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Top takeaways from the 2019 Agile Coach Camp ZA

Agile Coach Camp ZA 2019

AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach

The first Agile Coach Camp in South Africa is over and what a weekend it has been! When you put together like-minded people with a huge passion for what they do, magical things happen.

If you have never attended an Agile Coach Camp please do yourself a favor and attend one as soon as possible – I don’t think anyone will be able to truly explain the experience, it is something that you have to experience first-hand.

The environment was set up using the Technik Open Space that consists of these 4 simple principles:

  • Whoever comes are the right people
  • Whatever happens, is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over

Together, we created the agenda for the weekend which was opened for change throughout.

There were 3 topics that really stood out to me and that I would like to share my vision of. These are:

  • Self-care
  • When Scrum should not be used
  • Scrum Master: Helpful or Hurtful?

Each topic is quite broad on its own. So much so that I would be able to discuss them for hours, but I will try to keep it short here and perhaps consider writing individual blog posts on each topic in the future.


The topic self-care is starting to come up more and more, and I personally think it is a very important topic. We see more people with stress and burnout than ever before and by living with the agile mindset, we live by inspect and adapt. For me, that means I always try to find out how to become better – which in itself can be very stressful and has indeed resulted in burnout for me in the past – more about that in another post (one day). At the camp, we had an interesting talk around what self-care means and what we each can do to look after ourselves.

Why this topic was one of my favourites from the weekend is because I have a strong belief that companies must start to focus on this and help their employees to take care of themselves. We are not robots, but humans that have feelings and the more we start to see this and understand the human body as a whole, the more we will understand how the nature of organisations will have to change in the future to accommodate us.

When Scrum should not be used

This topic, as I’ve already mentioned will have to be separated into its own blog post one day as it is simply too big. But I will try to share some of my main ideas here. When this topic was suggested it immediately triggered something in me – I had to be part of this conversation mainly of two reasons: Firstly, I disagree 110% with it and secondly because I love to hear about other opinions around it and try to understand what makes up other people’s beliefs and why.

We had a very interesting discussion around this topic but it did not change my opinion that Scrum in some version can be used anywhere and that I get a feeling of people not understanding the core of Scrum when they suggest that teams can work without Scrum Masters and so on.

For me Scrum is like the fundamental of agile – you have the agile mindset that supports the Scrum framework in which you can use tools from other agile frameworks. Scrum is described as lightweight, simple to understand but difficult to master and I 100% agree with this – many people have read the Scrum guide and understood it, but not many can master it and fully grasp the psychology behind it.

Scrum Master: Helpful or Hurtful?

This subject really stood out for me and I feel it build onto the topic above. This topic was triggered by a tweet from Ron Jeffries and I want to send a big thank you to the facilitator, Kirsten for bringing it up at the coach camp, it was my key takeaway from the whole weekend!

Kirsten sums up the talk very nicely in her own blog post. Click here to read more.

This was the tweet that sparked the topic:

Why this topic means so much to me is the same as the previous topic and I have a huge belief that it is a misunderstanding of the Scrum Master role that harms it. I would like to share my view of the topic. I believe there are multiple reasons for this based on what I see at the different companies I work with:

  • People attend CSM and think they are the best Scrum Masters EVER – resulting in people forcing teams to follow the Scrum framework while forgetting what it is all about (the physiologic aspect of it)
  • Project Managers that become Scrum Masters but still perform their duties with PM mindsets.
  • Companies hire Scrum Masters with only CSM qualifications which results in a bad performance of the SM role – this leads to companies not seeing the value of the SM.
  • Instead of talking about the problem and solving it, we start to see good Scrum Masters calling themselves Lead Scrum Masters or Agile Coaches, and so on. 

Scrum Masters have to understand the skill-set of an SM such as the facilitation, mentoring, and coaching and practice these, this way they will be able to perform to the best of their abilities to add value to their teams and their required duties.

Another thing that came up in the topic was the saying “Good Scrum Masters should work themselves out of their job” – once again I highly disagree with this saying. Yes, if you have an SM that has only done the CSM qualification, they often tend to become what I would call a PA (personal assistant) to the team. What I have seen happening over and over again is that a Scrum Master like this will be responsible for coordinating the teams calendar, task board, meetings, and not forgetting the famous Retrospective – because if you can run a retrospective then you must be the best Scrum Master EVER (Ironic isn’t it?). This is NOT what the Scrum Master role is about. What it is really about is being a servant leader to everyone and possessing the skill-set as mentioned before, i.e. facilitation, mentoring, and coaching. I will not talk more about what a servant leader means since I want to try to keep this post as short as possible. Essentially, my point is that if the Scrum Master fulfills the role as it was intended, then they will always be needed.

As a result of our talk on the topic we agreed in the group that perhaps the name ‘Scrum Master’  needs to change, no one really likes the master in the name.  The alternative term that we had consensus on was: ‘Scrum Guide’.

One last thought

As we ended the weekend, we were all in agreement that this had been an amazing experience worth doing again in South Africa, so please join us at the next Agile Coach Camp and be part of this incredible event.

Thanks to everyone that was there – you were all the right people and what happened was the only thing that could have happened! 🙂