Of late, I’ve been noticing an interpretation of the Scrum Master role – the Scrum Master as An FFFCDO for Developers – a Fierce, Ferocious, Fearsome Chief Defense Officer!. Anytime, anyone provides any feedback that might cause Developers any kind of discomfort, the Scrum Master steps in fiercely, ferociously, fearsomely defending the righteousness of the Developers, putting an end to the conversation. This happens most regularly in Sprint Reviews but also happens in other conversations.
WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE…..?
Which made me start thinking about these questions…
- What is the Scrum Master protecting the Developers from?
- Who are the persecutors the Scrum Master protecting the Developers from?
- What will the persecutors do to the Developers unless the Scrum Master protects them?
- On a higher level, this might open up a more valuable questions – how is the Scrum Master as FFFCDO consistent with the Scrum Guide…?
- Openness: The Scrum Team and its stakeholders are open about the work and the challenges. If Developers are feeling persecuted, how is the Scrum Master as FFFCDO helping them be open about the challenges of being persecuted directly with the “persecutors”?
- Respect: Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people, and are respected as such by the people with whom they work. If Developers are feeling persecuted, how is the Scrum Master as FFFCDO relating to them as independent and capable of co-creating healthy relationships with other human beings, especially with the “persecutors”?
- Courage: The Scrum Team members have the courage to do the right thing, to work on tough problems. If Developers are feeling persecuted, how is the Scrum Master as FFFCDO helping them practice courage to discuss this challenge with the tough problem directly with the “persecutors”?
SCRUM MASTER SERVICE TO SCRUM TEAM
- Coaching the team members in self-management. How is Scrum Master as FFFCDO increasing self-management among Developers in the face of perceived persecution?
- Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization. What kind of leadership and service is the Scrum Master as FFFCDO demonstrating?
- Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; How is Scrum Master as FFFCDO removing the impediment that the Developers are feeling persecuted?
- Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox. How is Scrum Master as FFFCDO ensuring that the Scrum events are positive and productive?
SCRUM MASTER SERVICE TO THE ORGANIZATION
Assuming that the persecutors are part of the organization and external to the Scrum Team, how is Scrum Master as FFFCDO consistent with these Scrum Master responsibilities towards the organization…
- Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption; How is Scrum Master as FFFCDO leading, training and coaching stakeholders to shift from persecution to a more effective stance?
- Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work; How is Scrum Master as FFFCDO helping employees and stakeholders understand how persecution impacts an empirical approach for complex work and make necessary adjustments?
- Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams. How is Scrum Master as FFFCDO helping remove barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams?
ONE MORE TIME – WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE…..?
For many years, I have found myself playing this role of Scrum Master as FFFCDO. And it wasn’t helping me live my life purpose. It was also not helping me be consistent with my understanding of Scrum. A lot of coaching and therapy helped me discover one possible explanation of why I was being who I was being. Why I was doing what I was doing.
In my case, I was the actor, director and producer of the same drama over and over again – the Karpman Drama Triangle…
The Karpman Drama Triangle is a social model of human interaction proposed by Stephen B. Karpman that maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur among people in conflicted or drama-intense relationships. The triangle of actors in the drama are persecutors, victims, and rescuers. The Karpman Drama Triangle models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the destructive and shifting roles people play.
KARPMAN DRAMA TRIANGLE IN SCRUM
Here’s my interpretation of how I see this drama playing out in unhelpful implementations of Scrum, based on the content in Karpman Drama Triangle...
- Developers as The Victims: The Victim in this model is not intended to represent an actual victim, but rather someone feeling or acting like one. The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight. The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and also a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim’s negative feelings.
In my case, I kept seeing the Developers as helpless victims who needed to be saved from those cruel, unreasonable, demanding persecutors – “waterfall” managers, business partners, executives, customers, investors, etc. etc.
- The Scrum Master as Rescuer, FFFCDO: The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t go to the rescue. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and doesn’t allow the Victim permission to fail and experience the consequences of their choices. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When they focus their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also pivotal because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.
In my case, I stepped in as the Rescuer of the helpless Victim Developers by going to battle with the unreasonable, demanding persecutors – “waterfall” managers, business partners, executives, customers, investors, etc. etc.
- Stakeholders, Management, Customers as The Persecutors: (a.k.a. Villain) The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritarian, rigid, and superior.
In my case, I felt that the unreasonable, demanding persecutors – “waterfall” managers, business partners, executives, customers, investors, etc. etc. kept demanding more velocity, more features, more releases with less time, less people, less budget. They kept asking for on-time, on-budget, on-scope or increasing-scope results using inauthentic, robotic, ritualistic Scrum and Agile.
Initially, a drama triangle arises when a person takes on the role of a victim or persecutor. In Scrum, this is often the Developers as victims, portraying Stakeholders as persecutors.
This person then feels the need to enlist other players into the conflict. As often happens, a rescuer is encouraged to enter the situation. This is when Developers go to the Scrum Master with pseudo-impediments, and ask for defense and protection from the persecuting Stakeholders.
SHIFTING ROLES IN THE KARPMAN SCRUM DRAMA
These enlisted players take on roles of their own that are not static, and therefore various scenarios can occur. The victim might turn on the rescuer, for example, while the rescuer then switches to persecution.
- Scrum Master As Persecutor: In my case, when I was a Scrum Master and switched my stance with Developers from the Rescuer stance to more of a coaching stance, challenging them to behave in a way that was more aligned with Scrum, the Developers would escalate against me to their Management. So now, the Scrum Master switched roles from Rescuer to Persecutor and Management switched roles from Persecutor to Rescuer.
- Scrum Master As Victim: There would be times when I would get frustrated with Developers and try to get help from someone in Management, switching from Rescuer to Victim and enlisting Management to switch from Persecutor to Rescuer.
MOTIVATIONS SUSTAINING THE DRAMA
Why does this keep happening…? From the content in Karpman Drama Triangle...
The reason that the situation persist is that each participant has their (frequently unconscious) psychological wishes/needs met without having to acknowledge the broader dysfunction or harm done in the situation as a whole. Each participant is acting upon their own selfish needs, rather than acting in a genuinely responsible or altruistic manner.
The motivations of the rescuer (- the FFFCDO Scrum Master) are the least obvious. In the terms of the triangle, the rescuer has a mixed or covert motive and benefits egoically in some way from being “the one who rescues”. The rescuer has a surface motive of resolving the problem and appears to make great efforts to solve it, but also has a hidden motive to not succeed, or to succeed in a way in which they benefit. They may get a self-esteem boost, for example, or receive respected rescue status, or derive enjoyment by having someone depend on them and trust them and act in a way that ostensibly seems to be trying to help, but at a deeper level plays upon the victim in order to continue getting a payoff.
The relationship between the victim and the rescuer may be one of codependency. The rescuer keeps the victim dependent by encouraging their victimhood. The victim gets their needs met by having the rescuer take care of them.
Participants generally tend to have a primary or habitual role (victim, rescuer, persecutor) when they enter into drama triangles. Participants first learn their habitual role in their family of origin. Even though participants each have a role with which they most identify, once on the triangle, participants rotate through all the three positions.
MY MOTIVATIONS AS THE SCRUM MASTER
I began reflecting on my own motivations…
- Was my true underlying intention to enable self-managing Scrum Teams and a healthy, Agile eco-system that hopefully one day would no longer need me?
- Or was I getting an unhealthy pay-off in sustaining this drama? I felt needed and valuable only when I played the role of a Rescuer? If that was my motivation, it was unlikely that I would disrupt this drama.
So what are some shifts that might help Scrum Masters like me break out of this unhelpful drama?
THE WINNER’S TRIANGLE
Here’s one possible response based on The Winner’s Triangle, published by Acey Choy (adapted from the content in Karpman Drama Triangle.)…
- Developers Embracing Vulnerability – The Scrum Master could encourage developers to shift from the victim role by accepting their vulnerability, problem solve, and be more self-aware.
- Stakeholders Embracing Assertiveness – The Scrum Master could encourage stakeholders to shift from the persecutor role by asking for what they want, being assertive, but not be punishing.
- Scrum Master Embracing Caring – The Scrum Master could support themselves in shifting from the rescuer role to a caring role, but not over-reach and problem solve for others.
THE EMPOWERMENT DYNAMIC
- Developers as Creators – The Scrum Master could encourage Developers to shift from the victim role by being outcome-oriented as opposed to problem-oriented and take responsibility for choosing their response to stakeholder challenges. They should focus on resolving “dynamic tension” (the difference between current reality and the envisioned goal or outcome) by taking incremental steps toward the outcomes they are trying to achieve – Product Goal, Sprint Goal, DOD.
- Stakeholders as Challengers – The Scrum Master could encourage Developers to see Stakeholders as people who are inviting them (Developers) to clarify their needs, and focus on their learning and growth.
- Scrum Master as Coach – The Scrum Master could support themselves in asking questions that are intended to help Developers and Stakeholders make informed choices. The key difference between a rescuer and a coach is that the coach sees the creator as capable of making choices and of solving his or her own problems. A coach asks questions that enable the creator to see the possibilities for positive action, and to focus on what he or she does want instead of what he or she does not want.
SCRUM MASTER AS CGO
My wish is that this blog helps you expand your interpretation of the Scrum Master role from FFFCDO (Fierce, Ferocious, Fearsome Chief Defense Officer) of the Developers, to CGO (Chief Growth Officer) of the eco-system – the beautiful entity that is the complex adaptive system comprising of the Scrum Team and the Stakeholders.
THE BEST TEST
How might a Scrum Master gauge their efficacy in shifting from the FFFCDO to CGO? By applying “The Best Test” of Servant Leadership as defined by the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership – “The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons…” Have you as a Scrum Master, enabled the growth of Developers and the Organization to such an extent that your presence is no longer needed to protect them from each other or themselves?
If you want to learn more about applying these ideas, take a look at my blogs on these topics…
- How A Scrum Master Can “BE” A Co-Active Scrum Coach
- The Roots Of Agile Suffering
- How To Design An Agile Coaching Alliance
August 11, 2021
Ravi has around 25 years of Software Delivery and Consulting Experience, including Agile Enablement for companies ranging from 10 people to 10,000 people. He is able to earn the trust and respect of C-Level executives and help them understand how the application of Agile Principles, Values, and Practices can become a powerful means to achieving sustainable competitive advantage.
Ravi has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Engineering from R.V.C.E., Bangalore, and a Masters in Entrepreneurship from SMU, Dallas. Ravi received a Certificate in Organizational Development from DePaul University and Linkage Inc. and is an MBTI Certified Practitioner, with a Certificate in Advanced Conflict Resolution from Kilmann Diagnostics. He has also been trained in facilitating workshops for leading organizational change based on the book “Leading Bold Change” by Dr. John Kotter workshops.