We all know that the implementation of Agile / Scrum way of working differs per company. With your diverse background, how would you describe Coolblue’s way of working Agile?
‘’In my opinion, Coolblue has really embraced a way of working in Agile. For me, this is the first company that lives so strongly by its values. Coolblue is Agile. The company values aren’t just words on a wall. For example, I connect the value of ‘Open, direct, honest’ to the value of ‘Friends’ and see the effect of this everyday, right from the beginning.”
What do you mean by openness?
‘’Within the first week, so many colleagues were so open about their feelings and asked for help. I did not experience that in other work environments. It feels like every topic can be discussed. It’s one of the reasons I felt at home right away. In my first week, I shared a lot and that made me feel comfortable from the start.’’
Could you paint a picture of what an average week looks like?
‘’I describe it to friends as a kind of consultant. Sometimes, I’m just a fly on the wall and observe what happens during the meeting. Other times, I play a more active role, For example, when I’m the facilitator of a Scrum event or trainer for a workshop.
In my role as a Scrum Master at Coolblue, I can add a lot of value. I look at people and teams, observe how they work, and offer my help. For example, I have a good week when I can really help one person to create a better way of working. That means I host a few workshops, take training courses myself, have a daily stand up with the Agile team (the other Scrum Masters), and have standups with the 2 teams I support every morning. With these teams, I also host retrospective sessions and participate in some other events, depending on the Agile Backlog.
My favorite meeting? The retrospective, because that’s a meeting where I can help provide a safe space where people can be open and vulnerable. If I feel they’re not completely open, I’ll poke a little bit by asking questions. In those moments, I have to use all my skills and expertise to get the most out of this meeting.’’
As a Scrum Master, you fulfill different roles, including facilitator, coach, trainer, and mentor. Could you explain when and how you fulfill these different roles?
‘’When I’m working with a team, I’m constantly trying to understand what’s going on with the individual team members and with them as a team. For some people in the team, it’s important to have 1-on-1 sessions. In that case, I’ll be more of a mentor. I also support and coach Team Leads, for example in how they can provide certain feedback to a team member or team in a constructive way.
When it comes to the facilitating role, you can think about workshops with the team. For example, the team I’m currently working with is going to split into 2 teams and I’m helping them do this in an effective way. Each team has a new team dynamic and to ensure that kick-off starts with a shared vision, I facilitated and set up a number of workshops to ensure that the new teams had a good start.
Even though I have yet to give my first official training at Coolblue, I’m training the teams on the job constantly. I’m currently in the onboarding phase of my first official training, ‘Scrum Basics’. My colleague Stefan and I are also building a new training called ‘Agile within Coolblue’, to help new people understand the underlying mindset. This will in turn help them deal with challenges they encounter on a day to day basis and work in their teams.”
What’s the biggest USP (unique selling point) of working for Coolblue as a Scrum Master?
“For me, it’s the open and honest work environment, as I mentioned before. Another unique selling point is to be part of a team with other Scrum Masters. Together, we have a lot of experience, so we can learn from each other. In other companies, people can feel lonely as the only Scrum Master. At Coolblue, I feel part of a family.’’
You’re not the only Scrum Master within Coolblue. How do you collaborate with other Scrum Master?
“Every 2 weeks, we have an office day with all Scrum Masters. On that day, we have a team session, like a brown bag session (to share knowledge), a guild meeting (to collaborate on our collective goals), a retrospective, or an intervision session. Of course, we also have lunch together, discuss training courses we’re working on, and have time for an ad hoc chat. Something I really like is our code word, ’marsupial’. The Scrum Masters use this code word in our Slack channel so no one’s left to deal with things alone. When you see someone mention the code word, you know they need help. If you have time, you can jump in, post a Google Meet link, and help them out.”
‘A little bit better every day’ is a big slogan at Coolblue. How does that translate to your own growth?
‘’Last month, I worked a lot on my personal development plan. The thing that inspired me the most was when my lead, who is also a Scrum Master, told me to focus on soft skills and think about what’s important to you, your teams, and the Scrum Masters. What can you bring to the table and what’s important to Coolblue? This is such a contrast to my previous company, where I had to focus on hard skills, gain knowledge, read more books, etc. This conversation triggered me into thinking about the feedback culture Coolblue has and why our motto is ’a little better every day’. To make sure everyone and everything can really be ‘a little bit better everyday’, a lot of time is invested in creating an environment where it’s safe to give and receive feedback. For example, there are several training courses, like my personal favorite ‘Non Violent Communication’, that teach you how to give and receive feedback and really help you put that into practice. It’s easy to implement this right away, for example, the next day after the training, I decided to just ask for feedback after a session and I learned things right away.”
What was your most memorable moment at work at Coolblue so far?
‘’I think within the team of Scrum Masters.. Actually, the ‘Feedback that works part II’ training! I’m still talking about it, even to my friends. To start, it was very special to take part in a training given by my fellow Scrum Masters. It’s so Coolblue and everything comes together in that training, because of the way the training is structured. You’re really pushed to put things in practice. Before the training, you think about situations you want to practice so you can then discuss it with someone else. Then, you have to discuss this with the group and you get feedback. I think it’s a nice way to learn and embrace new things. My key takeaway is that it’s hard to give a good compliment, you have to make an effort to make it specific. But once you do, you immediately feel the value.”
Anything else you want to add?
“I don’t know if this goes for everyone, but your personal situation does matter within this team. If something doesn’t work out as planned because of personal circumstances, you can always talk about it with the team to make things work. Be open, direct, honest.
For example, I had to take care of my baby last-minute, due to unforeseen circumstances. I really tried to make things work out that day, but my lead told me to make that situation more comfortable by working a bit later that day and just take care of my child. The fact that this is encouraged at Coolblue is something I value. ‘If it works for you, it works for us.’”