Scrum Master: Relationships Are Everything

Scrum Master: Relationships Are Everything 13.12.2017 - This article features an exciting contribution from Nagesh Sharma. He is a Scrum Trainer who instructs companies and managers on ways in which they can engage with the subject of communication and values in Scrum in order to drive their projects forward. He wrote an article on this subject on the B2C Business 2 Community blog in order to sensitise project managers around the globe. Nagesh Sharma explains the skills he believes are important for Scrum Masters and their teams. He also reviews tools and tricks that he uses in companies as part of his training programmes. 

Understanding communication

Nagesh Sharma refers to Albert Mehrabian who separates interpersonal communication into three areas: words, voice and body language. It is often the case that only approximately 7% of communication is the result of what is actually spoken. The way in which the words are spoken makes up 38% of the message and 55% is attributed to body language. According to Howard Hendrick, communication is made up of three components: the thoughts (what does a person know?), the feeling (what does a person feel?) and action (what does a person do?). These theoretical approaches help us to understand communication. Many different combinations and situations arise during communication. For example: someone knows something, but does nothing. Or: someone does something, but does not know anything. Or: someone feels something and acts on it. It can be generally said that a connection and informed action can only occur when someone knows something, feels something and then acts on it. 

How do project managers communicate?

Project managers should always ensure that all actions and decisions are well-founded. All project managers should ask themselves which type of personality they have and, most importantly, which type of leadership style they are adopting. Nagesh Sharma uses a procedure which helps the attendees on his courses to assess their level of success. They evaluate the extent to which they are satisfying the requirements demanded of good communication skills and consider how they can improve them. This evaluation procedure even helps experienced managers to identify how effective their communication is with the team. Generally speaking, all types of communication (with customers, stakeholders, officials etc.) can be examined using this procedure. Nagesh Sharma summates that good relationships between all project participants is often more important in many projects than the actual words that are used during communication. 

Collaborative added value: respect and courage

Nagesh Sharma believes that the principle of collaborative added value is a fundamental factor in Scrum management. When Agile and Scrum methods are introduced, many project managers are overburdened, yet they throw themselves enthusiastically into the new methods. However, it is important that a win-lose situation does not arise. The courageous pursuit of goals and mutual respect always need to be held in balance. Project managers must be courageous, however, they should always avoid becoming doormats. They should also always show respect towards customers or project owners and they should argue in a professional and purposeful way in order to ensure the project is kept on the right track. A great deal of emphasis is placed on this during Scrum courses. It is important to understand that individual values in Scrum do not conflict with each other, but should instead complement each other. The aim is to always achieve a win-win situation by using all of these values and by creating a balance between them. Courage and respect should be valued and held in the highest position as possible to ensure that a win-win situation can be achieved. Nagesh Sharma suggests that it is important to consider all of the values included in the Scrum strategy equally just as you would the fingers on your hand. If someone were to ask you which of your five fingers you would like to exchange for another, you would certainly be able to argue to keep them all. 

Win-win situations are the goal

A win-win situation is always what is sought in project management and especially in the area of Scrum. A positive relationship should also always bring about a positive result. Scrum Maser Nagesh Sharma believes that four factors can essentially pose a threat for Scrum management: making biased assumptions (‘I believe that I know what you want or feel’), arrogance (‘I do not need to know what you want or feel’), indifference (‘I don’t care want you want or feel’) and control (‘I don’t want anyone else to know what I know or feel’).
A positive and fruitful relationship can never be the result of these types of behaviours. However, everyone has the choice to be a connector who unites people, projects and knowledge. These skills can be developed and enhanced. In order to become a connector, it is important to invest time in getting to know the team you are working with. It is also important to listen actively and to try in earnest to understand what others think, know and feel. It is vital to ask questions and to develop an interest in others.
Intuition is another factor. It is certainly not easy to develop this, however, it is possible to develop an ability to listen to your own inner voice as you progress through your career. According to Nagesh Sharma, intuition can only be used if you really engage with a theme or a project. He finally lists feedback as an important factor. This does not just involve giving constructive feedback, but also involves receiving feedback with an open heart and working through it. When considering Scrum, everything revolves around relationships and communication.
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