Interview with a newly-minted Scrum Master

Six months ago SilverStripe, an open-source Content Management System provider and Wellington web agency approached me to help them improve the way in which they deliver client and open source projects, increase employee happiness and, in general, just do the best possible job. To achieve this, we decided to move away from the existing Agile-like (fixed scope/fixed price) approach and introduce Scrum with its focus on client-driven iterations, early feedback and continuous improvement.

Silverstripe have asked me to interview some of their staff about the transition to Agile. The original posts can be found on Silverstripe’s blog (Sam MinnéeAleksandra Brewer), below are selected highlights from the interviews. 

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It has been interesting for me as a coach to learn how people experienced the changes including the biggest surprises, differences, and how they found the changes working out for them.

Today’s conversation is with Scrum Master Aleksandra Brewer. Alex works with one of the Agile teams at Silverstripe and has likened working with me to a visit to the dentist. 


Alex, what was the most surprising thing that happened during the transition?
Some of the surprising (although maybe obvious) things were that (1) it’s possible for more than one person to work on the same user story, (2) work goes faster when people collaborate, (3) sprint planning that results in greater understanding of stories and tasks necessary to complete them really speeds up the work during the sprint – everyone knows what needs to be done and can pick up a simple task and complete it.

What’s different now?

I love being able to see the day to day progress of the team – it’s so visible on the board, plus the work seems to be going faster, with several people going through small tasks all the time. With the acceptance criteria being defined and discussed before the start of a sprint, and with the Product Owner being available to answer any additional questions and provide feedback throughout the sprint, there is virtually no possibility for any team member to go off on a tangent.

What are you more confident about now?

Talking to clients is easier now, as they are much more involved and ultimately responsible for making decisions about priorities. We (the team) make recommendations, share our knowledge and inform the client about pros, cons and consequences of the different options, but in the end it’s up to them to make a final decision.

All along the course of a project clients know exactly where we’re at, what’s being built, etc., which they love. The transparency of Scrum, although scary at the beginning, is really beneficial for both the team and clients.

What did you have to learn? What was the hardest to learn?

The hardest thing to learn was to give up the control over what the individual team members were doing from day to day.

How do you think you benefitted from working with a coach?

Working with you has been a bit like going to the dentist – painful at times, but all along I knew it was good for me, and I’m in better shape now than I was before. It’s been good to have you keep us on track, and point out things that now seem obvious, and yet were not at first.

Would you recommend Scrum and Agile to others?

Definitely. I couldn’t imagine going back to the old ways, negotiating “resourcing” among Project Managers, developers being on several different projects at the same time, and not knowing when a project would end because of the uncertainty of developer availability.

Conversations like these help me put my work into perspective: They show me where I can improve as a coach and help me be a bit less perfectionist and appreciate that, even though we are not perfect, we have come a long way and I have helped make some people’s working days a bit more fun and satisfying.

Next week I will talk to Mateusz Udowski., a developer at Silverstripe.

Sandy Mamoli
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