Agilify’s Advanced Scrum Master Course

Here at Code Towers, collaboration is key, and the ability to successfully work together cross-discipline is central to the agency’s culture. We use scrum methodology as a basis for our framework, which we have adapted and developed over time to suit us as an agency, adopting the main principles and ceremonies into our teams.

Part of my role as Traffic Manager involves making sure our teams work as efficiently as possible by supporting that framework and facilitating situations to ensure the right decisions get made by the right people (yes, that’s correct — Traffic Manager’s aren’t just ‘resource people’…). With this in mind, myself and Project Managers Mark and Matt went along to Agilify’s ‘Advanced Scrum Master’ (ASM), a two-day course held at Old Trafford, back in May.

The idea behind the course was to expand on the original scrum master training, teaching surrounding skills in facilitation, coaching and listening as well as offering resources in order to deliver unique scrum ceremonies and team experiences.

In all honesty, I was initially apprehensive about the course (and not only because it meant I had to spend two whole days with Matt and Mark…): I’ve not done the original scrum master training and my particular role’s a bit of an unusual case for this course. Fortunately, the structure and content of the course meant the fact that I was a bit of an anomaly didn’t matter, and I was actually able to represent a different viewpoint in our discussions; whilst I work with the teams, I am not a part of the teams, which means I always come at situations with an operations/business slant as well. And it turns out the course was a valuable opportunity to gain further skills in how I can collaborate well myself, and also learn how to facilitate and encourage collaboration in others.

I won’t attempt to outline what happened during the entire course, but here are my main insights:

Ken Robinson — ‘How Schools Kill Creativity’

As a pre-task to the two days, we were asked to watch at least two videos from a selected list. One of the videos I chose was a Ted Talks by Ken Robinson called ‘How Schools Kill Creativity.’ Ken argues that the reason we don’t always get the best out of people is because we are taught from a young age to be to good workers rather than creative thinkers. He believes teaching creativity is as important as teaching literacy.

You might be thinking ‘What does this have to do with scrum and collaboration?’, and that’s exactly what we explored in this particular session. Following our discussion, we came up with the following statements as a summary of how we felt we could apply this theory to a scrum team:

Challenge the norm and understand there are no wrong answers
We need to allow for adaptability and change — things are ever changing
Creativity is not just about the arts — it’s a new way of thinking, adapting and learning to problem solve and develop as a team
Intelligence is diverse — we think visually, in sound, in movement; it is not restricted to academic intelligence.

We all tend to hold the view that the most creative individuals are those who are amazing designers, artists, dancers or musicians. However, some of the most creative people aren’t actually any of those things; they are simply those that are open minded, unafraid to challenge, unafraid to get something wrong, and who simply have a passion to learn, change, adapt and develop.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you give Ken’s video a watch.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

This used to be one of my all-time favourite shows…. In this session, we took it in turns to play the ‘answer a question with a question’ game — harder than you may think!

This activity ended a section of the course where we were discussing ‘Powerful Questions’ — questions to make people think themselves rather than relying on others to answer and decide for them. By asking a series of powerful questions, you can empower someone to come to their own conclusion; by guiding someone in coming to their own conclusion they are much more likely to own any actions, believe in them and learn more than if they were simply being told what to do.

As human beings, we are inherently impatient; we like to think we have the answers to everything and all too easily jump in and try to fix things ourselves. By doing this, though, we remove autonomy, mastery and purpose — which, here at Codes, we believe are the three key elements in achieving true motivation.

Kevin Bacon

Now, I’ll be honest — I’m not really sure why this part was called Kevin Bacon, but it was basically based around the six degrees of separation theory (kind of). We were all asked to write down five interesting things about us: places we’d been, famous people we’d met, unusual situations we’d been in, interesting abilities we had… We then had to find someone in the room that had a ‘link’ to one of our five facts, e.g. someone says they’ve met Cristiano Ronaldo, another says they used to live in Portugal (Ronaldo being Portuguese and all… Get it?) .

The point of this was, of course, good old team building — these days often seen as a cheesy concept, yet still a critical part of forming a team and enabling effectiveness and self-sufficiency. It emphasised how a team could struggle to be effective if they are disassociated; as soon we learnt about one another, and realise that some of us had inherent links in interests and life experiences, we automatically developed as a team and communication between is eased.

It truly was an inspiring two days in the end, and definitely relevant to anyone who works within a team-focused environment; it gave me a totally fresh perspective on team dynamics, development and success. Plus spending all that time with Mark and Matt didn’t turn out so bad in the end J.

You can find out more information on upcoming courses on the Agilify website.