Master Scrum

What makes a great Scrum Master?

When an organization signs up for Agile transition using Scrum, one of the tough questions is who to pick as a Scrum Master. Some of common approaches used include:

  1. Project Manager (Well, they got to do something with them!)
  2. A senior team member
  3. Rotate the role among team members
  4. Hire an external expert

Many project managers consider their transition to Scrum Master role as a demotion - almost as if badges and insignia are being stripped off a senior army officer's uniform. The primary belief behind this feeling is that Scrum Master's main responsibility is to just conduct Scrum ceremonies. How difficult could that be, given their structure is so well laid out?

In my opinion, that is extreme short-sightedness. A great Scrum Master is outcome driven, not process driven. Below are the key responsibilities of a Scrum Master:

  1. Help team track their work in an effective manner
  2. Remove impediments and unnecessary distractions
  3. Establish self-managing culture among team members:
  • Pay attention to intrinsic motivators
  • Improve Collaboration
  • Foster Self-accountability
  • Establish Kaizen culture

And stay away from these:

  1. Be a mouthpiece of the management
  2. Assign work to team members
  3. Track individual productivity
  4. Make sure everyone puts extra hours

Would you call it an easy job?

In fact, even running the Scrum ceremonies is not as easy it sounds on paper, despite their standard structure - because it is not the structure one needs to master; it is the human dynamics during a meeting.

Let's take a look at some of the common challenges faced during Sprint Planning meeting:

  • Over or under committing
  • Targeting close to 100% capacity utilization
  • Team does not understand a story in its entirety
  • Team ignors a known impediment or dependency
  • Domination by an expert
  • The task allocation is not pull-based
  • Deliberate over-estimation of tasks by a team member
  • Meeting takes too long

Or, look at the challenges faced during Daily Scrum meeting:

  • Lack of time discipline - Members not present or late arrivals
  • Meeting takes too long
  • Turns into status meeting – reporting to Leader
  • Long problem-solving or technical discussions
  • Waiting for Daily Scrum to update board or raise impediments
  • Disengaged members
  • Meeting becomes boring/monotonous
  • Chickens making noise

For a Scrum Master, good knowledge of Scrum is just a starting point. To be a great Scrum Master, one must learn facilitation skills so ensure effective collaboration in each meeting that leads to better alignment rather than conflict and chaos.

ICP-ATF (Agile Team Facilitation) certification program from ICAgile is targeted towards making agile leaders (Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches) aware about the key elements of facilitation process and helps them be a better facilitator. Please find more details about the program below:

Thanks for taking time to read this post! Please share your thoughts if you have questions or important insights.

[This article was first posted on LinkedIn. Please find the original post here.]

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