An ostracized scrum master

Last updated on: Published by: Asad Safari 0

Simin was a very successful Scrum Master in the previous company, She decided to enter a new company after two years to gain new experiences. The manager who hired her, asked her, “Our team is so frustrated today and they don’t have any discipline, and I’m asking you to organize the planning, meetings, and process of the team…” She had a lot of energy, and she tried to make it happen from day one. She tried to facilitate various meetings, and …. But after a while, she felt that the team was not accepted her presence and she was completely ostracized. She was feeling miserable and she felt that she could not make the changes she had been asked to.

Have you been in this situation? How to will persuade or push the team to change?

Rule #1: Don’t try to push or inflict the change

The idea that you can push the change to the people, is a wrong idea. Think about creating an attraction around the change.

Rule #2: Don’t start the change from day one, First try to enter the team and be part of them

Most of the time, people don’t have a problem with the change, they have a problem with you 🙂

Consider this situation, somebody comes from outside and tries to save us, it seems good, but on another side, it has a message to us: “Hey miserable guys, hey incompetent guys, hey broken guys, Superman is here to help you…”

It’s really important to get to know them and let them know you before offering any help. Try to understand what is going on there, and respect what happened before you. Don’t try to say everything is broken here and you should fix things. Each system has a history, try to discover the history of that system and team.

Imagine your team is ” Undamaged, resourceful and not in need of fixing “,

The realm of agile coaching is coaches who are experts in the industry and we are we know a lot of stuff and clients hire coaches to go and help them. But We can’t believe that our team is broken. We can’t believe that they are incompetent. They unable to do anything that we’re the superhero and because of us they’re going to be great and successful and without us, they’ll fail. You have to be able to see your team as fully competent. They can do this with or without you. You have the honor of being there to partner with them and they’re great.

Rule #3: Don’t be the manager’s scrum master

Do you just follow the manager’s or your agendas? This is a common mistake between scrum masters, they are just following their agenda or the manager that hires them’s agenda.

You are part of the team, you are there to help them to be excellent. You are not here to just run the commands of managers. Start with something the team cares about.

Rule #4: Do not try to convince everyone

Most of the time we try to convince everyone and align them with us, but it’s impossible. Instead, try to start with someone who would like to try new things. Don’t try to argue about practices, most of the time these are just a sort of a waste of time. Demonstrate success and let them see the result. In many cases, you and some motivated team members need to act as a role model to show the success of practice or idea.

For example, we want to adopt code review in our development process, we can start with someone who would like to learn new things from other team members, and after a while asking her for feedback.

Don’t hesitate to share your idea with me about the change process.



How to decrease team resistance against new practices with Hypothesis story for Scrum master and agile coaches

Last updated on: Published by: Asad Safari 1

Several years ago when I was a junior scrum master, I used to push my practices to my team, and always it created resistance against me and practices. I want to tell you the truth, It decreased my courage to test new practices in my team.

Our organizations and teams are CAS(Complex Adaptive Systems), CAS is unpredictable, emergent, and it always makes you surprise. If you don’t experiment with new practices based on your context, you will fail. You should act based on context, you can’t predict everything, and you need to experiment. This kind of system needs a fail-safe-environment, but the resistance of people can create fear in scrum masters or agile coaches to lose their courage to test new practices, especially novel practices.

After several years, I got a great idea from the concept of user-story, to help, my teams create a fail-safe-environment.

Start with Why?

Let people know why we need to implement this practice? Let’s consider some examples:

As a uber user, I want to be able to share my live location with my family,
So that I can feel more secure

or my favorite user story template :

In order to feel more secure during a ride, 

I want to be able to share my live location with my family

In this example, you can notice that “Share my live location ” is a feature, but the user’s need is “to feel more secure during a ride “. So as an agile team, we are going to create a sense of calm for our users. There are other alternatives to satisfy this need too:

For example “Ride Check” feature, With this feature, Uber is constantly monitoring every ride; from when it starts to when it stops, the app is paying attention to what route the driver is taking, the ride’s speed, and how long these rides are stopped for. It’s designed to pick up on abnormalities, like if a ride’s stopped for too long.

From user story to Hypothesis story as a tool to run improvement experiments

The idea is so simple, Again start whit why like user stories? Let finish pushing fantasy and buzzwords to the team. Let the team know the need and engage them in it.

A sample Hypothesis story:

It will help the team to understand why we are going to try a new experiment and what is the success criteria and If that doesn’t help to reach our goal, we can throw it away and try something else.

Don’t fall in love with practices. If that doesn’t helped us to reach our goal, we can throw it away and try something else.

The objective is a kind of north-star or desired state for us. On the Hypothesis criteria side, there are two things: Current condition, and Next Target. The current condition is our current state against our objective, This should be fact and not just judgment. for example, today we have 40 bugs per week, and this is a fact.

The Next Target is a kind of milestone that shows a small win. We need small wins to create a continuous improvement culture. Maybe zero bug state is a far target, but 4 bugs per week, looks like a reasonable target based on our current condition.

Gruanility of Hypothesis Stories:

Just like a user story you can breakdown these Hypothesis stories into small but valuable stories too, it will help you to run small experiments in a short period of time.

Let the team engage in the emergence of practices

It’s important to let the team engage in process of emerging practices. Retrospectives are a great chance to facilitate this engagement. You can raise an issue for the team, for example, show bug reports as fact and creates scenes of urgency, so set it as north start and facilitate them to find the shortest path to our north start.

Hey guys, What practices can help us to reach our target faster?

There are different facilitation techniques. For example, I used Miro as a board, and let my team write their idea, and after that with dot voting, we selected our shortest path to our next target.

Based on my experience, If you start with why, and let them engage in the emergence and selecting practices, it will decrease the resistance level and at the same, it will create a safe-fail-environment for the team to test their selected practices.

Don’t hesitate to share your experiences with me here


Asad Safari

Resolve conflicts in Agile Teams for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches

Last updated on: Published by: Asad Safari 4

Almost 9 years ago, when I started my first scrum mastery role, I encountered one of my tough challenges, conflict resolution. Two members of the development team(Ali and Vahid) separately told me we can not work together anymore. 

  • “Why do you think you can no longer work with him? ” I asked them. 
  • Ali: “He doesn’t respect me… he is a brilliant jerk… I could not be able to work with him anymore”.
  • “Ali is not a good team member, he is so lazy, and he does not care about the team… I don’t like to work with him… ” Vahid told me.

I held a shared meeting with both of them to help them to resolve the conflict. Everything went as severely as possible. This meeting was like the first presidential debate in 2020 between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Attacking, Interrupting, Not listening. I was like Chris Wallace at this meeting, without any impact. Ali left the team at the end of the week. 

This bad event was a trigger for me to start improving my conflict resolution skill. Especially this kind of workplace and personal conflicts. If your team members have a conflict in the decision-making process, you can use easily facilitation techniques, but personal conflicts are so difficult. A conflict is a situation when the interests, needs, goals, or values of involved parties interfere with one another. 

In these 9 years and while coaching almost 20 different teams, I have experimented with many practices to resolve conflicts, but I want to suggest an effective one that worked for me in different situations.

Ladder of Inference

Ladder of inference, developed by a former Harvard professor Chris Argyris. Experts using the Ladder of Inference refer to “travel” on the ladder as an important way to obtain valuable insight into how a belief or action may have developed. The practice of traveling on the ladder also provides a rich opportunity to articulate the core of those inferences with other individuals and groups, particularly ones that lend themselves to vastly different conclusions and the escalation of the conflict.

It’s a really easy framework to learn, and adopt it as your favourite conflict management tool. Let me describe it with my own story. In our story, Vahid believed that “Ali is not a good team member, he is so lazy” (Beliefs) So, In meetings, he did not show respect to Vahid (Actions). On the opposite side, Vahid developed a belief about Ali for himself too and reacted to him.

Learning to “travel back down” the ladder to revisit, articulate, and communicate the original data each group holds in a certain light is key to increasing meaningful communication between members of a group or team while simultaneously managing conflicts more effectively. 

The key point is that, helps them to revisit or be aware of the root of their current beliefs. 

Let’s travel back down the ladder in action:

  1. We are in a planning meeting, Vahid is trying to explain a concept to the team to help them to break it down a complex task into small tasks, there are 6 team members there…. (Observation)
  2. Ali is starting to check his phone (Selected Data by Vahid)
  3. His attention is on his phone (Meaning)
  4. He is not paying attention to me (assumption)
  5. He did not care about the team (Conclusion)
  6. He is a bad team member (Belief)
  7. Ignore the Vahid at the during of this meeting (Action)

When we developed a belief about somebody, next time, we will just select data about him based on our current beliefs. Beliefs act as a filter for us, we did not see things that we do not intend to see. 

Our beliefs affect the data we select next time. So, After this planning meeting, Vahid just will see some actions of Ali that prove his belief. It is not interesting? More evidence will cause stronger beliefs and stronger conflict. It’s a loop.

Another big mistake is that You as a facilitator, try to just pay attention to actions and try to manipulate them. Lets, say Vahid, you should show respect to him, but Vahid created a strong belief about Ali that he is not a good team member. And the same thing happened to Ali too.

What we should do? Travel back down the ladder. 

As a facilitator, you should help them to travel back down the ladder. What happened that you think he is not a good team member? “He did not care about the team…”. Can you tell us why do you think he does not care about the team?

You can start this session by explaining the ladder of inference framework, you can use your own stories too, it creates good empathy. For example, I always use my story with my wife and how we developed a wrong belief about each other. She thought I did not care for her anymore, and I thought She is just a murmur… And how we used this ladder to understand what created this kind of belief. For example, Checking the phone at home when we are eating lunch, caused she developed this belief…

This image is a great example to show your team member.

People develop beliefs in just seconds by some limited and selected data. And these beliefs influence their actions and view of the world in the future. We should help them to be aware of the root of these beliefs, observe new data and facts, and maybe develop new beliefs.

Don’t hesitate to share your experience here with me 🙂

Best Regards

Asad Safari

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