When your organization decides to transform, it promptly starts looking for agents of change. A common scenario will be some blend of external hiring with internal role transitioning. They will hopefully send you to proper training (they did), give opportunities for learning (check!) and finally set you free, right into the ocean of change (oh boy). That’s where I was, a developer with 8 years of experience, given my shot at being a Scrum Master.
In our organization’s Scrum Master community, we had a lot of heated discussions on whether a Scrum Master should be exclusively… a Scrum Master. Of course he should, right? Maybe? Well, not so fast. The experienced technical team leaders on the way to becoming the new agents of change, may have something to say about that.
You should not share roles because it’s an obvious conflict of interest and it’s hard having two personalities. Because you need the time. Because you can’t keep switching focus. Because only then will you be able to really transcend from the team to organizational level. But then again, you may not be entirely convinced, because you value keeping in touch with the code base, doing the occasional user story or code review. That makes you part of the development team and saves your credibility in the harsh world of technical specialists. You may not want to lose touch with technology. It’s also so much cheaper, because you don’t have to hire someone responsible for… what exactly? Besides, you are absolutely confident that you have time for both roles. You seem to switch focus effortlessly and everyone around you respects your dual personality. What can possibly go wrong? I wasn’t sure, but the arguments for exclusivity seemed more convincing, so I decided to try it out: completely isolate myself from any development and become a proper Scrum Master.
So there I was, a few months into the new reality. As I work with people, meetings in my calendar are usually on the heavier side. I fight for change, so I often want things from the people I meet with. Usually things that are uncomfortable to someone on some level. That day I had three such meetings in three completely different contexts. Each of them with people I had never personally met before. Each of them in a case which seemed tough to start with, and required a significant level of preparation, high level of energy and focus.
My main tool was my smile. An abundance of positive energy needed to be prepared at least as well as the vision, arguments or data. It’s the moment when the smile smashes against the wall of people’s fears, where it all plays out. You need to keep smiling – and you need to do it in response to returned negativity. That is not an easy thing to do.
It was the very minute, when I left the third meeting, completely void of any energy, when I understood. It was solely the attitude that kept me on track, throughout the day. Energy possible to retain due to being disconnected. If at any moment had the reality affected me in any way, I would have failed, which I didn’t. I would have given up and conformed with reality. Maybe even burned out and retreated completely. But I was not a developer directly affected by any of these problems. I was not emotionally attached, and it did not influence my daily work. They may not be willing, be scared, or be convinced they don’t have the resources to help out. That’s perfectly fine, because I still have the energy to keep smiling at them.
You may do your best to share the responsibilities of a Scrum Master with other roles, but there may come a day, when you get a tough one, and you better be immune to the burden it entails, or you may not have what it takes, to fulfill your responsibilities, and not get hurt in the process. You won’t pull the boat out of the mud, if you’re worried about the water.