PM to Agile Coach: Get out of the middle of the team’s communication
They say that the first step to recovery is realizing that you have a problem. Well, I am a recovering PM-aholic. Once I started working with Agile teams as an Agile coach (aka ScrumMaster), I realized that I had an addiction to many things PM-like, especially being the center of the team’s communication. Being the center was a key success factor in my previous phase-based projects. Being the schedule-master, the one “in the know”, the hub of communication was absolutely critical to keeping a couple dozen team members all marching toward the same goal when none of them were truly working together. Not so in Agile teams.
In fact, that successful characteristic in phase-based projects is a serious detriment to Agile teams. Notice even the difference in the way I talk about the two experiences – before, I ran projects, now I am involved with teams. This is a very important distinction that signals my change in mindset.
Here are two practical things I practice that allow me to remove myself from the center of the team’s communication.
- One: In the standup, look at the floor. Don’t make eye contact with the team members so that they can interact with one another. The standup is not a status report to the coach, it is a way for the team members to calibrate amongst themselves. (Thanks to one of my Coach friends for calling me on this and suggesting this tactic – it works).
- Two: Don’t be the first to jump to the board to write. Instead, ask the team, “Should we capture this?” Or just wait. And wait, and wait if necessary. Ask yourself: what is the worst thing that will happen if no one captures this? (Hint: it’s probably not too bad and certainly something from which the team can recover).