8 Rituals of Amazing Scrum Masters

Having worked with many Scrum Masters, I am beginning to recognize patterns and behaviors of some of the best. It appears to me that the Scrum Masters having the most impact with their teams and throughout the organization establish strong rituals for themselves. These rituals provide the momentum to overcome the challenges and busyness of the day.

The following rituals are a compilation of observing, leading, and coaching many Scrum Masters over many years so I would never expect one person to establish all of them but perhaps you can introduce one or two into your daily life.

Prepare for the day. While this could apply to everyone, amazing Scrum Masters will establish a ritual of taking a few minutes in the morning (or the previous evening) to think about the day ahead. To get started, ask yourself a couple of questions every day. Is the team in flow? If not, why? Is my team healthy? If not, what is keeping us from strength and vitality?

Foster a serendipitous environment. This will require a ritual of shaping positive experiences for people and will mean designing “intentional collisions” into everyday life. For example, purposefully finding ways for technical people to interact with product or business people or creating fun activities where developers and testers need to work together. This Wall Street journal article describes this occurrence well.

Replace “when” thinking with “why,” “what,” and “how” thinking. Most of the time anyway. Completion dates will always be important to the organization but the first response should always be “why is the team operating at their current pace?” and “how can we create an environment of agility and speed?” The “when” will be taken care of with the mechanics of Scrum. A burn-down chart or release plan will always tell the “when” story based on empirical data emerging as the team is building the product. Of importance to you is why, what, and how behind the data.

Really allow change to happen. While many Scrum Masters align with the “welcoming change” principle of agile, few are brave enough to actually allow change to become a ritual. This could be a perpetuation of legacy dysfunctional behavior where experimentation is frowned upon and mistakes are punished. Change is a bit frightening but embrace it and allow something cool to emerge.

Observe and listen. The crucial ability for a Scrum Master (or coach) to watch and hear the dynamics of a team is a difficult ritual to master (certainly for me). This ritual will often need to correspond with a ritual of speaking less. By observing and listening, many more opportunities to serve will emerge.

Connect daily. I am a believer in the ritual of stopping by every team member at least once a day to have a quick one-on-one conversation. Just to see how people are doing (professionally and personally) and check if they need anything.

Relentlessly eliminate impediments. Amazing Scrum Masters make removing impediments and waste an everyday ritual and not just a once in while thing. They are constantly asking what is causing my team, my department, my organization to stumble and what can we do to resist the status quo.

Reflect daily. In the book Becoming a Catalyst: Scrum Master Edition, each section has “Everyday Retrospective” questions to trigger a few thoughts on how to review your day and trigger opportunities for increasing your impact. Block off a couple minutes or use your commute time and develop your own approach to capture your thoughts on the day. This reflection should feed the prepare for the day ritual.

QUESTION: What rituals have you established to help you become a better Scrum Master? Share them with the community below.

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

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3 thoughts on “8 Rituals of Amazing Scrum Masters

  1. I would add one more thing to the list if I may, Let go and come back to it. By that I mean a great scrum master mentor the team on the Agile values, present them with the values and how to embrace them, then let go, let the team work on it for a while and then come back to it. He will give them some time to digest the new process / value introduced, work on it and they might introduce a better approach than what he had in mind. He needs to come back to it though, to check how they are doing or they need more coaching on it.