Geetanjali Chatterjee (Geeta) is the Scrum Master (SM) in a project to develop the next generation of a product called ProClaims. ProClaims supported her organization’s operation as a cloud-based health-care solutions provider for small-medium clinics, physicians and insurance providers, a very competitive landscape. Geeta was a star developer earlier in another team and had recently moved to the ProClaims team as the SM.

The ProClaims team makes three-month releases, typically comprising defect fixes and enhancements. Each release is made up of six two-week sprints. Over time, the team has achieved a fairly stable velocity and delivering value. The product management team and the Product Owner Dhananjay Sen (Dan) have been quite happy with the team and its performance till recently.

Starting out as the SM, Geeta was keen to make her mark quickly. She had read about Servant-leadership and was keen to adopt it. It was all so novel compared to her earlier role as a developer. She began to spend significant one-on-one time with each team member and understand them on a personal basis, their aspirations and challenges in work & life.

After seeing through successfully a few “easy” sprints, Geeta is now facing challenges in the current sprint – beset with attrition and the challenge of integrating an AI component to enable diagnostics targeted at helping physicians. To add to Geeta’s woes, Palash Jain, a team member (a young father) involved in the AI component integration is frequently taking time off to support his wife and newborn twin girls. Geeta has been very empathetic and encouraged the team to rally around and make up for Palash’s absences but the impact cannot be wished away. It now looks like that the stories related to the AI integration are not going to be done in the current sprint.

Under the circumstances, the Product Owner, Dan was very unhappy. Geeta described the various challenges including the situation with Palash but Dan angrily retorted: “Geeta, if you can empathize so much with Palash and the developers, how come you don’t empathize with me and my situation? I am part of your team too, am I not? So, do something about it – don’t you know that our Business Head is insisting on the AI component integration for a trade show demo?” Geeta was surprised by this last bit of news from Dan. Dan’s outburst also got Geeta to think whether she was at all being an effective servant-leader for the whole team.

Exercise:

  1. Look up the 10 characteristics of a servant-leader and assess where Geeta is at this stage on them using the scale: 1-Very Poor; 2-Inadequate; 3-Satisfactory; 4-Good;  5-Excellent; assess as many of the characteristics as you can, given the information above
  2. As Geeta, what are the options for you and your team at this stage to address the situation? State any assumptions you may be making.