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5 ways a Scrum Master can encourage learning

Although learning is not compulsory, gaining new knowledge gives a big competitive advantage. It empowers employees and boosts confidence. Not only that. For an organization, investing in improving employee knowledge, skillset, and adoption of technical practices, brings many benefits. Higher product quality, shorter time-to-market, improved customer satisfaction and higher employee satisfaction are only some of them.

Agile workers are known to be lifelong learners. But with focus being on continuous delivery, there might not be enough time or opportunities for learning and upgrading or gaining new skills. Leadership must promote a culture of continuous learning and encourage its employees to take time for professional development. They must provide resources (equipment, material and opportunities) and lead by example. But a lot of the encouragement falls also on Scrum Master’s shoulders, as he’s responsible for creating an environment of continuous learning for his team.

Scrum Master encourages learning

Scrum Master plays a very important part in Agile Team. He acts as a servant leader to the team, is constantly removing impediments and protecting the team from external interferences. He enables the team to become self-managing and focused on creating increments of value each iteration. Scrum Master also makes sure all team events take place and are time-boxed and he coaches his team members on agile best practices. But one of his major responsibilities is also to foster an environment for high performance, continuous flow, relentless improvement and continuous learning.

→ Read more about Scrum Master’s role and how to become one!

Encourage learning through learning initiatives

One of best ways for a Scrum Master to foster an environment of relentless improvement and continuous learning is by creating as many learning opportunities as possible. Have a look at 5 best learning initiatives for agile teams.

Team Inside-Outs

Team Inside-Outs are 30 – 60 minutes long sessions that should take place once every 1 – 2 iterations. During the session, a team member (or an external presenter, if necessary) prepares a short presentation or a flip chart talk to other team members and invitees. Scrum Master’s role in the session is to help kickstart the first 2-3 Inside-Outs so the members get familiar with the format. They help participants prepare for it, maintain the Inside-Out schedule, and invite others who might be interested. These could be System Architect, UX, infrastructure, or people from other teams. Video conferencing may be used for cross-located teams and the session can be recorder for those who cannot attend.

Book and Coffee breaks

There’s nothing more relaxing and casual than a 15–30-minute discussion of new topics over a coffee. These learning initiatives involve an extended coffee break with 3-4 people discussing a book on a new technology, practice, or domain topic that the team is trying to master. Discussions like this should happen 2-3 times per iterations. Participants shouldn’t use and technologies, such as video conferencing or computers. Scrum Master should encourage its team members to discover and read different relevant books that would later be discussed. He should also lead first few BCBs and acquaint people with the format.  

Coding Dojo

Coding Dojo is a 60–90-minute knowledge sharing session. They should happen once every 1-2 iterations. Developers and/or automated engineers gather to discuss programming and testing challenges. During the session one or two people sit at the computer and code, while their work is being projected onto a screen. Other people observe and comment out loud. They change every 5-8 minutes. Scrum Master arranges facilities and equipment and helps brainstorm fun and challenging exercises. These could be a spike, a script for retrieving data, or even a code in one of the main modules. He should also encourage variety and introduce different exercises. Coding Dojo could also be used for testers, to learn how to write test scripts.

Communities of Practice (CoPs)

CoPs are self-organizing groups. They are created to build knowledge, discuss new topics, challenges, and best practices. Participants meet for 30-60 minutes at least once every 1 – 2 Iteration and the format for the meeting could be any of the previous ones (Inside out, BCB, Dojo). Scrum Master works with other Scrum Masters and the Release Train Engineers (RTEs) to create and maintain CoPs. His job is also to unite people from different teams in the program around the same process objectives or activities (unit testing, automated acceptance testing, system testing, infrastructure, deployment …).

Brown Bag Sessions

Brown bag sessions are informal knowledge-sharing meetings or internal trainings. They allow employees to learn at workplace, during a lunch break. Everyone attending is allowed to eat. The name ‘brown bag meetings’ derives from the fact, that participants typically bring their lunches, usually packed in brown paper bags. In a traditional Brown Bag meeting, there is usually a presenter/speaker or a video with a relevant topic can be played. Sessions are short, easy to run, and very casual. The attendance is optional, so the topics should be light and ‘good to know’ – not ‘need to know’.