As a ScrumMaster silence can be golden!

Silence is GoldenI love it when someone who was in one of my workshops sends me a message saying something from the workshop worked well for them. Recently I have started telling people in my Certified ScrumMaster training workshops that far too many ScrumMasters talk too much. I tell them they need to learn a new skill – being silent! The graphic makes the point perfectly. In fact, it adds that if you can’t stay quiet, buy some duct tape!

Below is a message from a recent workshop attendee that really hit home and made me realize adding this little segment to the CSM workshop was well worth it! He had the patience required of a good ScrumMaster and the result was worthwhile.


I wanted to share a story with you that I think you’ll appreciate.

First, some background:  I’m leading a large project that can hardly be called agile.  It’s basically fixed-scope waterfall with short development cycles, but I’m trying to take as much advantage of scrum principles as I can.

Coming out of my CSM class, my biggest takeaway in terms of things I could be doing better within the constraints of my non-agile project was to hold regular sprint retrospectives.  The first thing I did when I got back in the office was to put one on the schedule.  That first one took a little bit to get going, but I was careful to remember to keep my mouth shut and let the team do the talking, and they eventually identified a variety of things that had been working well and not so well.  I was particularly pleased with the fact that they came up with the same list of “not good” issues I would have identified if I had been doing the talking.

Since the CSM class, we’ve now held three sprint retros following very closely the guidelines you laid out, and the results have been incredible.  With each one, the team has identified the top 1 or 2 issues they want to work on, laid out a plan for addressing them along with a team conscience to keep them honest and followed through to become more productive and successful as a result.  They have fixed all of the issues I was initially concerned about; and although new ones have come up, they’re now quick to identify them and put a plan in place to fix them.

Here’s the kicker.  In our latest sprint retro completed last week, one of the items on the “working well” list was, you guessed it, the sprint retros themselves!  The team loves taking that time to figure out how to get better at what they do.  There’s no longer any prompting or patience required on my part to get the discussion going.  All I have to do is sit back, take notes and watch the team figure out how to succeed.  How cool is that?

From Brennon M. to Bob Hartman on November 15, 2011

Until next time I’m hoping I’ll be Making Agile a Reality® for more of the people who attend my workshops!

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  1. This is a skill that is so hard to remember to do, but well worth it. I think from now on I will pause anytime I might speak and count to 3, to consider whether to keep silent, and as a bonus, give time for someone to jump in.

  2. This is true, we tend to speak out before the other speaker has even completed his point. This is the problem with most of us and this destroys the concept of debating and developing new techniques. Be it Agile or any other industry, this problem is always there.