My North Star

I feel certain I have written about this before but, I was replying to someone in an e-mail tonight and was struck again so, here it is….again.

What drew me to the Scrum Master role and Agile to being with was the focus on people.  In my CSM class with Joe Little and Jeff Sutherland, I honed in on something one of them said which narrowed my focus.  My North Star as a new Scrum Master was (and still is actually) PROTECT THE TEAM.  It’s very, very simple in theory but, in practice, can be very difficult.  Those three words can be interpreted in so many different ways and I have found my own interpretation has evolved over time.

I’m protective and loyal by nature so I really grabbed on to that idea of protecting the team.  In the early days it meant keeping people NOT on team from messing with whatever the team had going.  When I say messing with, I mean things like adding scope, demanding timelines and estimates, challenging the approach, pulling team members from the focus and, sometimes, protecting them from each other.  Hey, you’re in close quarters and around each other a LOT.  Sometimes, fuses get short.  I found I was good at protecting them and I loved that role but, it has evolved.  You could even say it grew up.

Fast forward to today and I’m still all about protecting the team but in a different way.  Today, I want the environment a team is in to be one  a team doesn’t need protecting from.  I’m passionate about creating environments teams need to be successful.  The North star hasn’t changed but, the focus has expanded.

Adding Scope:  This isn’t something a team should need protection from IF the business is aligned with IT in Agile software development and there are empowered product owners as part of the team.

Timelines and Estimates:  If an organization is focused on delivering value and teams have a sustainable pace with established velocity, there’s no need for timelines and estimates.

Challenging the Approach:  If the environment is supporting and enabling empowered, self-organizing and self-managing teams managers don’t have time to be in the weeds of a teams approach.

Pulling Team Members Away From the Focus:  If team members are dedicated to the team and management is supportive and aligned, there’s no worry about the manager assigning them to multiple projects or delegating their own work to them.

So, the evolution really has been to shift from running interference to creating environments.  As a new Scrum Master, I think having that passionate purpose is helpful.  It’s something akin to a vision for yourself you can always true back to as you’re on your personal learning journey.  Whenever I have been in doubt about something, I’m able to ask myself “What would be best for the team(s)?” and find the answer becomes crystal clear – well, for me at least.

If you’re clear on what your “North Star” is – GREAT!  If you’re not, think about why you were drawn to Agile in the first place.  What got you excited about it?  Why did you like or relate to the Scrum Master role?  It’s OK if it’s not immediately clear to you.  Even if you have an idea, it will evolve over time.  Take time to find your North Star so you can focus less on the path and more on your goal.  When you focus on your goal, decision making is a bit easier.  Focus on your path and you may make some short-sighted decisions – not that there’s anything wrong with that either.

2 thoughts on “My North Star

  1. Another great post Valerie, I definitely share a bit of this trait myself. I typically have a ‘pappa bear’ mentality with my teams where I do anything I can to shield them from the noises and negative external influences in order to allow them to focus on the work at hand, and do so in an enjoyable manner. This is not always an easy task but nonetheless one I enjoy very much.

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