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The trainer at the Scrum Master training asked me what my background was. I said I was a mediator, and that I figured my mediation skills would come in handy as a Scrum Master. The trainer got a rueful smile on his face. “Oh, yes,” he said.*

I took the Certified Scrum Master training because I want to find a new way to benefit people with my mediation skills. I love mediation. For me, there’s nothing like the thrill and gratification of helping people resolve a conflict that they thought they couldn’t resolve.

Now I’m taking my facilitation and mediation skills to the world of Scrum.

Here are five things that interest me about Scrum, and the role of Scrum Master in particular.

  1. Scrum emphasizes empiricism.
    I’ve always been fascinated by people. When I was doing interface design, some of the most satisfying work I did was running user studies. For example, I created information architectures using the card sorting method. I got empirical data on how people really saw a collection of information. Then, when I got to do pencil-and-paper test of a prototype interface that used the information architecture I derived from the study, I learned even more about what users wanted from the information architecture. When the new architecture was deployed, people could find the information they needed more intuitively and more quickly. I’m similarly fascinated about how people examine themselves empirically and adjust how they do what they do.
  2. Scrum teams self organize.
    Again, I’ve always been passionately curious about people, what they want, how they interact, how they see the world, and how they get along. I’m eager to facilitate Scrum teams in organizing themselves. Teams always self organize to some extent; making the process explicit gives people the power to do it effectively.
  3. Scrum Masters facilitate.
    I enjoy helping people have successful, productive, and enjoyable conversations. I enjoy seeing the clarity on people’s faces when I help them express themselves in a way that’s true to what they want and doesn’t offend or alienate someone else. I enjoy finding the sentence or two I can say that helps people understand each other better and keeps the conversation going at the same time. I’m rewarded and gratified when people understand each other and learn to work together.
  4. Scrum is an agile framework.
    When I was a project manager using the waterfall method, I remember the endless negotiations with clients about requirements, trying to get them to see the need to address certain issues early when they wanted to put them off or not do them at all (“you can do usability during QA, right?” um… not so much). I disliked negotiations over scope and price, and I got tired of clients always asking for this “one little extra thing,” or telling me, “You can just fold this in with the rest, can’t you?” They always wanted to cut corners, and it always came around to bite them in the end (and us, too). I’d rather have the frequent feedback points and short release cycles of Scrum.
  5. Scrum teams reflect on themselves.
    Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get people to examine a project once it’s over, think about what went well and what could be done better the next time. And these are the people who keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. I like that Scrum has inspection and adaptation explicitly built into its structure.

I’m looking forward to applying my mediation skills to facilitating and growing Scrum teams.

* The trainer, by the way, was
Adam Weisbart, and I recommend him. It was a great class.

Photo credit: © 2009 DFW Scrum, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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