5 + 1 Questions to... Benoît Dumont

Benoît Dumont is a Scrum Master and agile catalyst working for BNP Paribas Fortis. 20 Years ago he started at BNP as a translator, moved towards the position as internal journalist, a job withing HR till he onboarded in the incubator, after an experience in the incubator Home for Innovation, as a Scrum Master.

He’s also the driving force behind the SM Guild as the Guild Lead.

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Benoît is known for his energetic retrospectives and icebreakers. He’s always looking for new formats to spice up his scrum rituals.

Example of a Retro ‘Lucha libre’, embodying the character of a colleague by drawing a mask for him/her

1.What is Agile or the Agile Mindset for you?

In my view, it is putting people & interactions at the forefront.

One of the elements that will make organizations unique is the quality of their people, their mindset and the way they interact. Also, the way they are able to adapt to change, to collaborate and to master techniques, tools, and methods in order to deliver better and innovative results.

Next to this, it is also creating a context where people feel safe to express what they think and who they are. As a Scrum Master or coach, you can have a direct impact on this, by being as much as possible who you are! Indeed, more than passing on content, you pass on who you are and how you approach life.

2. What’s your favourite tool or method you use during your coaching?

I would rather call this an attitude: as a scrum master, I consider the people I coach as equal. I am not ‘above’ them, nor their boss, and I tell them explicitly. I am a member of the squad and my role is to help them. One of the squad members told me one day that I was often using the ‘we’ form, asking for instance during stand-up ‘What could we do about it?’. Thus putting the emphasis on the team. I was not aware of doing so. We all learn from each other!

3. What book or website would you recommend?

I would go back to basics for renewed inspiration: reading again the Agile Manifesto & the Scrum Guide. All that we do comes from there. And for retros, funretrospectives.com

4. What is essential for you during an Agile transformation?

Explain the Why of the transformation, bring sense to people, and keep on valuing them. Leave them the time to adapt and accept their resistance. Then lead by example, at your own level, by embodying the change and the Agile mindset & attitudes, and proving it can be nice and fun.

5. What is 1 Aspect of coaching Agile teams you like the most?

Working with people from different cultures, languages and backgrounds. I find this incredibly rich. Also working with a mix of internals & externals (which was new to me when I arrived in IT about 4 years ago, coming from a completely different world with nearly only internals, i.e. HR & Com.)

I also like to focus on what unites rather than on the differences. In a company, we are all colleagues, even when working in different areas. We probably too often forget this.

 + 1: What’s your secret to deliver such an energetic retrospectives? 

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I suppose the secret ingredient is the appetite to play, to create and to surprise. My own children inspire me a lot. Sometimes they even suggest me games or activities to try as energizers with my squad. For me, in retrospectives, it’s like being a ‘Chief Animation Officer’.

Good news, this approach is replicable. For instance, to call for stand-up, I play the song ‘Get up Stand up’ from Bob Marley on my smartphone. Everyone then gathers in a very nice mood! Just before Covid-19 measures, I asked squad members to tell me which songs energized them. Now I have a list of songs to open their remote stand-ups!