Scrum is a framework to address complexity. Scrum Teams build valuable products in a complex environment. The Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, and Sprint Review exist because teams and their stakeholders need to inspect and adapt. They need to be able to adjust course based on new information:
“Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.” — Scrum Guide 2017, Scrum Theory section
I believe we drove this home. At the end of the training, all participants had this understanding.
They also saw why Scrum has the Sprint Retrospective, to improve the way the team works together to deliver value. However, some kept on stressing that the Scrum Master should guide the team with solutions for their improvement areas.
Sure, a good Scrum Master is knowledgeable about areas like team collaboration. But a better Scrum Master will help generate great ideas from the whole team and facilitate empiricism, guiding the team to experiment and learn. A Scrum Master’s first and foremost responsibility is in supporting the team to embrace Scrum effectively. It is a bonus when a Scrum Master can do more. Still, a Scrum Master should enable self-organization. The best ideas emerge from the team. As a teacher, a Scrum Master can always help with suggestions whenever a team can’t find options themselves. But the strength of collective knowledge may surprise you.
Note that a Scrum Master can’t have all the answers, coming with best practices for everything. With best practices, you have the same answer for the same conditions. They are suitable for simple problems. Good practices apply to context. They may be applicable for a certain situation. Emergent practices are for complex problems. You will learn from trying. Emergent practices involve empiricism.
Team dynamics are a complex topic too. With that, empiricism trumps best practices: what works well in one team may not be effective in another team. A team can only find the best way of working while experimenting.
A Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team to work effectively with Scrum. The primary focus of the Scrum Master is … Scrum. It helps a lot when she or he is knowledgeable about items like team dynamics and lean-agile. Having said this, a Scrum Master should not impede the team from coming with their improvement suggestions and experimenting with them.
In complex environments, what works for one team doesn’t work for another team. There are no easy answers.
With Scrum you uncover issues. How you solve them is up to the Scrum Team with help from the Scrum Master.
We were happy to see that other participants of our training did grasp what we wanted to bring across:
“Now I know that Scrum does not provide answers, it helps you to find answers yourself.” — An observation from a participant of our training
Now we need to make sure that we emphasise this so that other participants can grasp it too.
Thanks to -danny for the pointers on best practices.