Skip to main content

Saved Posts

A Day Without a ScrumMaster

Jeff Howey
Reading: A Day Without a ScrumMaster

As an Agile Coach, I have many stories of outright failure, misguided intentions and other disasters to share. Periodically I share these tales, both as a warning to those teams that don’t follow advice and to explain my battle scars from teams past. I also have many stories of success and satisfaction. I want to share one of these success stories with you, even though I wasn’t present and a team did something interesting on their own.

ScrumMaster OOO

Today, one of the ScrumMasters in a program I am coaching to Basecamp 1 was out of the office. The team felt they could do their Sprint Review at 1:30 on their own, but asked if I would facilitate their Sprint Retro at 2:30. I obliged.

At the appointed time, I arrived to facilitate a Retrospective I was greeted with a chorus of, “we finished at 2:00 and didn’t wait for you, sorry!” Apparently, the Sprint Review was rather quick; they held a Retro on their own and were now elbows deep in an impromptu Backlog Grooming session with the remainder of the time they had scheduled together.

As I reached into my bag for the pile of sticky notes I brought, the narcissistic devil on my shoulder started an inner dialogue something like this: “You did a Review and Retro in 30 minutes? You did it wrong. I rescheduled another meeting for this Retro. I walked 4 blocks from where I was to your building for this. I am really good at this. I’ve been facilitating Retrospectives since some of you were in High School. You’ve only been doing this for 3 Sprints. I think you need me to do it the right way. We’re going to do it again, my way.”

Thinking I was standing there in awkward silence for too long, one of the developers chimes in with “We feel the lack of backlog depth is our biggest issue and is the root cause of a few other problems we experienced this Sprint, so we are doing backlog grooming for the rest of the afternoon.”

What’s this? A developer talking to me? Telling me there is a problem with the Backlog? Where is the Product Owner? I want to see their face turn red and start a fight! Oh wait, there she is… smiling? No fight? A Developer and the Product Owner agree? Something is really wrong here.

Before I could embarrass myself in front of the team, Coaching Angel pops up on my other shoulder and shoos off the devil with a reminder: “Hey, really? This team, sans ScrumMaster, successfully facilitated a Retro, identified an impediment and immediately started to work on resolving the impediment. Smile and put the stickies away.”

Teams Taking Ownership

I’m certain nobody on the team was looking forward to an impromptu afternoon of backlog grooming when they woke up this morning. And I’m impressed that a team, even without formal leadership and facilitation from a ScrumMaster, took ownership of doing what we typically require as Scrum Ceremonies, took it a step further, and acted in the best interest of the business and their trek toward Basecamp 1 to dig right in and start working on the biggest issue they identified a half-hour earlier.

I can’t wait to see how the ScrumMaster reacts to this news tomorrow.

As their Coach, I couldn’t be more proud. And I was happy to spend an extra hour averting the next potential disaster.

Next Having the Right Answer is Not Enough

Jeff Howey is a problem solver with over 20 years of experience in project management, business analysis, and testing.  As an agile coach and practitioner, he has led scores of teams through agile transformation initiatives and trained thousands of students in Scrum, Kanban and related disciplines; including topics in product management and program management. He enj

Comments (2)

  1. Kert Peterson

    Jeff — I dig the level of disclosure in this post and can wholeheartedly relate to the voices in your head (in our heads — yes all of us! — as agile coaches). Those moments of “standing like a tree” as the inner dialogue flows and outer activities of the world unfold before our eyes bring us to our deepest roots of being, of presence. I’ve had my handful of these moments. Great to be able to take part in yours. Thank you!

  2. Proquotient Team

    Its amazing to see teams performing well in scrum methods at times without a scrum master , While it will be surprising the scrum master will probably be happy to see the team find a solution on their own.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *