Are You a Scrum Master? Be a Gardener.

I have recently been reading Jurgen Appelo’s book Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. For those wondering what management’s role in an Agile organization should be then this is a good read.

In my current consulting gig I am coaching someone to replace me as a scrum master so we spend a great deal of time talking about Agile, Scrum and what it means to be a scrum master.

One of the things I have always used as a metaphor is the concept of Scrum Master (and managers) as gardeners. Though I may have heard it somewhere and forgot it or it may have reached my subconscious somehow, I came up with the metaphor of gardener because my in-laws live with me and are retired. They spend a great deal of time gardening. It is from their work bringing forth trees, flowers and mountains of vegetables that I took my cue.

The very day I talked to my protege about gardening and how a scrum master is like a gardener, not building a team, but allowing the team to grow by providing the right conditions and environment (like a gardener knows how much sunlight, water, when and where to plant, etc), I opened Jurgen’s book and came across the following passage where he quotes DeMarco and Lister from Peopleware (another fine book):

We stopped talking about building teams, and talked in-stead of growing them. The agricultural image seemed right. Agriculture isn’t entirely controllable. You enrich the soil, you plant seeds, you water according to the latest theory, and you hold your breath. You just might get a crop. You might not. If it all comes up roses, you’ll feel fne, but next year you’ll be sweating it out again. That’s pretty close to how team formation works.


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