When Good Scrum Masters Go Bad
Donna Lee started her career as a Software Engineer before being introduced to Scrum. She currently holds a CSP-SM certification.
Her Scrum experience started in 2011 with a team of five people, struggling to get the hang of the framework and become a self-organising team. This is where she pivoted to pursue her agile journey as a trainer, facilitator and mentor to Scrum Masters, teams, and leaders who are new to this mindset.
Originally from the Philippines, she is now living in Japan, facing new challenges in applying change and improvement not only across different organisations, but also across cultures.
Aside from Agile/Scrum, her interests include food, traveling, surfing gaming, and sitting in cafes reading books.
Outline/Structure of the Talk
The session format follows a timeline of the speaker’s career and experience through this “difficult” organisation
- Speaker starts on her background and how she got the position.
- Followed by a presentation of the “Agile-esque” Company and it’s pain points
- The environment - rigid, inflexible, multinational, multi-level managers
- The process
- Waterfall with modified Scrum ceremonies and JIRA.
- Product is built on groups different component teams.
- We need detail plans and approvals for everything
- Current Scrum Masters are mini-managers of each team.
- The people
- Unmotivated, apathetic, wary of change
- Due to existing departmental processes and previous attempts to implement Agile, they believed that Scrum does more harm than good.
- Based on the points above, the speaker will identify where they lie in the sphere of influence.
- Through various experiments, the speaker will showcase three major (and transformative) wins and why it was effective and three major failures.
- Three Wins
- Re-introducing Scrum and Agile in a pragmatic manner
- Rekindle interest
- Explain in an empathetic, relatable manner
- Spreading influence horizontally
- Personal Coaching
- Transforming a problematic team into a model team
- Three Losses
- Early introduction of concepts (e.g. Scrum of Scrums)
- Not enough maturity
- No benefit for them
- Establishing a shift in organisational culture
- Getting buy-in from higher management
- Did not gain enough trust
- “Scrum” was not useful
- Transition from Scrum Master to Assistant Manager
- Little or no authority to promote change
- Limited bargaining power with upper management
- Higher level managers were still deciding outcome
After two and a half years, the speaker decided to move forward with a different opportunity.
- A bad system will beat a good person every time. (W.E. Deming)
- Change your company, or change your company. (Martin Fowler)
- Scrum Masters can only take transformation to a higher level with both top-down and bottom-up support, coupled with a culture that allows people to change.
- Speaker left the company in early 2018. After leaving, the speaker discovered how many people she had influenced and how people are still continuing to advocate change in their own ways.
Note: The speaker will be assisted by her former biggest critique and skeptic, who continued her work in the company and is now the first ACSM in Japan. A living proof of transformational change.
After this training, the audience will:
- Be able to identify a “difficult” organisation through observation and interviews with key people.
- Discover the pain points of an organisation and determine where to start change by using the sphere of influence.
- Know when and how adjust training and coaching style to fit with the team and organisation’s needs based on their “dysfunction” level and illustrate to them suitable experiments of change.
- Demonstrate to skeptics how proper Agile and Scrum can be beneficial through personal coaching, modelling, and displaying concrete examples.
- Evaluate whether to proceed or continue with the initiatives by gauging the receptiveness of the organisation
- Recognise the effect of your efforts through constant feedback loops from the people you have worked with.
Scrum Masters or People who are Interested in Making Change in the organisation
Prerequisites for Attendees
Before attending this session, it is best to have a concrete knowledge on training, facilitation, and coaching.