Building a Scrum Team, which is agile, be comes a  critical challenge to the Scrum  Masters. We want the Team to support  applying the framework, roles, and arti facts and think Agile. In this article, I’d like  to share some experience and hints about  how to use coaching to create resilient,  curious, solution-focused conversations  within the Teams and help them build an  agile mindset. 

Scrum Master dilemmas

  • How to make collaboration between developers and testers better?
  • How to shift left and enable the Team’s various roles to work together, work closely from the early stages of the Sprint?
  • How to make the change and not impose it on people?
  • How to communicate clear and succinct messages which are cutting through the noise?
  • How to build an atmosphere of friendliness, openness, and happiness at work?

As Scrum Masters, we very often hear the  following statements from various team  members: 

  • We don’t need to cooperate – each of us  has a specific role, and this is what we’re  focusing on. 
  • There’s not much we can do about it – It  was working like this in the past, and we  don’t see how to change it.
  • Well, we could give it a try, but I’m telling you it will not work – but if you want, we can try.
  • I don’t feel comfortable about the way fe edback was provided to me.
  • Who will help Camille? – and there’s a long silence in the (virtual) room.
  • We’ve been burning our asses off, and I simply don’t know what else we can do.

Doing Scrum vs. Being Scrum

When as a  freshly certified Scrum Master  back in 2009, I  started to work with the  Teams, the framework’s proper application  was almost like to be or not be a  type of  situation. I wanted to policy everything and  make sure people understand what it is to  do with Scrum. Over the years, I’ve realized  that the shift from doing Agile with Scrum  to being Agile with Scrum has to do with the  transition from tools, processes, artifacts  implementation to enabling mental, personal, and human capabilities.

Mental, personal and human capabilities  are the builders of natural Agility in the  Team’s DNA, whereas processes and ar tifacts are essential, yet this is just a “me chanical Scrum”. 

For Scrum Teams to become Agile, they  require a group of personalities with specif ic traits. Diversity in opinions, approaches  is needed, and it will always prevail. This is  through positivity, a  can-do attitude, and resiliency, which will make or break the  deal. People with such traits see the world  options and opportunities they seek and  explore. They know there’s always a way if  there’s a will.  

If you want to support your Scrum Team in  converting old paradigms of acting, thinking,  and behaving to see the lasting shift in how  they function, deliver, and are agile – con sider Coaching for Agility.

Coaching for Agility

The human brain can be trained and can cre ate new neural connections that function  differently from previous ones. It’s the same  for attitude and behavioral change. We can  shift from negative to positive, from being  closed down to open up, from the overwhel ming feeling of being stuck into seeking the  solutions. By building specific attributes  within ourselves, we can become resilient  people. The same applies to our Scrum te ams. Our role is to help people see these  capabilities in themselves. We can support  them by stepping in the coach position and  keeping them agile, not solely doing agile. 

Coaching for Agility is about:

  • flexibility,
  • new mental muscles,
  • curiosity,
  • resilience,
  • solutions, not constraints.

It’s about becoming open to new solu tions, ideas, tools, and ways of working.  These are critical success factors of XXI  post-COVID world. We – Scrum Masters –  have a vocal role in spreading, building, and  triggering those among Scrum Teams.  

Coaching for Agility is about building  a unique group of people, new personas, and  personalities out of your Scrum Team. It is  like switching from a manual gearbox to an  automatic. You can increase the speed be cause the less manual effort is needed to  drive the car.

With coaching for Agility, you get the  same. You no longer need to worry about  things that slowed your Team down. Your  Team has got it. They worked out and understood fundamentals, and it’s happening  on an auto-pilot. From there, you can move  to the people’s real potential growth in the  context of product development and organi zation transformation.  

Why is Coaching for Agility critical?

In reality, what makes a  real Scrum Team  is this rare, seamless ability to release fast  and often. To release while staying focused,  making quick decisions, learning, and collaborating. It’s about the whole Scrum Team to  continuously seek creative ways to nurture  the changes, so they grow, create a happy  workplace, feel satisfied and fulfilled at work  and with what they do.  

Stepping in the Coach position 

So how do you step into the coach position to support the Team in collective  change? 

Being a  coach is like inspecting human  nature, getting into the thought-provoking  process to find solutions. 

Being a coach triggers particular traits and  uses concrete tools to assist the coachee in  the whole process. It’s an own potential discovery journey where the Scrum Master supports the Team to uncover what’s covered, to  see the deeply hidden resources each person  carries, and bring it all to the light.

Scrum Master as a  Coach supports the  Scrum Team in discovering what’s on their  mind. From there, provide facilitation in  a  creative process of resolving the situation – finding a solution. 

You don’t have to hold dedicated coach ing sessions, either individual or group ones.  You simply step into coaching conversations.  You can have them during the meetings,  workshops, on the call – no need to point  to the moment and call it coaching. What’s  vital is to be present in a coach position and  have the know-how to help the Scrum Team  discover solutions. The best way to start doing it is to ask questions and start listening  more than talking.

Scrum Master as a Coach – your essential toolbox Softeners

Be present and engaged in understanding  more. Use statements like this to nurture  conversation: 

  • I find myself curious…
  • Have you noticed that…
  • Would you mind telling me…
  • I wonder if you would suggest to me …


Feedback or summarize what you think  was said to you to ensure that you got the  message right. You can backtrack when you  become confused and not sure. Backtrack  when you want to clarify and summarize  what was said to you. 

  • Let me be clear about it…
  • In other words… is that correct? • I think that we agreed that… Am I right? Did I summarize all points?
  • Let’s review important information that we’ve covered so far…

Seek solution with the build and broaden the model

Negative emotions are generally involved  in the narrowing process. When we think  positively, we increase our capabilities to  think “big picture” – catch the distan ce and be creative. When we feel negative  emotions, we perceive things as very close.  We can quickly identify with them, sometimes even overemphasize the real impact of  an event or situation.  

How to apply the model?

Let’s assume your Scrum Team’s big struggle  is they don’t deliver the whole Sprint backlog.  They always complete 80% of the backlog,  leaving some items in QA or progress. So the  problem you are trying to resolve together with your Team is: how to deliver the whole Sprint backlog and get the Sprint goal fully  into the DONE state, where it’s meeting all  criteria from DoD (Definition Of Done).

Help them first to find some comfort  time. Bring themselves into a positive state.  Watch for the good moments from the past  which made the Team happy. Invite them to  look into the memories. Sure, you will get  random responses. The goal is to keep the  conversation flow around positive memories.  

Then move to a specific case: “Let’s sup pose six months from now you finish the  Sprint with all items thoroughly done and de livered with the Sprint goal. What was the last  step which made this possible for you?” 

The last step, which made it possible for  the Team, is to open up the box with solu tions. This is how people will start imagining  the final stage of this way. 

Your main task is to ask questions. Help the Team to find out solutions that will  lead them to a positive result. 

What you can do to bring a more different  perspective is to become a constructive critique. You again ask the questions which will  help the Team to broaden the perspective  and realize potential road-blockers.

When they have ideas, you can acknowl edge them with positive comments and  then ask further questions to open up even  more space in people’s heads to think deeply  about proposed solutions.  

Coaching contributes significantly to creating self-organizing, independent teams. It  builds willingness, self-organization, curiosi ty, and a can-do attitude.