Inevitably Agile

somethings are just inevitable …

Tag Archives: coaching

Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

This post is the last in a series on the Growth Path of a scrum master:

(1) The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

(2) The SHU scrum master

(3) The HA scrum master

(4) The RI scrum master

(5) Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

A few weeks ago we did a survey on Growing Agile and used the classic Jnr, Int, Snr classifications for a scrum master.

We defined them as follows:

  • Junior – need mentoring
  • Intermediate – comfortable in role
  • Senior – coaching other scrum masters

These definitions above exclude time (years in role) and age. I still prefer Shu – Ha – Ri as people leap to fewer conclusions – in my opinion anyway.

Here are a set of statements to get you thinking about where you are. Perhaps in some areas you are the master? And you may still be needing assistance in others. (PS: Thats normal!)

(The numbering means nothing – its just to allow comments to be easier.)

  1. You have read a few Scrum specific books.
  2. You have read a few books on other agile topics – Kanban, Lean, Facilitation etc
  3. You regularly read blog posts and tweets related to agile topics.
  4. You partake in conversations (in person or online) debating certain aspects of scrum/agile with colleagues.
  5. You partake in conversations (in person or online) debating certain aspects of scrum/agile with strangers.
  6. You partake in conversations (in person or online) debating certain aspects of scrum/agile with friends/family
  7. You ask other scrum masters what/how they do things.
  8. You observe other scrum masters and offer them feedback.
  9. You invite others to observe you and give you feedback.
  10. The task board, burndown and other “wall artifacts”  are up to date.
  11. All meetings for the sprint boundary are setup.
  12. You prepare for each retrospective for a couple of hours.
  13. Your grooming is a team conversation with business.
  14. Your team works as a unit, not as mini silos (analysis,dev,test,qa)
  15. The team pulls their work
  16. You attend coaching circles to improve your skills
  17. You meet with other SMs from other companies to learn to be better
  18. You attend conferences and course to improve your skills
  19. You have conversations with team members individually to build your relationship
  20. You have conversations with your Product Owner to build your relationship
  21. You have conversations with Management to build your relationship
  22. You have conversations with team members and product owners not on your scrum team  to build your relationship with them
  23. You encourage small failure and the learning behind it
  24. You practise what you preach
  25. You have stories to tell on success and failures
These statements are off the top of my head … there are thousands more – please add yours to the comments and I will update the post (and give you credit!).
The things I mentioned above might come as a surprise to you. Since when is reading and relationship building part of your job description as a scrum master? Well – it is – if you want to be a good one. We try and teach these and other topics in our course Growing Agile Scrum Masters.  These are the keys to becoming great! Content includes: Coaching Self Assessment, Trust, Giving and Receiving Feedback, Listening Skills, Facilitation Skills, Detachment, Self Improvement, Team Assessment, Building Relationships, Scrum Training, Impediments, Motivation, Retrospectives.

Our first Coaching Dojo

About 2 weeks ago we had our first Coaching Dojo. I tried to post this the next day, and then forgot totally! Better later than never 🙂

There were 6 of us in total and it was awesome! Our group is made up of 3 scrum masters, one developer, one product owner and one Operations Manager.


We started off with a quick into exercise and made idea cards for each other with: Name, Day Job, Company, Super Hero Power and Other interests. As most of us knew each other from previous circles this went quickly but also got us all chatting quickly.

The wine and snacks was also already flowing at this point – also helps the atmosphere 🙂

The next part was “Challenge Generation”. We had 10 minutes of silence to write on Index cards as many challenges as we could think of. We each came up with between 3 and 7. By this stage the wine consumption was making silence tricky …. lol

example of a challenge (from

“CTO thinks agile teams are wasting the time of business stakeholders and wants to stop their involvement with agile teams.”


I explained the basics of the format we would use for the night (adapted from this post:

  •  Split into 2 groups of 3.
  • There are 3 roles: Seeker, Coach and Observer.
  • Take 10 minutes in your group to tell the others about your challenges (the ones on the index cards) and select one challenge as a group to work with.
  • The person whose challenge it is becomes the first Seeker. Decide who will be Observer (takes notes of what is being said, body language etc) and who will be the Coach (coaches the Seeker). Do this for 5 minutes…
  • Then swap roles (move to left makes it quick and easy): Repeat as above for 5 minutes, then switch roles and again repeat.


NOTE: If you are the seeker – try and own the problem especially if it isn’t yours to start with – try and apply it to your company and put in some personal things, helps create a slightly different situation and stimulate more creative thoughts.

Everyone in the group of 3 should have been through all the roles. Now take 10 minutes to read through the observations everyone made. This is the fun part … there were lots of giggles and “Wow – do I really do that??”.


We then switched up the groups and repeated the whole exercise above with the new group.


At the end we had a 10-20 minute retrospective and asked the following questions:

  • What was the experience in your group?
  • What did you learn as Agile Coaches?
  • What did you like about the Dojo format?
  • What are your ideas for improvement?

As a group we decided to try another format next time – more one-on-one role playing with an observer. And in the following session another format group role-playing. We think all the formats will have value and be interesting.


I had an amazing time. Our group members have all been to Coaching Circles before and so there was already a trusting bond between us. The challenges were personal but no-one took them personally or defended them. Everyone was open to learning, and trying new ideas. All of this was a testament to how mature we all are in our daily agile practices. I look forward to our next session 🙂

Coaching Dojo … in Cape Town :)

The Coaching Circles in Cape Town are immensely powerful. They have grown from strength to strength and have evolved to become much more than we originally thought possible 🙂 Many people from various roles and with varying ranges of experience are getting to learn new things, seeking advice from peers and bounce ideas around like minded individuals.

I am looking for something a little different though. I would like to practice my coaching skills with other coaches and learn from them, perhaps show them something new. Amongst these skills are: Listening, Observing, Questioning, Feedback and many more. I stumbled upon the idea of coaching dojo’s and would like to try it out. Essentially it is role playing with team members taking a turn to seek coaching, be the coach and observe the interaction.


“When Japanese martial artists want to deepen their knowledge, learn new techniques, and advance their skills, they gather in a training center, the dojo. “


The Learning Objectives:

  • Practice listening without judgement
  • Gather information more effectively
  • ask different kinds of questions to understand real problem
  • Become aware of how you coach
  • Observe other coaching techniques and styles
  • Gain fresh insight into a problem you may face at work


Basic Concept: 10 minutes per round (min 3 rounds, max 4)

Form groups of 3 (if uneven can have 1 or 2 groups of 4)

  • 1 “Seeker” of coaching
  • 1 “coach”
  • 1 (or 2) “observers”


Pick a card with a challenge or discuss a real challenge for you (Seeker). Then Coach and Observe. 5 minutes total

Each provide feedback (seeker 1 min, coach 1 min, observer 3 min) 5 minus total

Switch Roles – can change topic – seekers choice.


At end – group Retro: 10 minutes

(depending on size of group can use various facilitation techniques for this)

  • What was your experience with your group?
  • What did you learn?
  • What did you like?
  • What are your ideas for improvement?


 Who is this for?

This is not intended to replace the coaching circles. It is for those particularly wanting to improve coaching skills. With that in mind, you need to be actively practicing coaching for at least a year to join the dojo. This means you regularly coach/encourage/train others you work with. If you think this could be for you PLEASE let me know by leaving a comment – thanks!

When will these start happening?

From what I can see the current Coaching Circle session will be ending with a group retro on 26 September 2011.

I’d like to propose the first dojo happen in the second week of October (10th to 14th). I reckon it will take a minimum of 60min – but would like some chat time before/after – so 90minutes should be perfect.


I’m open for ideas – ideally a company with bigger open area, or house with large lounge? Very casual. Very social.

Ideas / Thoughts???

Please leave comments below with your thoughts or questions or suggestions … I would LOVE to hear from you 🙂



Inspiration and formats from here: