Good to Great Scrum Masters…

7 points to become great Scrum Masters at the Work Place

What is the key differentiator between good scrum masters and a great scrum masters?. These days I come across many certified scrum masters who understands the scrum framework inside out and at the same time either fail or do not have the confidence to perform the scrum master well.

Here are some key pointers for becoming great scrum masters…

  1. First and foremost quality required for the Scrum master is the conviction on the usefulness of scrum to the organization. You should never manage a project using scrum just because somebody asked to do so. You must be fully convinced about the usefulness of agile principles, values and the scrum framework.
  2. The scrum master should buy into the ‘non-negotiability of time’. All the Scrum ceremonies (planning meeting, daily scrum, reviews and retrospectives must happen on time, and every stakeholder must understand the fact that ‘Time’ alone is non negotiable in Scrum where as scope and resources are negotiable. When a disorganized person starts the scrum master role declaring that I am a habitual late comer, you are giving wrong signals to the team and most probably your sprints and even your scrum project will fail, just because of this. Do not forget the fact that, the fundamental responsibility of the scrum master is to implement scrum by being a role model to others.
  3. Scrum master should have in-depth understanding of the latest Scrum guide, which is very open for customization without diluting the Scrum values and the 12 agile principles. For example, no where in the Scrum guide there is mention about User stories, Story points, Playing poker for estimation etc. If you have something better that will work, go for it. Typically in organizations transitioning from waterfall model to agile, there exists detailed documentation in the form of Product Requirements Specifications. In such situations it is better to leverage that, instead of forcing User stories.
  4. Instead of focusing on the requirements given by the business (product owner), try to understand the problem the business is trying to solve, so that you can steer the discussions to deliver maximum value to business in the shortest possible time. For example, the business is groping in the dark because they do not have the defaulters details. Technical team assumes that the business needs it ‘real time’ and the planning meeting got into that mode which increased the effort to build real time dash boards. When the business said that they are fine with a 24 hours lag in the reports, the effort and waiting time for security clearances dropped drastically. So, always try to understand the problem the business is trying to solve and help them out to solve it as fast as possible. People will start liking you and will respect you more for that.
  5. The enemy is always out there. The business, product owner, scrum master and the team are working together to improve the quality of service offered to the customers, else they will go to your competitors who can deliver better services faster than you. It is all about the alignment of the business goals, strategy, programs, projects, releases and sprints to deliver better features faster thus gaining better market share. A fair understanding of the larger business landscape and the challenges faced by the sales and marketing teams will help the Scrum masters to align better with business.
  6. Please stop using the word ‘But’ as much as possible. Replace it with ‘Yes, And‘. Scrum is all about possibility thinking and taking calculated risks to deliver.
  7. Understand the Scrum Master’s role very clearly. In Scrum, Scrum masters role is to;
    1. Implement Scrum – The project must be executed following Scrum
    2. Removing impediments – Whatever issues faced by the rest of the team must be resolved as fast as possible.
    3. Not interfering with the day to operations of the team, especially work allocation.

For a person switching from waterfall, lot of unlearning is required in order to be effective in scrum teams as there is no room for command and control. In the agile world everything thrives around delegation, volunteering and collaboration.

Soon I will write one blog for business owners / product owners 🙂