Having a “why” and a self-managing team focused on it sounds great. But are teams and organizations able to operate like this on day one? Autonomy is not magic.
Having an experienced guide for a team or an organization new to Scrum speeds up learning. Without an expert guide, our past behavior can get in the way of learning a new skill.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
— Albert Einstein
The Scrum Master as coach
The new Scrum Guide specifies Scrum Masters as coaches for the team and the organization. They lead, train, and coach. This implies that your Scrum Masters have experience in Scrum and Agile patterns.
Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.
— The 2020 Scrum Guide
What do you do if your Scrum Masters are also inexperienced? In this case, it helps to bring in an experienced external coach or Scrum Master. The external guidance will support your Scrum Masters as they gain experience in the role.
Isn’t training and enthusiasm enough?
Training and enthusiasm are great, but they alone don’t translate to new skills.
When it comes to learning new behaviors, training isn’t effective without practice.
And coaching is your best support mechanism as you practice Agile behaviors. It is your highest return on investment when compared with training.
The best mix is to supplement coaching with training and knowledge sharing communities.
And you can’t train experience. Experience in a new way of working is what you get with an experienced Scrum coach.
It’s kind of like a football coach. Would you want a new football team to watch a few training videos and practice and play without a coach? It would likely take a lot longer to produce a winning team that way.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
— Benjamin Franklin, likely inspired by Confucius
“Will” is important. But “skill” is too. And knowledge does not equal skill. Take the new football team analogy. Even with enthusiasm, and after watching many training videos, the team hasn’t played the game. And if the team hasn’t played the game, they don’t have the skill.
How to learn new skills
The best way we learn new skills is by first repeating and mastering one technique, guided by an expert or coach. Before trying alternate techniques or improvisation, we must first learn one foundational technique.
A great example of how we learn is described in the Shu-Ha-Ri technique. Many other similar analogies come to mind, such as learning to play an instrument, play jazz, and dance. Let’s take, as an example, how you learn to dance.
You have a piece of paper on the floor to guide your steps and an instructor to correct your moves in the moment. Once you learn the basics through repetition, you discard the paper. And the instructor becomes less instructive. Only after you learn the basics can you venture to try new techniques and improvise.
These are the same learning patterns we need when we try Agile behaviors for the first time. We need a coach to guide us. And the Scrum Master is this coach.