This past Friday, I said goodbye to a Scrum Master. They were contracting at the same company I was and found a different opportunity. During one of our conversations, I asked, “So, did is there any transition?” Their response was a laughing, “No.” But what does a transition look like for someone that coaches teams?
There is some age-old advice in the corporate workplace around making oneself indispensable. The idea that you become so critical to success that there is no chance of you losing your job or position.
I was reading an article just today about how to convert an existing salary job into a contracting one, and the first bit of advice was to become indispensable. From there, it is easy to resign and then sign a contracting deal. I believe that plan will work quite often but doesn’t work in the spirit of being a coach or builder of teams.
See, when we become indispensable, we put ourselves on a critical path. Our presence makes or breaks the teams, projects, products, and so on. If that’s what I’m doing, then I’m not coaching, I’m contributing. If that is what I’ve done, then I have to transition.
My approach is to flip that around entirely and approach my engagement as though every day is my last one. If I had to leave on any day, there would be almost nothing to wrap up or hand over.
Let’s bring a practical example. Sometimes I’m assigned a desk, and sometimes I’m not. When I join a group, wherever I set up shop, I rarely use the drawers or hang things. My desk will never have decorations or ornamentation.
I’ll be able to move to any location within a few minutes and continue my work without worry. The desk example seems silly, but it’s one example of remaining unanchored.
I was asked to build a strategic roadmap for technical excellence. I love to do this kind of work. The problem is that by agreeing to own it, now I have to transition it. Also, by owning the task, I’m contributing instead of coaching.
The key here is to collaborate.
So I work quickly to find people around me, tell them what the challenge is, and we begin to work on it together.
Now this group knows the direction and what the ask is. If I have to vanish the work can continue.
All those pesky Scrum events need to be put on calendars and facilitated by someone, and if I set that all up, then I own that too. When I work with teams, I have them set up the events in the calendars.
When it comes to facilitation, I find someone who has an appetite for that work, and I invite them to shadow and pair with me.
Now I own nothing, and the team is taking more and more responsibilities for their process and work while also growing their capabilities to do so.
If I had to leave today, they could continue.
It’s Always My Last Day
I work strangely in that I try never to let myself become a bottleneck or in the critical path for success. I work to build up the people around me, grow their sense of responsibilities and capabilities so that they benefit from the work instead of me handing something over.
That means I am organizationally homeless. Ready to move wherever the next challenge is, unanchored.
I recently had to end my coaching engagement with seven teams. There was no need for a transition and no need for a new coach. They had the capabilities built in and were sharing the responsibilities.
I picked up my bag and went to my new challenge. If you’re there to coach, coach like it’s your last day.