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The Lazy/Laid-Back Scrum Master

Let’s talk about things from our Bible, the Scrum Guide. If you have read the Scrum Guide, it’s about empiricism which is nothing but ‘Inspect’ and ‘Adapt’. This means that "the team should inculcate within themselves" this behavior as "they" begin to examine their work and adjust the action plan accordingly.

Scrum guide also talks about values like respect, commitment, courage, focus, and openness. Again, the Scrum Master helps the team understand how to practice these but it “resorts to the team for living these values”.

Basically, the point I am trying to make is that “the team should gradually understand and practice them on their own".

Now, if you check the "quoted phrases" in the last four statements, that leads to another terminology of the Scrum Guide, "Creating Self-Organizing and Cross-Functional Teams". Creating cross-functional teams is always easy because it is about acquiring all the skills the product requires, within one team. I said, one team and not one person, but self-organizing teams!

How do we achieve this? In a world where everything is managed by Managers, Leads, and Heads, How do we ensure that the team is self-powered and does not require outside help, whether it is Decision Making, Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving…

For me, this is the most important part of the Scrum Guide.
Whether living the values of Scrum or practicing empiricism, it requires self-organization and self-discipline within the team.

For me, the day when the team no longer needs the Scrum Master is when the Scrum Master has succeeded in his role as ‘Scrum Master’.

The above line confirms that the team is self-organized, self-sufficient, self-determined, resolving conflicts within the team, is Agile, and knows how Scrum works, is capable and equipped to protect themselves from external factors, solve problems effectively within the team, and most importantly consistently delivering value to the business.

Again, to ask the same question, how can we create self-organizing teams?
Yes, inculcating the Scrum values of openness, respect, courage, focus, and commitment helps. But how can we do that, that is the question. One approach that has worked wonders for me and I thought of sharing it with the larger audience. The mantra is "Be a Lazy/Laid Back Scrum Master". Confused right, let me explain.

The Scrum Masters in the IT Industry usually have a background in some or the other domain be it Development, Testing, BA, or Project Management. Just because he or she comes from that background, that person would always have views pertaining to that domain and would unknowingly give an opinion during team meetings. This interferes with the team's thought process and if it is a passive team, they would start to rely on the Scrum Master's inputs or let me say HELP from the Scrum Master, gradually making them dependent on the Scrum Master.

It does not stop there.

Just because the Scrum Master is a people person, when it comes to people issues like conflict resolution, the Scrum Master doesn't take much time to intervene and resolves it for the team. Again, making the team depend on Scrum Master to resolve conflicts for the team. The same applies for problem-solving, resolving impediments, and sometimes group decision-making.

So, let’s reveal the secret, what do I mean when I say be a laid back or lazy Scrum Master.
Do not interfere in group decision-making. As the dialogue goes in the Hindi feature film - Housefull, "Control Uday, Control!!!" Sit back and let them make the decision.

Be the last one to speak. Let the team Talk, discuss, debate, and sometimes even fight. Let it come out in the open. Jump when it goes out of hand. Give them the platform and opportunity to resolve their conflicts within.

Let them fail, just make sure they fail early and do not repeat the same mistakes. Ask questions, a lot of questions but do not provide solutions, let them solve their own problems. In the beginning, be the Agile Guru, teach them, preach them but gradually step back, step in when necessary, let them run the show, be the Lazy one in the room.

Make the system do the work for you. Progress Reports, Deployments, etc., promote automation in the team. Look for smarter ways. As Bill Gates once quoted. “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Be that "Lazy" person.

Being this "lazy" Scrum Master has worked wonders for me. I can say that I was successful in creating a self-organized, self-managed team using this approach. But as they say, there is no one right answer, if you are a Scrum Master and this makes sense to you, give it a shot. There are many teams that want to be self-organized.

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