How to be an Effective Scrum Master? by Anurag Pattnaik T T T T Get notified with latest updates March 25, 2021November 23, 2021 Scrum Master and Agile scrum project management are two words that go together and almost make one feel as they are synonymous. Nevertheless, practicing agile without a scrum master is unheard of and would just delay in reaping the benefits of the methodology. And this why Scrum Master is a crucial role in the agile project management scheme of things. At a very high level, Scrum Masters are considered as: Leaders – have the skills to motivate and lead the team practice agile successfully. Experienced – have thorough knowledge of the agile principles and stay true to them throughout the course of the project. Coach/Mentor – have the role of coaching and guiding the teams through agile adoption. Organizers – as the crucial responsibility of ensuring coordination, communication, and collaboration within and between teams, product owner,s and business stakeholders lies on them. Now this gives us a good glimpse of the various hats that a Scrum Master has to wear to enable his teams implement agile project management successfully. Let us take a quick look at the Scrum Master role to then understand what they do, how and why. Role of a Scrum Master To begin with the core responsibilities of the Scrum Master include but not limited to: Scrum Masters are now seen as the True Leaders and no longer the bearer of servant leadership as per the Scrum Guide 2020 update. Introduce the team to the world of agile, events, artefacts, sprint goals, products goals and commitment. Help teams to run scrum events within the prescribed time limits Influence the overall organization culture with rapid agile transformation and change management. Help the Product Owner with improved backlog grooming & prioritization and defining the product goals. Accountable for building self-organizing and self-managing teams. Coach them on delivering quality product increments & ensure they meet the definition of done. Build the team’s understanding of complex as well as the overall backlog items. Most importantly build a high trust work environment where teams communicate and collaborate freely. Ensures that the development team and stakeholders understand & respect each other’s perspectives. Prevents distractions for the team and keeps them focussed on the sprint and product goals. Quick tips for an Effective Scrum Master Agile is a framework! Remember! Truth is, agile principles are basic guides and best practices recommended by experts Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. They give you an indicative approach to start with. But do not get hung up on it. It is ok if your daily scrum takes 30mins instead of 15. The idea of a daily scrum is to understand what worked yesterday, what needs to be done today and what can prevent the progress today. And as long as the teams collaborate on these aspects successfully, they have conducted a meaningful scrum meeting. Yes time is a guideline too and if they end up with hour long daily scrum; that is where you jump in to show how it’s done! Hence, focusing on the key objectives of the scrum events and artefacts is crucial. Help the team understand and practice them successfully. Make your teams flexible and agile The name of the game is agile. As a scrum master ensure your team is ok with uncertainties. They are not bad always. Because, when there is uncertainty, that is when one gets to improvise, innovate! If the teams aren’t flexible enough to handle an emergency mid-sprint then how are they going to support the product in the long run. Guide your team to synthesize the uncertain aspects of the backlog items, brainstorm, validate and finally estimate to add to a sprint. It isn’t done, ‘til it meets Definition of Done! One of the most critical responsibilities of a Scrum Master is to ensure the team understands the definition of done also referred to as acceptance criteria. Act as a bridge between the product owner and the team and help them both define the definitions of done or the user stories. This will enable greater collaboration and deeper understanding of the product and product goals. When the product owner, business stakeholders and the scrum team work together on the acceptance criteria a solid foundation is laid for the product success. Because, chances of all being aligned to a common goal increase manifold and unwanted pressure & distractions are proactively prevented. And teams are equally motivated to meet the sprint goals as they execute sprints after sprint. Prevent expectation overload If your team gets burdened due to an aggressive product owner and business stakeholder then the agile principles fail. Because the undue pressure will lead to significant decline in quality thereby causing rework or in harsh terms – sprint failures. Hence, ensure that dev teams and the product owner are well aligned on the team velocity, story estimation as well as the backlog refinement. Product development and management is a high energy game. Hence real time collaboration and transparency at all levels is the key. More than anything understanding the impact of each backlog item on the product goal, project costs and schedule will help iron out a lot of understanding gaps. As a scrum master do ensure this! Experiment, Improvise & Excel Know full well that experimenting with your processes iteratively and constantly will always help the team to improve. It may be on the turnaround time, sprint duration, quality product increments, and better estimation techniques. The objective is continuous learning and improvement. Conduct effective sprint retrospectives and take up each learning items in terms of what they should do more, stop doing and start doing. As, there will be activities that may not hold good for all sprints. This opens room for further experimentation and improvisation. More the team experiments, more it learns and greater the quality of deliverables! Conclusion Practicing agile is all about high transparency, collaboration and adopting change. And to do this, as Scrum Masters you should be able to showcase facts, cause and effect relationships for the team to assess themselves thoroughly. And to do this having a centralized agile project management software on your side expedites the whole journey. You get to prevent distractions, see the value of your works and the impact of the outcomes in real-time. Thus it’s easy for teams to stay on course and execute with precision. Bring your product owner, the team and business stakeholders together to achieve the product goals faster! Signup with Orangescrum’s 14 days free trial today!