I was asked yesterday to describe the difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager and an odd metaphor popped in my head.
When a team has just won a game and the coach is interviewed afterwards they don’t say “Yep. The team followed my instructions and plan exactly. They executed what I wanted them to, when I wanted them to and how I wanted them to. That’s why they won.”
They say things like “The team gave their best today. They have been working hard together all season and, today, it all paid off. They were amazing out there. They deserve this win.”
I’m not saying a PM would actually take credit for the end-product of a team. I am saying that the coach puts the emphasis on the team and the PM puts an emphasis on the plan and the execution of it.
This mind shift is essential and not an easy one. I have found the relationships between me (as a Scrum Master) and the teams I have worked with are all very different with one exception. Every single one has been based on trust. When there’s a strong bond between a Scrum Master and the team, from my point of view, there’s nothing more fun or cool.
The team helps you grow by challenging you to be better and think differently. Their learning outpaces your own! And they’re learning because they trust you, their Scrum Master, to make good suggestions and they’re willing to try things. Sometimes, in my head, I will think “I dare you to be even better than you already are.”. You can see them as a single entity and the possibility of the whole.
Scrum Masters also connect with the individuals on the team. Many of my good friends are from previous teams and they are not people I would have known well had we not worked so closely together. A Scrum Master can see things that are possible in an individual that the person may not even be able to see. The same is true for the team member. Often, team members have taught me things I never would have thought about or seen in myself. Some good and some not so good but all said with the best of intentions. The team members and the Scrum Master can help each other learn and grow individually.
I can’t speak from the team member perspective on this final point. I feel very protective of my teams. When they have great things going on and happening, I want everyone to see how awesome they are. When people are messing with them, in any way, I feel very Mama Bear. I may actually get a little too “bear”. When they achieve greatness, I don’t want anyone or anything in their way. When they’re on their way, I want them to have the space and room to work their way towards it.
When people ask me now why I am so passionate about Agile, the answer is simple. It’s the people. I can name them all. I can tell you why each one is special. I can tell you everything each one of them taught me. The bond is built on trust and is powerful because you learned so much with each other.