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Saying Goodbye as a Coach

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

~This post is dedicated to all my 2018 Squads~

How you leave a team is just as important as how you start with a team.

I have had to do this a few times and I can honestly say, it never gets any easier.

Hopefully the above quote is true for you and your team. Below are the two different off-boarding scenarios I have encountered.

You are being moved off the Team

Being moved off of the team but still with the company? This may seem like an easy transition. You are still technically working together right? Just not seeing each other every day.

Well, whether you realize it or not, the team has come to rely on you. And you have come to rely on the team. If you have done your job well as a Scrum Master, you should be able to move off of the team and they are still able to be sustainable. The struggle is letting this happen. Realizing early on, that when you are on a team, at some point, you will also be off the team. Having the strength to coach them to a point where they don’t rely on you for guidance as heavily as they once did is difficult.

It is very easy to get a high out of being “wanted” or “needed”. And it is very easy to position yourself in a place where the team feels like they can’t survive without you. But isn’t that a bit selfish? In Agile we work to break-down silos. We don’t want one person to end up as a bottleneck for the team. It is not fair for us to say this, but then become that bottleneck ourselves.

A lot of times the decision for you to leave a team comes from the larger organization. Leaders still like moving individuals like chess-pieces. I hope that their decision is educated and something you have had the chance to influence. But how do I know my team is ready to move on without me? Look for certain indicators. If you see your squad starting to make improvements that surprise and delight you, that is an indicator. If you find yourself having to facilitate less and less during their events, that is an indicator. If you see them truly own their process, prioritize user value, and do all of this with confidence, that is an indicator.

There are so many more, but it really comes down to your ability to read the team and know when it is right. Ask yourself, are you teaching your team to fish, so they can feed themselves in the future? Or are you prioritizing feeling “needed” over what the team actually needs?

You are leaving the company.

This is one I personally struggle with on many levels. How you tell your manager, the message you convey to others about your departure, leaving on a good note, being honest as to the ‘why’. Sometimes these can create an internal war with ourselves.

Well first of all, try to separate all of those out of your head and focus on your teams. They will be the ones to feel the impact the most. Making sure you leave them in a successful place should be your first focus.

So what do you do?

Ask yourself, where is the team within their agile journey? Do you feel as though there are still a lot of fundamental concepts missing? Or is the squad at a place where they have already been able to operate without you for periods of time (aka vacations, illness, etc). Depending on where your squad is will dictate your course of action.

As an example, I was in a situation where I was leaving a team that had just started. We had only been through two sprints together. The members all had varied levels of Scrum training. Some members I worked with on previous teams while others were fairly new to the company altogether. They were still finding their feet with their development process, Scrum, and each other.

Here are the steps I took to try and encourage their success.

  • PEOPLE: I emphasized the successes they had as a team. I gave them examples of what what was going well. I also encouraged their relationships as a team.

  • PROCESS: I created a Scrum Cheat Sheet, emphasizing how lightweight the Scrum Framework really is for them. I ran a session on the role of the Scrum Master looking at what do I really do. We identified what the squad could do to keep improving until they got a new Scrum Master.

  • IMPROVEMENT: I created a “Retro Backlog” from things I had heard during the sprints. We set up a regular cadence for them to inspect and adapt. I taught them how to identify patterns and do root cause analysis.

Those were the priorities to me. I really tried to not overwhelm them. Anxiety was the last feeling I wanted to create on my team. The good news is, the company had other Scrum Masters. I encouraged the team that if they were stuck to reach out for help.

The last thing to do when leaving a team, whether you are remaining at the company or not, and this is the most important thing, is to say “Thank you”. Be grateful for the time you had with the team. Acknowledge everything that you learned while working with them. Respect the time they took to help teach you.

“And I'll watch as the sun fills a sky that was dark And I'll be remembering You And I'll think of the way that You fill up my heart And I'll be remembering You” -Steven Curtis Chapman Remembering You



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