Scrum Master vs Master of Puppets – the face of modern management

Inner child

The most interesting adults seem to be those who didn’t let the internal child become only a shadow of the past. There exists some kind of golden balance between the adult things: responsibility, planning tasks, forecasting and delivering, and the child’s qualities: curiosity, trust, openness and the will to experiment with the world that facilitates coping with challenges of ever-changing world and work demands. 

Well implemented and realized role of Scrum Master can definitely be one example embodying both qualities. People sticking to rigid managing methods and, most importantly, attitudes from mythical ‘good old days’ will face up to radically dropping results. But why? 

Modern business needs adaptability – so does hardening one’s grip in an attempt to control what is uncontrollable sound like a good idea? Doing this in an environment of which change is the primal quality is only going to make you more vulnerable and fragile. To think about it, the evolution of modern management style reminds that of child’s play habits. 

What’s your kind of fun?

From the moment we become old enough to play in a more intentional and independent way, we have the need to demonstrate our power and say “No” to pretty much everything that isn’t our idea. We call the shots playing with a construction set or while commanding both armies of toy soldiers. Observing (and internalizing!) hierarchies in many aspects of life only teaches us that someone is always the boss who is giving away orders and the rest has nothing to do but listen and do the job for him. It’s like manipulating the string puppets – you’ll go where I tell you, you’ll do things my way.

But then as we get older, we simply get bored with our lone toy kingdom where we used to reign supreme! Our hunger for stimuli only grows and we discover a fascinating occupation – playing with other children! There is something special here: even though we may have a leader or some kind of role-playing hierarchy, no one can usually just sit aside and only command – everyone should and wants to participate and do things actively. 

More partnership than leadership – relief and fruition

And this approach shows the major characteristics of working in Scrum methodology. There is no place for a puppet master up high. While Product Owner constitutes another vital element – as he gives the Why and What and sets priorities, it is the Scrum Master who helps the team plan the How and supervises their progress while persevering in making effort to help and coach them and to remove any concrete obstacles that might appear. Playing as a team, for the team and casting out the superiority linked behaviours are the main theme not only in Scrum but also in broader Agile methodology philosophy. 

If management rests steely in their top-down order-issuing approach, they might encounter some growth hindering behaviours and problems. For example, if you put yourself above the team and want to impose on them your way of operating, you will have to continue guiding them and thinking for them step by step, instead of relying on team’s own experience and skills. They will obey at first, but then can grow resentment towards the manager and start acting passive-aggressively; is it surprising, though? Lastly, working in such a way of dependence can entail the fear of being cut out: if an employee can’t show his initiative and develop his unique useful qualities, his staying in company will depend only on manager’s whim. 

Play smart

To keep up with the demands of the business of change, people in organizations should not hesitate to cut off the strings if the management is clearly stuck in old and rusty patterns and rather look for more Agile and egalitarian model. Is it also connected with people responsible for learning & development proces. You can always play with puppets at home (I mean real toys!) 😉

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