Written by: Irfan Shaikh, Team Lead – Scrum Master, CG Infinity Inc.
I am a super fan of Marvel movies. That might even be an understatement. Hypothetically, I may have seen each of them more than 25 times. I watched Avengers Endgame again last night and somehow it gets more awesome every time. Until late last year they were just superhero movies to me, defying laws of physics and logic, but I have this bad habit of mapping anything to be an analogy
What is Scrum? As per Scrum.org, ‘Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.’
That’s what the Avengers have been doing! Solving complex problems productively and creatively to deliver products of the highest value!
Scrum Framework consists of three roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Development Team. Together they form the ‘Scrum Team’. For today, we will only focus on the Scrum Master.
The Scrum Master plays a major role providing the link between the Product Owner and the Dev Team. They act as a driving force for the Scrum Team by adopting agile principles and emphasizing strong skills in self-organization, cross-functionality, and a drive for continuous improvement.
In a nutshell, Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where:
- A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.
- The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.
- The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.
Enter Scrum Master aka Nick Furry the director at SHIELD
Scrum requires a Scrum Master (aka Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to foster an environment where:
- The product owner which is the SHIELD cabal here defines the task. Note that Nick always argues before accepting it.
- Nick has a team of Avengers (The dev team) which would start their mission (Sprint)
- Avengers would always have the next set of enemies which will be their next mission
- Rinse and repeat
Why Scrum Master and not a Product owner
We can argue that Fury should be a product owner and not the scrum master. However, I have my justifications. This is what Fury did to be a scrum master
Scrum Adoptions: Nick is tasked to bring highly competent performers to achieve a common goal.
Coaches the Scrum Team: Played major role in massaging each team member’s ego and helps them get along.
Servant leader: His ability to serve the team by helping lead and then takes a backseat during the action.
Help Product Owner in Backlog Management: S.H.I.E.L.D. gives Fury the orders. Fury manages the implementation and strategies.
Key roles played by an accomplished Scrum Master
One of the most important aspects of a scrum master is the different roles he can play. If you know the history of Fury, then you know what I am talking about. I am amazed by the many roles Fury played, which a scrum master must do every day.
Team Builder: One of the biggest hurdles for an agile dev team is to have a balance skilled team. A good team should be a combination of a tech lead, a couple of developers, QA, and BA.
This is where Mr. Fury excelled. He bought the best of both worlds and two genius minds, Stark and Bruce.
Facilitator: The Scrum master is a bridge, both between the workers inside the Scrum Team and between the Scrum Team itself and those outside it.
One of the most tangible assets Fury had was to make things easier by facilitating the team.
Coach: A coach is someone who understands the strengths and weaknesses of his team members. Instead of asking everyone to do things his way, he provides broad guidance on what needs to be done. Often, letting the team members decide what needs to be done and giving them the freedom to operate.
Fury managed to coach and unite a disparate collection of self-absorbed superheroes into the Avengers just in time to save the day.
Servant Leader: A Scrum Master must employ power effectively. Scrum masters are not just leaders, but they lead to serve. They lead by example, regarding the Scrum Values such as openness, respect, courage, focus, and commitment.
They lead by inspiring and serving other just as Captain America and Natasha Romanoff were inspired by Nick Fury’s servant leadership from the beginning
Change agent: Scrum master can change the team thought process by focusing on organizational effectiveness, improvement, and development.
Fury uses a bunch of cards from Agent Coulson’s box to motivate Captain and IronMan to use their grit to reorganize themselves to produce effective results.
Mentor: The Scrum Master must be able to mentor the team and help to develop a continuous learning mindset that goes far beyond the basic principles. A skill that many Scrum Masters often need to have to be successful, and it is arguably the most difficult of the skills to master.
Fury did this with his interactions with Tony Stark multiple times, changing him from an arrogant rich guy to a person who cares about the world.
Top Qualities of an effective Scrum Master
In today’s fast changing world where agile methodologies have become a necessary framework, a good Scrum Master keeps everything in order. A Scrum Master is responsible for making sure their team follows the Scrum process and established rules and practices in addition to coaching their charges and eliminating impediments. With so much responsibility, a Scrum Master must possess certain key qualities much as Nick Fury had to use these same qualities in himself to assemble the Avengers.
Communication: Communication is a requirement for a Scrum Master, especially in organizations first adopting the Scrum framework. A Scrum Master should be exceptional in both verbal and written forms of communication. Scrum communication isn’t about giving orders to team members either. A Scrum Master must be able to carefully listen and comprehend when his members report on progress and blockages.
Collaborative: A good Scrum Master ensures that a collaborative culture exists in the team. Team members should feel comfortable freely raising issues, concerns, and ideas up for open discussion, and they should feel supported in doing so.
Committed: A Scrum Master’s role requires full commitment. The work does not end when a certain impediment is resolved.
Flexibility: The essence of Scrum and The Scrum Master is being agile and highly flexible. The Scrum Master must be flexible in their interactions with others, flexible in their process, and always ready to improve. The Scrum Master is prepared for things to go sideways, with plans B, C, and D.
Influential: Influence is a more important tool for a Scrum Master than simple commands. The Scrum Master must be able to positively influence their team and those outside it. The ideal Scrum Master comes with a degree of corporate political skills, knows how decisions are formulated in an organization, and most importantly is an asset to their company.
Always composed: A good Scrum Master must be quick in coming up with solutions even in the most chaotic times. These solutions must be applied where they’re needed and not only stop the existing problem but prevent it from happening again.
Nick Fury is a skillful leader who knows how to manage his team, how to respond to political figures, how to motivate with sensitivity, and how to execute a plan.
In comparison, a Scrum Master leads a skilled team which is an incredibly rewarding, challenging, and motivating role to play that requires conviction and grit that stands above-established ways of working.
I will close with one of Nick Fury’s best lines in the MCU, that essentially explains what it means to be a Scrum Master and be part of a Scrum Team:
‘There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles we never could.’ ―Nick Fury
When we talk about Marvel movies then there should be a post-credits scene of what’s coming next. So here we go
‘Scrum Master in multiverse of Kanban and Scrum’