This is a guest post by Samantha Webb. Samantha is an experienced Scrum Master and Agile coach working in the computer games and eSports industry. She spends a lot of time both inside and outside work mentoring professionals new to the Scrum Master role as well as coaching teams in Agile.
Whether or not you are familiar with the world of MMOs or RPGs (that’s massively multiplayer online games and role-playing games), there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the virtual world and applied in the real one. This is certainly true of my experience working in Agile environments as well, and this article aims to look at some of the practices introduced in online games that can help Scrum Masters improve their own practices.
One of the most common questions I hear from new Scrum Masters – and also often those with more experience under their belt – is how they can better themselves. Inspection and adaptation are two of the three pillars of Scrum, so it is no surprise that the best practitioners I know apply these pillars to their own practice. Lately I’ve found myself offering up similar advice to many Scrum Masters in different circumstances, so I thought the time had come to put quill to parchment and record my advice for other Scrum Master adventurers.
So here it is, my unofficial and for-guidance-only cheat sheet for levelling up as a Scrum Master!
Find your Guild
Warrior? Mage? Thief? It doesn’t matter what class you are or what guild you belong to, just find the one you like the look of and get involved! It can be lonely as a Scrum Master, and having a community of other Scrum Masters will help you. Great Scrum Masters learn continuously, and one way to do this is to build your own guild of other Scrum Masters, mentors and coaches, as well as offering these services to other people on their Agile quests.
Read the in-game Lore
Lore isn’t just there for decoration – it can give you valuable insights into the world you’re in, the environment around you, and secret tips and tricks to levelling up! You should read broadly and indiscriminately, both Agile topics and areas outside that focus if it inspires you. Many great Scrum Masters are also professional coaches, or meditation masters, or experts on team dynamics, or product gurus: find your area of interest and get reading!
Go on Quests
You’re never going to level up to your full ability by sitting in the guild house reading books. You need XP (experience points**) to level up, and you’ll only get XP by going out and questing!* There are lots of mini-quests you can go on as a Scrum Master: maybe try out a different retrospective format this Sprint, or offer to facilitate a session for another team. You could volunteer to run a training session or go to an Agile meetup to find some other questing Scrum Masters to meet. Either way, make sure you are building up your fundamental Scrum Master skills and are always looking for opportunities to inspect and adapt your own practice.
Map out your Journey (but also be prepared for side quests!)
Any good adventurer knows the lay of the land, the main paths before them, and some of the likely end points.However, a great adventurer isn’t afraid to investigate those unlit paths, and is open-minded to a side quest or two. I advise the new Scrum Masters I know to start to sketch out a plan once they have a bit of experience: do you want to be great at helping Scrum teams kick off in the best possible way, or do you want to be coaching at the enterprise level for massive transformation? Do you want to delve deep into one particular industry? Or one particular framework? Understanding your strengths and interests is really important here: there is too much to learn in one lifetime, so pick what makes you happy and I can guarantee your passion will come through in your work.
Team up with other Players
You don’t always have to go it alone! Whether scouting out some ruins, exploring a dungeon, or coaching a team, consider joining up with a companion. Pair coaching is a fantastic way to develop your abilities as a Scrum Master and learn from another. It allows you the space to share facilitation, to observe and listen more keenly, to help the team inspect and adapt. It also gives you an in-built support, someone to talk to and bounce ideas off.
So there you have the unofficial level-up guide. Hopefully it will help you on your journey, however the only way to get good is to get out there and practice your skills!
*Ok so technically in lots of games you CAN earn XP just by sitting in the guild house reading books. But I can guarantee the players having the most fun won’t be doing that!
Also why not learn about the other great XP, eXtreme Programming - Read a blog post here.