My friend Judd has a phrase for days like today: Working the heavy bag.1
At work, I’m going through what is effectively my fourth Scrum team startup. I say “effectively” because while there is some continuity among those teams, there have been new people and technical changes. There have been enough of these that they’ve basically triggered a re-forming of the team each time. And each time we get a little better at it. This latest one is tricky though, because we’re running into some deeper cultural divides than we have in past, due to the differing backgrounds and organizations the team members come from. There are real problems here that we have to work through. I’m thankful to the team for pointing them out and keeping us from sweeping them them under the rug, as has happened so often in the past. This isn’t an exhibition match. What we’ve got here is a twelve-round title fight.
It is frustrating at times. My manager and I both got a bit punchy this afternoon due to the mental energy we’d expended trying to corral some of these issues. At points over the last few weeks, I’ve wished these problems would just go away. They’ve seemed to be too big, too difficult, too entrenched for me to handle. At times I feel like I’m just waiting for the bell so I can drop my gloves.
I’ve come to realize two things recently that help me to deal with this. First, I don’t have to have all the answers, and I don’t have to solve these problems alone. Yes, I’m the Scrum Master. I’m the keeper of process. I’m responsible for making sure we do Scrum and that we do it well. I’m also not the team, and these are team issues. It’s my job to put on my coaching hat and take these problems to the team. They need to own the solutions; I need to help them get there.2 It’s only partly my fight, and what the team really needs now is a good cornerman.
Second, this is what I signed up for, whether I realized it or not. The important thing is to dig in, pay attention, and fix things instead of wishing they were better. This is the work I’ve been wanting to do for years. If my arms are tired from punching, it’s because I haven’t been doing the right exercises. Now is the time to develop some new muscles.
1 Judd likes to work out, so many of his metaphors come from the gym.
2 And I should be getting help myself from my Product Owner and the rest of the management of the organization.