Physician, Heal Thyself–ScrumMaster, Master Thyself
1/13/2012 11:55 AM
In the New Testament in Luke 4:23 Jesus speaks of a proverb, “Physician, Heal Thyself.” What, you may ask, does this have to do with being a good developer or a good ScrumMaster? In my experience, it has quite a bit to do with it, actually, and recently, it’s had far more meaning to me than it used to have in the past. In large part, my own increased awareness has stemmed from reading Lyssa Adkins fantastic book, “Coaching Agile Teams.”
My Command and Control Roots
My dad owns several independent telephone companies in the west. Growing up was a lesson in business. I saw him grow the business from a small company of only about 500 customers to now thousands of customers in Oregon, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho. In many ways, he’s been quite successful. I’ve participated in lobbying congress, seen him work on advisory boards for independent telephone companies and watched him interact with his employees.
From there, I went to Idaho State University and received my Bachelors of Business Administration majoring in computer information systems. I even started my MBA. All of this was fantastic for me to learn and taught me quite a bit. However, it all also taught me how to be an expert at Motivation 2.0. Many also know this as Command and Control. They taught me how to be a manager. If I could hold everything in my head, and tell people exactly what to do, I was being a good manager. I was taught that employee’s weren’t to be trusted, because they’d cheat and look for ways skip on doing work. I was taught that timesheet’s in 15 minute increments so that you knew what people were doing at any given point in the day was a good thing.
I was so bad, that I even once installed a time system that used the employee’s fingerprints to clock in and out.
Ghastly, I know, and I’m deeply ashamed of that period in my life.
About 10 years ago, I started to realize the error of my ways. I didn’t understand it at first. My dad’s company had a consulting firm come in and do an evaluation of why they were struggling with morale, and almost refused to work with us as a company because of the results of a survey that they took of the employees. It was/is that bad. That was the catalyst for me to start learning. It’s what I needed to hear to try and become better.
I left my dad’s company and moved to a government agency, which didn’t help my understanding of command and control. I could see the problems it was causing in the teams, but still didn’t understand why. Finally, I ended up as CTO of a local firm and started running my own team. I got the chance to practice not being command and control. I read about the agile thing it was hard, but I was doing better. Not good, but better. I still didn’t get it. I thought I was Agile, was using a RUP derivative (sort of), had heard of Scrum and thought I was doing what was needed, except that the entire thing blew up in my face and I didn’t know why.
Finally, I started a new job as a project manager for Veracity Solutions. Almost immediately, things started to go downhill, similar to my last company. My response was, “O.k., I just need to control things tighter and everything will be o.k.” It wasn’t. I was scared. I didn’t want another failure.
I became very introspective and I realized that the problem wasn’t the team, wasn’t the process, wasn’t the other people. The problem was me.
I WAS THE PROBLEM!!!
I put that big and bold so that every time I see it, I can ask myself the question,
AM I STILL THE PROBLEM?
Each day, I’m striving to continue the transformation.
Recently, I read much of Lyssa’s book and realized that I still have a long way to go. I had become a master of the mechanics of Scrum, but I hadn’t yet mastered the people side of scrum. I am still using violent language, I’m still not as aware of my emotions as I’d like to be. I’ve discovered that I have a growing edge (the rough boundary between things I’ve mastered and things that I stink at) that is much closer than I want it to be.
Coaching is all about helping PEOPLE become better than they currently are. It’s not about the mechanics of some process. It’s not about process at all. It’s about becoming a better person. When I wasn’t introspective, I was trying to make people become just like me, controlling, terrible people. I had to heal myself first. I had to recognize that people around me have the same wants, needs, and desires that I have and that I can only be successful when they are also successful.
I’m still not perfect, but I am growing closer to that vision of myself that I’ve always had. I’ve gone from having the bubonic plague to having the bird flu, and I’m getting better, hopefully every day. At least I’ve never been turned into a newt. That would have been a much harder starting place.
If you want to coach others, please take the time to understand yourself and make sure you don’t have any lingering patterns that will cause you to be ineffective as a coach. For the software development world, Lyssa’s book can help. For the religious world, Christ’s example can help.
Whatever your source of inspiration, seek to make those around you better and together, we can move into a better world.