Community of Practice for Scrum Masters – why professional exchange is essential

Author: Na-Young Lee

professional exchange in a social setting. 6 people talking to each other

For Scrum Masters who support agile teams in their projects, professional exchange is essential. That's why a Community of Practice (COP) for Scrum Masters was introduced at IBM iX in 2018. But how was this accomplished, and what were the central challenges and key learnings?

Scrum Masters facilitate and support agile teams in their projects. They act as moderators, bridging the various roles within the team and ensuring the smooth progress of the development process. It’s a challenging task that requires constant professional exchange among Scrum Masters. That’s why we introduced a Community of Practice (COP) that provides the necessary space for this purpose.

How it all began

In 2018, fuelled with enthusiasm after attending a Scrum Gathering, a small community of five individuals set out to drive the agile agenda at IBM iX. We realized that to achieve this, we needed to enhance our own professional knowledge. Thus, we swiftly introduced a COP meeting for Scrum Masters. Since then, we have been gathering once a week for an hour to exchange ideas and evolve professionally.

What we learned along the way

Initially, there were some bumps in the road. Each week, one of the Scrum Masters would deliver a presentation to enlighten the community members. Our sources of inspiration included books, podcasts, as well as real-life challenges encountered in our ongoing projects. We would then evaluate the problem from various perspectives and engage in collaborative case consultations. It quickly became evident that the weekly exchange significantly propelled us forward in our roles as Scrum Masters. Each colleague approached their project work with a unique emphasis, resulting in greater diversity and the unveiling of fresh perspectives.

When progress stagnated

However, we eventually reached a point where we experienced a professional plateau. It was a gradual process – some colleagues became deeply immersed in their projects, leaving them with little time to engage further with the community. Others departed the company altogether. The number of community members remained stagnant, and consequently, the community’s progress stalled. We lacked new inspiration, and often, the drive alongside our project work. The will was there, but the momentum was gone.

Reviving the momentum

To bring structure to our community work and align our business goals with the community objectives, we decided to implement OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) for our community goals. OKRs are an agile strategy implementation method that helped us in better planning our topics and assessing their relevance. In turn, the individual community members found the OKRs helpful in coordinating their project work with the community efforts.

To inject fresh impetus into our meetings, we decided to invite former colleagues who had transitioned into Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, or Product Owners in other agencies, companies, or startups. Prior to each meeting, we would choose a topic, and during the session, each person would contribute their perspective. This approach allowed us to examine topics not only from an internal viewpoint but also broaden our understanding through external perspectives. It often served as a reality check, and we frequently discovered that our internal problems and obstacles were often shared by our former colleagues in their current contexts.

How the group expanded

An internal restructuring led to the inclusion of Project Leads in the Scrum Master Community. This led to increased diversity, a breath of fresh air, and a wider range of topics that continue to benefit our meetings. As a result, the COP meeting has become an exemplary gathering within the organization. Colleagues from other communities regularly join us, appreciating the opportunity for professional exchange within this supportive environment.

What we have learned

In addition to project work, professional exchange plays a crucial role in agile work as a Scrum Master. As a Scrum Master, you are continuously involved in a team and responsible for its continuous development. This can only be achieved by continuously advancing one’s own skills as a Scrum Master. While self-study is one way, we have found that learning from each other, reflecting together, and critically examining problem situations from diverse perspectives have been the most enriching experiences.

Keys to a Successful Community of Practice

If you wish to establish a COP, consider these four crucial aspects:

  1. Engaging in professional exchange requires commitment and a shared dedication.
  2. Starting with a “just do it” approach is often the first step; there is no need for a perfect plan for a community meeting.
  3. It may seem obvious, but looking beyond your immediate context helps open new perspectives.
  4. The community meeting should provide a safe space. Only then, can topics be critically questioned and discussed.

By incorporating these principles, you can create a thriving and effective Community of Practice. Remember that ongoing engagement, taking initiative, embracing diverse perspectives, and fostering a supportive environment are the keys to success. With a commitment to professional growth and knowledge-sharing, your community can flourish, leading to continuous improvement in your roles as Scrum Masters.

You would like to join our IBM iX family? Have a look at our job opportunities.

What’s up?

Link copied Link copied?

That may interest you too