A True Scrum Master...not Only Moving Stickies

February 23, 2018 Focus area: Scaling Agile , Digital Transformation

Most people I know, family and friends ask me a lot about my work as an Agile Consultant and most often than not the conversation always heads to what is Agile. Answering this question my mind almost always goes back to the time I worked as a Product Owner and I worked in close collaboration with my Scrum Master. I would often spend my time discussing Agile with him the most. Which led me to my thought, that amongst all the roles within the Agile Framework, their role is probably the most uniquely Agile role there is.

I have come across many people within organisations that seem to think the Scrum Master role is not challenging important enough and is often reduced to just moving sticky notes around a lot.

Scrum Master or Facilitator

Typically speaking the role of the Scrum Master is relegated to a member of the team who is the most ‘organised’ or sometimes the person who draws the short straw and then has to go through the Scrum ‘processes’. They would then be referred to as the ‘facilitator’ rather than Scrum Master.

This is such an underestimation and, most often than not a misunderstood purpose of the role. This I believe will also lead to poor and sub-standard work from the team.

When the role of the Scrum Master is done properly, it has a huge impact on not only the work the team achieve, but also the people within the team. The Scrum Master empowers the team to not only realise the work, but also overachieve and feel whole ownership and pride in the work achieved.

They do not actually manage people, in the traditional sense. That’s not their role. However, they do have a huge impact on people without having the role of line manager.

Great Scrum Masters

The best example of a great Scrum Master is when they utilise the Retrospective (Often referred to as Retro, when the team looks back at what they could have improved on, the other purpose of the retro is to celebrate the improvements and the things that went well) of a sprint to help the team Sprint better in the following Sprint. This is typically not easy for all Scrum Masters and requires a Scrum Master to have a really honest and open mind-set to empower the team to objectively look at how they can improve at the same time ensuring it is not a tough ordeal for the team to get through the Retro. So, it needs to have elements of a light-hearted approach yet focused in a serious way too.

When a Retro is performed well, then, a team truly learns from their Retro and see action items immediately worked on (what I like to call the Return on Retro). They feel the benefits of the Scrum Master that empowers them.

The items that occur in a Retro that require action is when the Scrum Masters’ work really becomes visible. They can make changes from as small as ensuring the coffee is more within reach of a team (This really happened, miraculous the productivity improvement afterwards) to ensuring that the PO works smarter in defining the Stories better, such as Acceptance Criteria’s are better illustrated.

Facilitating Paired Programming which really does need a Scrum Master to shape an environment that brings members of the team together to carry out Paired Programming, leading to great quality improvements.

Often, they can articulate the teams needs to a PO and to the wider Program and vice versa.

Shaping People and Teams

They can shape a cohesive team that not only completes the work but also enjoys being a part of the team too.

The work of a Scrum Master is almost never done. Because of the nature of teams and their maturity from Forming, to Storming, to Norming, to Performing.

As for the Scrum Master the organisation appreciates the role the Scrum Master does in helping achieve results and also shape and develop people within the team, for them to unlock their potential and to feel empowered which inevitably leads to achievements of great value and results. What more does an organisation want.

So, find the Scrum Master who will bring about truly positive change in your organisation in terms of results and most importantly, people.