Taking Away the “Woobie”

Remember when you were little and your mom and dad told you that you have to start doing things on you own? Like using the big girl/big boy potty, or sleeping in your big kid bed by yourself or even the dreaded taking away of the woobie (that means baby blanket)? That’s how I think my Agile team recently felt when I told them that I’m going to move away from the scrum master role and become a coach. They literally looked at me with fear and said “what are we going to do?!?!”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “what the heck? A scrum team without a full time scrum master?” Well, I can explain, the team that I have been working with for the past two years is extremely high performing. I honestly feel like I have backed myself out of a job. When a new coaching opportunity came up, I immediately jumped into it, not even thinking that my team would flip out. Why would they? They are so high performing.

I facilitate their ceremonies, but it’s really the team that has become empowered to lead themselves through the stand ups, retros and sprint plannings. When issues arise, they talk about them and compromise to meet in the middle. I honestly sit back sometimes and think “WOW! These guys are awesome!” So again, why would they freak out about something like this? Well, they got scared. It’s just like that feeling when you were little and your parents tell you that it’s time to put away the woobie. It’s not that you can’t do it, it’s just different and you don’t have that comfort blanket sitting right there beside you that you’ve had for a long time. Now, don’t think that I’m calling my team “babies.” They are definitely not babies, but are highly intelligent high performing individuals that I believe can handle this challenge well and become even stronger. I just remember losing my “woobie” and feeling a bit scared.

To ease the pain, I started to back myself out slowly to get them used to the idea. I started out by not attending one of our grooming sessions. The team said “you’re not coming? Who’s going to lead this?” I replied “you are,” and walked out. I wanted the team to feel empowered. To feel like THEY own these ceremonies, not me. I also took it to another level by stepping out of sprint planning for an hour. I didn’t want to go cold Turkey on them for goodness sake, but I definitely implemented a weaning process.  After this I found that they started getting the hang of things on their own and they weren’t coming to me for as many things. They were solving problems on their own. Of course, I was there for any impediments they faced that they couldn’t internally solve, but I really started to see a change in the team.

I recently read an article that talked about what made companies so successful (see below)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2012/12/11/how-wegmans-apple-store-and-the-ritz-carlton-wins-loyal-customers/

It talks about empowering your associates/team so that they can make decisions and feel like they have some skin in the game. That’s exactly how I wanted my team to feel by me backing out of this role. It’s a great article, so check it out when you have time.

So now I am with my team 50% of the time and I really feel like they have gotten stronger. I almost feel like a parent looking at my children grow up and become adults. They are solving problems on their own, collaborating, communicating and getting work done. It makes me so proud to be a part of this team and I hope to continue to work with them in the future.

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