How to Serve an Agile Team (or Any Team)

If you are a Scrum Master on a team, my belief is you are called to serve your team. And by using the word serve, I mean you are doing things for the benefit of others. Not an easy calling but one that can bring transformational results to your team and organizational culture.

Using the word “serve” or “servant” in business context may seem somewhat foreign to some but the definition I prefer is from the book “Servant Leadership” written by Robert Greenleaf.

…to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is this: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?

Beyond removing impediments and keeping a team in flow, a Scrum Master is in a unique position to notice the high priority needs of the team and do something about them. Because of the nature of the role, the Scrum Master has the opportunity to impact team dynamics, health, and relationships more than anyone else on the team.

Scrum Masters become willing servants of their team by:
Intensely observing and listening. It will be rare for people to come out tell you their highest priority need so you will need to be on the lookout for them. Notice everything. Listen intentionally. The clues are there. The Scrum Master can often see things no one else on the team can see.

Looking for basic needs. Do team members have everything they need to create and deliver value to customers frequently? This could be something as basic as office supplies or if the office is too hot or too cold. The Scrum Master can provide necessary things before they become necessary.

Looking for productivity needs. Can things be made more efficient on the team? Are meetings only called when necessary? Are daily stand-ups now 45 minutes long? Again, many people will not complain about Scrum events but observe body language. Look for people becoming disengaged or distanced from the group. The Scrum Master can remove pain points before they become painful.

Looking for community needs. Has the team been given the opportunity to connect and gel as a unit? Most teams have a wide range of personalities and work styles. Creative types, such as visual designers, may be challenged working with technical types. New people are joining the team and will need to feel productive as soon as possible. Are retrospectives a time of gratitude and renewal? The Scrum Master can foster connection before people realize the connection is necessary.

Taking action. Once you know the highest priority needs of the team, you will need to make the decision to take action or not. There may be needs you can’t influence but maybe all one needs is to have someone listen and to be encouraged. The Scrum Master can act when others can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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