Is the scrum master active during the sprint?
That’s put a smile on my face. I’ve got an image of a Scrum Master doing jumping jacks now.
So, what do we mean by ‘active’?
Are they actively involved? Yes, they are. What are they doing? A pure scrum master is not actively involved in the delivery of the product and by that, I mean that they are not sitting there coding the new solution or physically building the product in any way.
That said, the scrum master is actively involved in the creation of the product but not directly.
The scrum master is primarily interested in the scrum environment and working with product owners and developers to help create a team environment where others can thrive and excel.
The scrum master will be facilitating conversations with the developers and product owners to discover opportunities for improvement or identify potential roadblocks and impediments for the team.
They may also be running workshops for the team to help facilitate creative problem-solving and decision-making during the sprint. Their interest lies in facilitation, coaching and helping members of the scrum team achieve their greatest potential.
A great scrum master will also be working closely with the product owner to groom the product backlog and keep it in great shape. They will also help the product owner develop and define user stories that inspire the developers and effectively communicates what is most valuable to the customer and product stakeholders.
They are not actively involved in the product backlog refinement, but they bring the tools and facilitate the conversations that help ensure there is a healthy backlog for the developers to work with.
The scrum master may also actively engage the product stakeholders who may be battling to understand scrum or get used to a new way of product development. They will be having conversations to help the stakeholder understand the process and help resolve any grey areas that the product stakeholder may have.
Beyond the team environment
Scrum Masters are advocates for agile and scrum. They work closely with people outside of the team environment to help understand how agile works and how the scrum team are building the most valuable product for customers and product stakeholders.
All for the benefit of the scrum team.
It’s great when people within the organisation, but outside of the scrum team, understand how the team are working and what they are attempting to achieve.
If people in the organisation want changes or have an item they want to add to the wish list, the scrum master will be helping them understand how the product backlog works and why things need to be prioritised for delivery.
Someone needs to be working in the wider organisation explaining all of this, helping people to understand how the team operate and why that is the most effective way to build products and solve complex problems.
This all falls to the scrum master.
Creating an effective, creative and collaborative team
In my opinion, setting up a great team takes months of work, even for experienced scrum masters.
A scrum master will be helping the team understand the value of each scrum event and may actively teach them how it works. In some cases, you’re going to have push back from the team and that’s fine, you can deal with that as it happens and help them understand the benefits.
You will be facilitating conversations, coaching, and sometimes actively telling people what scrum is and why each of its elements are important and how they contribute to the success of a high performing scrum team.
Getting scrum to work on a mechanical level is fairly straightforward. Once this has been achieved, that is when the scrum master really starts to work hard at cultivating and nurturing a solid team because we have to help the transition from mechanical compliance with scrum to embedding it as a natural, organic way of working for the team.
Achieving this level of success within the team environment should take a few months. Most scrum masters stop there, but there is a great deal more work for a scrum master and agile coach to do after this point.
Creating an environment where others can excel
If you believe that the scrum team operates in isolation within a huge, global organisation you are kidding yourself.
You must work on creating an environment where the team can excel and work with people in the organisation to remove impediments to progress or deflect any potential hazards that may be coming down the pipeline.
Once we’ve got the team working well with Scrum we are going to start working on embedding the Agile values and principles within the team environment. We are going to be bringing in new ideas for the team to try out and creating an environment where experimentation and innovation are a key element of how the team work.
A scrum master works to keep the team honest to their processes, their relationships, and to the things that the team have agreed are both valuable and important.
That’s an ongoing task in and of itself but you are also going to be working with the wider organisation.
That may include working with product stakeholders to understand the Agile principles and values, and helping them to understand why things may not be happening in the way they are used to. Helping them understand how the scrum framework helps create products, features and services in a way that aims to truly delight customers as well as product stakeholders.
A scrum master will be actively working with people in the organisation to remove impediments for the scrum team or helping to shape policies that benefit the team. A scrum master doesn’t do the actual work, so they need to influence, coach, and facilitate conversations that inspire others to do the work that is necessary for the team to thrive.
Having relationships with people in the organisation and knowing what problem needs to be transported to which person within the organisation is incredibly valuable for a scrum master.
Knowing that X problem can only be solved by X person, and transporting that problem to them, making them aware of the consequences of that problem, and soliciting their help in solving the problem is an important role of the scrum master.
A scrum master will work closely with Human Resources to help them understand how each policy impacts the team, positively or negatively, and actively campaign for policies that help the team to thrive and excel.
Many scrum masters end up working closely with HR and Chief Operating Officers because they aren’t focused exclusively on individual performance, they are deeply focused on team performance which aligns with what HR and COO’s are trying to impact.
HR departments are really starting to understand the benefits of great team performances so we, as scrum masters, are supporting them in achieving their goals and objectives and in turn, supporting our team in creating an environment where they are creative, collaborative and deeply satisfied.
Scrum Masters may also work with the executive team to help them understand Agile and the importance of the values and principles. Helping them understand how a high performing scrum team can help the organisation achieve competitive advantage by creating products and features that truly delight customers and getting those to market ahead of competitors.
They will also be helping the executive team understand the value of business level agility and how it shapes competitive advantage for the organisation.
So, scrum masters are incredibly active during sprints. They may not be actively coding products, but they are doing a great deal of work to ensure that the developers who do create the products and features have everything they need to succeed.
For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.johnmcfadyen.com or connect with John on LinkedIn.
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