Earlier this week I attended a retrospective with team I am coaching and watched as a growing scrum master stood up and started the retrospective saying, “Ok guys, I’m going to step completely out of my comfort zone again today. You didn’t like the activity that we started the retrospective with last time so I’m not going to make you do that again. Instead, I came up with something else that I hope you will like a little bit better…”
What he did was really cool and very simple. He asked his team to take a post it note and write down 1-3 words that described how this sprint was different than the previous sprint. He collected the notes and put them up on the white board in the form of a circle. The team briefly discussed the items and this allowed both the team and the scrum master to get a feel for their overall perception of the success of the sprint and if the team was moving in a positive or negative direction as far as overall improvement. This opening “set the stage” activity broke the ice perfectly and gave him a wonderful springboard into his “gather data” activity – which he did with genius style!
Kyle Duke, who has incredible raw talent to be a great scrum master, proceeded to use the 4L activity (Liked, Learned, Lacked, and Longed For) to draw information and conversation from his team. I sat on the sidelines astonished as I watched him introduce this in a way that I had never seen before and almost died laughing. He was amazing. When he transitioned into this activity, Kyle said, “Ok, team help me out … what are our quadrants?” He drew four quadrants on the board and proceeded to get the team to “help” him label them. Since they had only used this method once before no one knew the labels. It was hilarious to watch Kyle guide them letter by letter into each square until they guessed the labels.
I saw Kyle do other really amazing things like ask for permission from his team to combine post it notes together when he thought that they meant the same thing – instead of just assuming that he could make the decision for the team. When he wanted to make a clarification on what someone wrote on a post it, he asked, “Do you mind if I write that on here?” These actions provided a place of safety for his team and also create an environment where the team knows that the scrum master is not a manager of the team, but a member of the team.
I was really proud. Kyle did a great job. His team felt safe. They opened up and talked about the stuff that really mattered and they had a great time. I love seeing scrum masters coming into their own and really having the courage to do things that are outside of their comfort zone in order to help their teams succeed. This is true servant leadership in action. This is scrum. This is why I love being an agile coach!