With the expansion of agile into government and beyond IT, there are more and more ScrumMasters – facilitators who lead teams through Scrum processes as part of agile adoption. Unfortunately, the ScrumMaster role is becoming a victim of agile’s success: some people treat it as a traditional project management role or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, allow teams to operate without well-defined process. Both scenarios lead to confusion and make successful product delivery unlikely.
In this blog, we will outline the characteristics of a strong ScrumMaster – someone who can inspire teams to become self-organizing while staying true to agile values and principles.
Doesn’t overlook process
The agile manifesto values people more than process, but process still matters. ScrumMasters are the chief change agents for agile, and giving new agile teams license to opt out of methodologies that they dislike means meaningful change cannot take place. For example, many ScrumMasters struggle to manage resistance to daily standups. Giving teams the flexibility to attend these meetings remotely or allowing them to pick the best time of day to meet will empower them to make the meeting their own. It is also important for ScrumMasters to provide context to teams on why processes are effective – for example, a daily standup is meant to prevent interruptions during the course of the day by allowing teams to coordinate in one short burst.
Teaches teams to be self-sufficient
In the latest version of the Scrum Guide (as in previous versions) ScrumMasters should focus on removing impediments to teams. This could be anything from working through external dependencies to technology license issues to mitigating personal conflict. While protecting the team allows them to focus more closely on their work, it does not help teams become self-sufficient. Instead, at EK, our coaches work with teams to empower them by involving them in the process of removing impediments – not just being the designated fixer.
Goes the extra mile with remote teams
Remote teams are the reality for many companies, but often agile facilitation favors in person exercises. Beyond just using remote tools, ScrumMasters will need to make the extra effort to make remote participants feel a part of the team. Some examples from our client work include designating an “ambassador” to chat with remote attendees during meetings and using portable video technology on tablets – not just VTC – to include people physically in meetings.
Focuses on personal continuous improvement
The agile industry is rife with training courses and certifications – but ScrumMasters should be discerning in choosing the experiences that will benefit their team the most. For example, a ScrumMaster who is dealing with chaotic meetings might want to focus on facilitation skills and learning rather than instruction design or coaching. Those dealing with resistance from traditional project managers might even consider learning more about that discipline so they can speak the same language – even if it’s not “agile” learning.
Good ScrumMaster habits take more than a class and certification to develop – they are an ongoing practice that even veteran agile practitioners need to keep fresh. Are ScrumMasters succeeding in their role to enable teams in your organization? EK can help – our senior level agile coaches can train teams and individuals to succeed. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how.