8

Update: I think we can assume that my manager does not see me as a pure scrum master but more like a leader of the team.

I am a Scrum Master and my manager has told me basically that I am not performing because my teams are not delivering enough product fast enough and that most of the department also thinks this. Another Scrum Master was also there and she said I must balance between being a manager and being a coach to the team and I am too coachy. The RTE said I am not tough and honest enough with my teams.

So my question is essentially what should I do. How do I transform myself into an Agile manager or Agile Leader because I thought I knew what I was doing but I think maybe I don’t.

Can you recommend any book or method or technique that I can try because I think I need to totally reinvent myself in order to survive.

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  • 7
    Your manager is wrong, but that’s irrelevant. The real issue is that you either need to have a conversation with your manager about what success looks like, then decide if you want to meet those criteria rather than practicing Scrum in a traditional coaching or servant-leader style, or if you’d prefer to look for another job with a company culture that’s better suited to your career interests and preferred agile style.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 23:09
  • I feel like you hit the nail on the head and sort of validated my thinking. Thanks for this. If you convert your comment to an answer I will mark as answer. I think the last 2 paragraphs should be a new question actually.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 5:20
  • If the team are not delivering value quickly enough, then that means that the quality of your developers is not good enough. Bring that up with management.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 5:39
  • Yeah this is also a problem but then I will have to be the one to fire them and this is not what I want to do in my career. I think I will need to look at possibly finding another job.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 5:59
  • @TheLearner "I will have to be the one to fire them" - no, that's not your job: your manager is the one who should fire them.
    – Aaron F
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 16:12

6 Answers 6

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Your manager is not happy with your team performance.

That's all what matters. Stop thinking about scrum or framework; stop thinking that he is not right because he doesn't understand scrum, etc.

Your manager is not happy with your team performance. Period.

Accept the feedback, it's ok. What can you do to change this ?

Now you are in the good mindset. Don't try to figure this out only through a scrum master perspective. Scrum is a nice tool, but it is just a tool to be used. It is not a religion that you should follow to the letter. From what you are saying, your manager sees you more as a leader than a scrum master. Good, clarify this with him. If it is the case, then act as a team lead. Be honest and transparent with your team. Include them in the process and ask them "what can we do to increase our performance?"

If you have no idea why your manager thinks you are underperforming try clarify with him. If it's a matter of speed vs quality say it; maybe they are willing to accept the risk, maybe you are actually doing over quality, maybe you need to change your processes to keep the same quality level but with a shorter development process. Which is also what a scrum retrospective is for, trying to enhance development process :) but sometimes you get stuck in routine and the team need a leader to get out of it; a leader can give directions and goals a scrum master cannot.

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  • Thanks for your pragmatic response. I totally agree that I can no longer stay in SM wonderland unless I resign and do more consulting or coaching. Do you recommend any leadership or management books
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:57
11

The first issue with the feedback you received is on what basis was that judgement made? Your team is not fast enough compared to...? If they do not have a cogent basis upon which that judgement was made, then the feedback cannot be validated and you cannot do anything with it. The basis would enable you to research what is different between the comparison and your team. Without it, there is nothing you can do. Better leadership/management/hair style will do nothing.

Likely, you're being scapegoated for another highly political reason.

If you simply tell your team to speed up, you may get that result but you will also got several other unintended consequences, such as defect in workmanship, decreased morale, customer dissatisfaction. And the speed result will likley be a blip; it'll return to where you were.

If there is a comparison group, then you might be able to identify what's different. The processes/procedures you are using may have barriers you can eliminate. Maybe there are better tools like your network is too slow or other technical weaknesses. If you can identify several root causes, then you can lobby for expensive fixes. Speed may be favorably impacted, at a cost, with those changes. This is the management side of things.

But going back to my earlier statement. You're likely getting scapegoated for some reason. I took a huge leap to make that statement after reading only two paragraphs but I cannot shake that feeling from how you wrote it. I could be very wrong.

6

That... doesn't make sense.

You can be the greatest Scrum Master in the world, and your team could still deliver below expectations, because you can neither influence their actual work, nor the expectations.

You have zero influence on how well people perform in their actual job. Just compare a team of 5 senior widget makers to a team of 5 temp junior widget makers under the same Scrum Master.

If the senior team performs five times better than the junior team, your job as a Scrum Master is to make that transparent and visible. Your job is not to train those juniors in their job functions! You are the Scrum Master, you do not need to be a better widget maker than the teams widget makers. Your job might be to facilitate discussion in your team what they need to become better widget makers. If that is training, it might be your job to go up on the ladder and ask for training.

So, again, this criticism does not make any sense, nor is it in any way actionable, because nothing you have the power to do will make your team produce more widgets.

If you are a Scrum Master, you should not become a leader. It's not your job to lead your team. It's your job to help your team organize itself.

What can you do? Well, this is not a project management topic. You might be better served asking this on The Workplace. But the short version would be, show what you do today with your team to improve. Ask other Scrum Masters how you can do better. Ask your boss what specifically they expect from you to do better. If they insist that despite it not being your job, you are still judged by the performance of your team, not your performance of being Scrum Master for that team, ask for a better team or find a better job.

6
  • I believe "You have zero influence on how well people perform in their actual job" to be a bit too strong. As I read it, if there's zero influence, there's no need for the role, right? I do believe that the underlying problem is that the team is not delivering at the expected pace and that is IMHO at least partially responsibility of the SM to raise questions to the team so that the team can identify better solutions for the challenges they have.
    – Tiago Cardoso
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:48
  • @TiagoCardoso What is the difference between "Your job might be to facilitate discussion in your team what they need to become better widget makers. " and what you said?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:59
  • 1
    The Scrum guide "Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization."
    – user32613
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 16:21
  • Sadly I think my manager sees me as a leader of the teams not a pure scrum master.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 16:43
  • 1
    @TiagoCardoso dilbert.com/strip/2005-11-16 The SM is a manager of processes, not of people. So if the team has some problem with, say, being interrupted by trouble tickets, or a disconnect between how stories are chosen to work on vs. what the actual priority is for the business then the SM can help with that. But if the problem is a straight forward the devs are working full time on the things we want them to work on but they are just too slow then the SM has nothing to do with that. Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 18:05
6

It seems like there is a disconnect between your interpretation of the Scrum Master role and your manager's and the RTE's interpretation of the Scrum Master role. There could even be several interpretations since it's not clear if your manager and the RTE even agree on the role. The first step may be to clarify exactly what the role of the Scrum Master is. Since you're using terms like "RTE" and put the tag on the question, one place to start would be the Scaled Agile Framework's definition of an Agile Team, the ScrumXP method used by Agile Teams, and the Scrum Master role. Although SAFe borrows terms from Scrum and other agile methods and frameworks, it often redefines those terms, so understanding the SAFe framework and then understanding how your colleagues view these concepts would be a good start. Do note that it's possible that your colleagues may even be viewing the role differently than it's described in the SAFe framework.

Personally, I find the idea of the Scrum Master being a manager antithetical to the role, even as SAFe describes it. Although SAFe does add more responsibilities, such as an active role in building teams and helping team members develop skills, these are done in collaboration with the people who manage the individuals on the team. Even in SAFe, the Scrum Master is still more of a coach and facilitator than a people manager. The management aspects tend to focus more on supporting release management.

I agree with much of nvoight's answer. Although developing an understanding of the SAFe framework is a project management topic, I suspect you don't have project or product management concerns and this is more of a workplace and career question better suited to The Workplace. You'll need to find ways to get a better understanding of the expectations and more actionable feedback from your colleagues, since what is described here isn't actionable yet. Alternatively, finding a better fit of a role may be appropriate as well.

1
  • Sadly I think my manager sees me as a leader of the teams not a pure scrum master.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 16:42
3

Others have already pointed out that there is likely a conflict between your manager's expectations and your Scrum Master role. I'm not going to cover that again.

However, there are things you can and should do inside the scope of that role that also influence the team performance (none of which is about being tough, but some of which is about being honest):

  • Make sure that when the team commits for something, they are actually making a commitment. If you see that your team consistently overcommits, bring it up in a retrospective. Something like a confidence vote after the iteration planning can also give an impression of how confident the team is about the commitment and trigger useful discussions about unclear points in the planned stories.

  • Make sure that your dailies are not just about what you did but also about problems and things you could use help with.

  • Together with your Product Owner, make sure that your stories have a well-defined scope and clear acceptance criteria.

  • Create an environment where the team members feel safe to mention (inside the team) what is holding them back. It's hard to help solve problems that you never learn about.

  • Use your retrospectives to find out what is holding back the team. Is it really about unrealistic expectations? Or are there maybe problems with

    • communication inside the team
    • dependencies to other teams which are not delivered
    • unclear / changing requirements
    • unclear / changing priorities
    • external interrupts
    • the wrong people working on the wrong tasks
    • missing expertise
    • confusion about who is authorized to make what kind of decision
    • too many different topics being worked on at the same time
    • more people than necessary are invited to meetings
    • not enough or too late feedback from stakeholders

    ... to mention some of the things I've encountered in just a few years of working experience. Find out what is actually going on and discuss possible solutions. If you can't solve it inside your team, bring it up with your manager / the project lead / whoever is the appropriate contact person for that kind of problem.

  • Talk to other Scrum Masters in your company and learn whether your manager's expectations are common and how others handle it. If other teams are performing well, ask about their way of working and see if there are any useful ideas your team might want to try.

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Hello this is Gulshan Negi Well, I am also a newbie here. You should follow the below things to do so. There are several ways to improve the performance of a Scrum Master: A Scrum Master should have a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities in order to effectively lead the team. Scrum Master should be skilled in facilitating meetings and discussions, such as sprint planning, daily stand-up, sprint review, and retrospective meetings. Scrum Master should be able to clearly communicate with the team, product owner, and stakeholders, and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Scrum Master should be able to effectively resolve conflicts and ensure that team members are working towards a common goal. A Scrum master should be a good listener and be open to feedback from the team. It is also essential to keep in mind that the scrum master's performance should be regularly evaluated by the team, stakeholders, and product owner, and use the feedback to improve.

Thanks

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    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 9:25

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