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How do scrum masters help improve decision making?

A good scrum master will have taken the time and effort to learn about coaching. The art of asking questions and helping both individuals and teams to understand their own line of reasoning, their thinking, and their problem-solving capabilities.

That’s the key to helping individuals and teams make better decisions. It isn’t about bringing your own thoughts and solutions into the equation, although at times that may be required, it is instead about helping others truly understand where they are, what their options are, and what decision or action would best serve that specific problem or opportunity.

In getting individuals to talk through the context of the decision they need to make, a Scrum Master is able to help make clear what the challenges are, what the options are, and most importantly, help you understand why the decision you must make is critical to the success of the team or product.

That degree of clarity is important. It empowers you to think objectively about what is happening, what needs to happen and why it matters. It empowers you to make the right decision, in the right way, at the right time, in service to your team or the product.

The act of speaking aloud activates different parts of your brain. The act of discussing your options and working through them with a coach triggers different levels of creativity and decision-making capability.

Sometimes a great coach will challenge your thinking or line of reasoning.

They may challenge the line of reasoning by asking you questions that are designed to find the loop holes in your argument or to make clear why that line of reasoning is spot on. Sometimes, you’ll be challenged to come up with additional options or avenues you can explore to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity.

Being challenged allows you to step outside of your current comfort zone and really dig deeper into the opportunities available to you. In some cases, you may find that your current line of reasoning or decision best serves the team. At other times, you’ll discover new options or potential decisions that may better serve the team and the product.

When I work with Scrum Masters in developing their coaching skills, I’ll introduce them to something called the GROW model by Sir John Whitmore.

Goal

The GROW model starts with a goal. Defining what your specific goal is and what you hope to achieve. We explore why this goal is important and articulate why it will have a great impact on the team or product.

I really want to dig deep into this and help people understand what their goals are, specifically, and why those goals matter.

Asking why to every element of the decision-making process can really come into a class of it’s own and help people become very clear about how all the moving parts fit together.

Reality

Next, we dig into the reality of the current situation and circumstances.

We explore where we are and what it is that we want to change. How and where do we find ourselves and how does that integrate into the big picture of what we are looking to achieve?

Options

Exploring all the available options is the next step of the GROW model.

In this phase, we are exploring what we could do and what decisions we could make. We’re evaluating all the options available to us and exploring which of these options best serve the problem at hand or the opportunity available to us.

This is an area that a Scrum Master can really help push deeper and further. A great scrum master will focus on identifying great options and helping the individual or team understand why these options matter, how they integrate into the big picture, and which of them best serves the team.

A great way to identify new options is to use the ‘magic wand’ technique. A technique where the scrum master asks what an option might be if all the limitations were removed.

What would you do if you didn’t have this barrier or impediment?

Exploring the options beyond the barriers empowers you to see whether the barriers are real and if so, how much of an impact they have on your decision-making capability.

Developing and refining options is a critical element of the decision-making process and it allows you to think through the problem or opportunity from multiple perspectives.

Will

The final part of the GROW model explores what needs to happen next. What decision are you going to make and what does that look like.

At this point, you understand what your goals are, you understand where you are today and what the current reality is, you understand all the options available to you, and now you are asking yourself what you intend to do.

Intention is the key element of this phase.

A great scrum master will also push for when you intend to make the decision and take the necessary action to manifest the opportunity or solve the problem. They will also ask how you intend to communicate the decision and necessary steps to the team so that you are clear on what needs to happen next, how to make that a reality, and why it’s important that you do so.

A great scrum master will help you work through that process and achieve the clarity you need to take bold, decisive action moving forward.

A great scrum master doesn’t serve the individual or team by introducing their own ideas. Instead, they focus on helping you, as the expert in that space or field, become clear on what needs doing and why it needs doing.

In certain circumstances, a great scrum master may introduce options based on their experience, but their goal is always to help you make the decisions that best serve the team and product.

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to level up, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to certify and validate your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page.

If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Agile Coach Academy course page.

If you have identified coaching as an important part of your career progression, visit our on-demand Introduction to Coaching course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.johnmcfadyen.com

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