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).

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