Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The scrum mother - re-explained

Honestly, I never thought my last post could have been that controversial. But I had so many diverging feedbacks: some loved the post, some demolished and told me it was terrible, and some others liked but got the meaning the other way round)... Maybe it is necessary to clarify things a little bit.

I am very convinced that authority stands in the middle of being a good Scrum Master. SM is not a leading role in Scrum, he/she just preserves the integrity of the process, without effectively taking part in it. SM could participate in a discussion, but must not take any decision. SM must ensure that the discussion terminates with a shared decision.

That’s why I came up with the analogy of the Italian mamma and the old-style Italian family. The father has the authority, and brings the money home (hopefully), the mother manages to keep everything running. Preparing the food does not deliver any value to the outside (unless you own a restaurant) but allows family member to be healthy and do their work.

But I guess the metaphor could have turned weak, because I was referring to a very specific type of family, and every single reader had his own idea of mother, and the concepts overlapped diverging a lot from my intentions.

How to raise kids
Probably, the flaw of the mother example is related to the different perception of the mother role within a family. I’ll explain what I meant, going straight to the SM role, to be as clear as possible. SM are not supposed to prevent developers from hurting themselves. SM are supposed to allow the team to grow, by letting them do and recognize mistakes, by allowing them to develop self-confidence and do something on their own. You must be around when your babies are learning to go on a bicycle, but if you keep holding them, or force them to use those small extra wheels ...they’ll learn later. The same applies to swimming, where confidence is just about everything. If you keep being always around, they’ll start crying the first time they’re alone. Delayed growth, lack of confidence and a lot of time spent just “being around” by the senior management.


Pietro said...

Dear Uncle Brando,

I sharply criticized the "mother" post because, being a loyal reader of yours, I don’t see how being a "collaborative PM" of a developer team, that is a concept that may help me. Of course reaching a shared decision is the only way to keep a team running and happy too, but I expect more deepness from a post of your than just a weak metaphor. You don’t make any development environment example to meditate on, don’t give any technical detail on the "mother"/scrum master mapping. I just (still) think that among your posts, this is a particularly weak one. Just like most of mines. Anyway, blog posts are not publications.

Your DDD article, in fact, I find really well done, not only because I find our practices to fit it quite well (and many past mistakes of ours are there spotted). So for what it may be worth, I just encourage you to keep going.

Alberto Brandolini said...

Hi Pietro,

thanks again for the comment. I should have written "It started out as a typo, then it became a joke, then it finally became a weak blog post" :-)

Well, after all this was not an ambitious one, just coffee machine chatter, so I think you're pretty much right in this respect.

But I strongly advocate my right to publish weak posts, as long as there's something funny in them! (I am posing like John Belushi in the final scenes of "Animal House") If the joke doesn't work... that's just a shame I'll be punished for, one day.

Talking about the content, you're right: some of the concepts appeared "from nowhere". One of the implicit points is that PMs are not Scrum Masters, and basically can't be. That's why SM needs different role and style.

best regards

Pietro said...


Alberto Brandolini said...

Hi Pietro,

this is what I call "constructive criticism", thanks! :-)

You raised me the bar, while I still wanted to defend the "right to be stupid"... Ouch, I'll try to be up to higher standards, from now on.

I feel like Cassano after being punished by the coach (any one of them)... ;-)