May 10, 2016

Scrum Master -- Artist and Clown?

  —Good Scrum Masters embody the Artist and Clown archetype.

I'm reading The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby. I'm reading it because I like to write and have this vague ambition about writing something worth reading someday. Thus far, I'm published on Twitter and Blogger.

The Anatomy of Story provided a new appreciation on how stories are constructed. This appreciation can be applied to movies, books and people. I was struck by the similarity between the Artist and Clown archetype and what makes a good Scrum Master. I talk about the importance of the Scrum Master in Scrum Master Selection--Critical Success Factor?

Truby describes the strengths of the Artist and Clown:
  • defines excellence for a people to positive effect
  • defines what doesn't work to negative effect
  • shows beauty and a vision for the future or shows what is beauty but is in reality ugly or foolish
And weaknesses:
  • can be the ultimate fascist insisting upon perfection
  • may create a special world where all can be controlled
  • simply tears everything down so that nothing has value
The Scrum Guide discusses the Scrum Master role as embodying the following activities.
The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules. 
The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team.
In "Agile Methods: The Good, the Hype and the Ugly" an ACM Webinar by Bertrand Meyers discusses as ugly, the Coach and Method Keeper (e.g., Scrum Master) as a separate role (around 44:50). He says this leads people becoming a political commissars and creates a class of people who wash there hands of the result.

I'll suggest that the Scrum Master Meyer's is thinking of embody the weaknesses of the artist and clown. Those in the Scrum Guide embody its strength. Of course, Truby describes these strengths and weaknesses in the context of a character that embodies this archetype.

I selected Artist and Clown as the archetype of a good Scrum Master primarily because a good Scrum Master should encourage learning -- show the way but provide room for learning and, importantly mistakes. I wrestled with the notion of a Scrum Master as Clown but ultimately concluded that Clowns can have positive effect as well.

If you are a Scrum Master and you have lost your Scrum Team I wonder if looking at the archetype you embody provides insight on where you might be going wrong.
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