helpful read for all! See the article and supplemental comments here:

Agile “Best” practices: Really?

In practices that are true to Agile values and principles, are there any that are truly best?  If there are “best” practices I can simply plug in, then I have no further need for continuous improvement, right?  Or can I improve on what’s best?  Perhaps we should seek out “better practices”?

The 12th Agile principle from the manifesto states, ” At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior (practices) accordingly.”  Thus, if ever we think we’ve arrived, I suggest we’ve just failed to be agile.  If we feel we are doing what is “best”, we will tend to cease to be transparent, stop inspecting and adapting.

Any Agile development team, like any person, is only on a journey across a spectrum from lower performance to higher performance, from poor to great.  How great we become is limited only by how far we think we have left to go.  “Not that I’ve arrived, but I press on toward the mark…”.  So, through the lens of lean-agile values and principles, let’s look at “best” practices as, at best, better ways of doing things. And let’s press on to discovering even better ways, and “practice” them.

At the end of the day, I’m less concerned about how well we’re doing agile, and more concerned about how well agile is doing for us [the business].  After all, isn’t it business success that we care most about, not Agile per se?

Holy Agile!

I appreciate the evangelistic value of the content in these slides by Mike Cohn. I would have quickly become a convert, if I weren’t already a ‘born-again’ believer and disciple of Agile disciplines.

This is not just my drum!!

This is a great starting point for my blog!  This must-read, collaborative article is a great primer for ‘Act I’ on the Agile stage.  The opener audience would include all who are, have, or will be entering the stage of Agile development.  Interested in your comments. “7 Agile Myths That Could Cost You Your Job & Reputation” –