Scrum Master Daniel

A Scrum Master who is advocating for an “experiment” in improving a team’s people, their interactions, processes, or tools, would do well to pull out the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Old Testament and read chapter 1:8-16. In that passage you will read of Daniel and his three, Hebrew friends who have been take as prisoners of war. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, charged a head eunuch with gathering young, Hebrew men to be taught “…the literature and language of the Chaldeans”. They were a select group, chosen because they were “…without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace.” The king even allowed them to be given “…a daily portion of the food that the [he] ate, and of the wine that he drank.” The best was apportioned for these promising proselytes to ensure they would prosper both mentally and physically through the king’s food and drink.

The problem was that Daniel and company refused to eat what was given them. The dietary conflict is not clear but Daniel may have been objecting to the food and drink based on the dietary laws in Levitical code (Lev. 11; 17). Daniel could not simply refuse food and drink; to do so would have likely brought the kings wrath upon Daniel’s steward, the man in charge of providing for his well-being. Thinking of his commitment to both God’s commandments and his steward, Daniel proposes an experiment.

The steward charged with their care was judged on their physical well-being, among other things. Daniel, knowing this asks to be given 10 days eating only vegetables and water while other young men (the control group) were given the king’s food and wine. At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his 3 friends were compared with the control group and found to be, “…better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.”

Daniel’s wisdom was his choice to show compassion, empathy, strategy, etc in his dealings with the steward. The steward may have had authority over Daniel, but was certainly responsible for the young men’s health. Instead of trying to convert the steward, Daniel empirically targeted the outcome the steward cared about and proposed a limited experiment after which the success of failure of the exercise could be plainly observed. Success was observed, and Daniel and his buddies got to eat their food, and both the steward and head eunuch looked good to their boss, King Nebuchadnezzar.

A Scrum Master should show the same guile and empathy when coaching and being an agent of organizational change. Know what your team(s) care about, and what successes will make them look good to their boss(es). Don’t whine and cry about how badly “we’re not doing Scrum,” but instead seek to improve people, interactions, processes, and tools in a way that makes people excel in their careers and benefit personally.


Jason is a developer, Scrum Master, writer, teacher, coach, husband, father, and community leader out of Tulsa Oklahoma. He's been delivering software since 2007 and absolutely loves the values and principles of agility especially as given form by the Scrum framework.