Scrum Masters are there to help their team and the entire organization understand and work empirically. This is hard, especially in environments infected with Zombie Scrum. We always start by bringing together the Scrum Masters and see where they can help and support each other. This experiment helps you do that. It is based on the Liberating Structure “Wise Crowds”.
Getting your Scrum Masters together at least once a Sprint — even virtually — shouldn’t be too difficult.
Impact on survival
When Scrum Masters start working together, self-organization tends to take off across the organization.
To try this experiment, do the following:
Invite all Scrum Masters in your organization for the first “Scrum Master Impediment Gathering”. Schedule an hour, remotely or in person. Once per Sprint is a good starting point, preferably after the Sprint Retrospectives so that impediments are fresh in mind. Be clear that the purpose is to resolve tough impediments. So ask everyone to bring their toughest impediments, preferably those that transcend a single team.
The first step is to identify the most important patterns to focus this gathering on. Ask everyone to pair up with someone else and take a few minutes to share their most urgent impediments (2 min). Repeat this two more times in changing pairs (4 min). Afterward, capture the most obvious patterns noticed by the group (5 min).
Ask everyone to pull up a chair and sit in a (large) circle. In the next steps, pick two or three Scrum Masters who will be getting help with their impediments. In each round, one of them is the client and the other participants are the consultants. Pick impediments that correspond to the patterns you noticed as a group.
The client shares their impediment and requests help (2 min). The consultants ask open-ended, clarifying questions (3 min). Then, ask the client to turn their back to the consultants. Or turn the webcam off in a remote call. While the client has their back turned, the consultants talk amongst themselves by asking questions, offering suggestions, and giving recommendations to help the client. In the meantime, the client gives their best impression of a statue and only takes notes (8 min). Then, the client turns back to the consultants and shares what was useful (2 min).
Move to the next client. You have time for two or three rounds. Other Scrum Masters and impediments can be the focus of the next gathering.
Capture action steps with “15% Solutions”. Consultants usually also get a lot of inspiration from their own team. Action steps can also involve helping others.
Aside from one client getting help, “Wise Crowds” is also about being exposed to new ideas and suggestions.
Even when it feels awkward, make sure that the client has their back fully turned to the consultants during the third step of each round. The slightest facial expression from the client can influence the consultants in the ideas they’re offering.
You can also use this experiment for developers, architects, managers, and other roles. Or mixed together. There is a smaller variation called “Troika Consulting” where groups of three give and get help. Here, one person is the client and others become consultants. In three rounds, each participant gets to be the client once.
Looking for more experiments?
Aside from a deep exploration of what causes Zombie Scrum, our book contains over 40 other experiments (like this one) to try with your Scrum team. Each of them is geared towards a particular area where Zombie Scrum often pops up. If you’re looking for more experiments, or if these posts are helpful to you, please consider buying a copy.