When a Scrum Master joins a team, there’s so much to do. It’s daunting and sometimes a bit overwhelming. We have so many questions! Where’s the team need our help? Are they entrenched in how they operate or open to change? How do they interact with each other? How receptive are they to me, their new Scrum Master? Today, I’d like to explain one approach that I’ve find successful, and it all begins with a conversation.
People Over Everything
Forget solving problems. Forget process. Forget all the other organizational noise. Instead, focus yourself on one simple truth:
People > *
Sit with team members individually and get to know who they are. Listen for the lens through which they see the world and learn how they use this lens to view the team. A white board is great for this. Put this matrix on the board and use it as a primer for a rich conversation. Fill it in as questions are answered:
- What’s your biggest strength and weakness? (In other words, their lens.)
- What’s the team’s biggest strength and weakness? (Their perspective.)
- Where should I help the team first?
The final question is often the most valuable. It gives ideas as to where we should place emphasis later. It’s also useful to take a picture of each matrix as the conclusion of each conversation. Later, we can place them beside one another to look for themes, similarities, and differences. Finally, these questions also reinforce a priceless life lesson:
Listen to be heard.
Speaking of which, I’d like to mention a word of caution with respect to our matrix. While the result of the conversation is a completed matrix, it’s not the goal. The goal is to shut up and listen so avoid entering these conversations with an agenda. Instead, allow the team members to guide what we discuss. While doing so, we can quietly determine if they wish to teach us something useful or be taught something that can benefit them or the team.
My emphasis today is a reminder of one of the first lines of the manifesto: individuals and interactions over process and tools. Before we end though, let’s talk about two other activities that can help us integrate with our new team.
- Partner with the Product Owner. Quickly begin to forge a strong relationship with the new PO. Understand her goals and needs and account for these factors in all things. That’s not to say the PO’s opinions and thoughts are our only concern. Instead, it will help us stay ahead of areas where friction could develop between team and PO. The PO will be a great ally as we grow the team, and we need to ensure this relationship is healthy.
- Shadow and observe. If given the opportunity, shadow the exiting Scrum Master on his final sprint by attending all team ceremonies. Doing so provides a preview into how the team members interact and also allows us the opportunity to see how they prefer to conduct their ceremonies. Consistency can sometimes ease the transition from one Scrum Master to another.
Each team we join requires an approach contextual to the situation. The method explained here is one way to quickly determine that context. Do you have your own techniques for getting to understand a new team? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.