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What are 3 great tools for a scrum master and why?

Any craftsman needs a great set of tools and resources to get the job done well. A scrum master is no different. We have a variety of tools, frameworks, models and resources available to work with and if I had to choose 3, these would be my favourites.

Questions

No surprise here. A great coach and scrum master uses questions to promote understanding and to help clarify thinking around a specific topic, issue, or problem.

Questions are a great tool for coaches regardless of whether they are in the agile industry or not.

What you want to avoid is the toddler style of questioning where you’re simply asking why four or five times in a row.

It can prove frustrating and counterproductive to the team.

Instead, you want to ask questions that drill down into the topic and promote conversation around lines of reasoning and the thinking that drives recommendations.

You want to the team to have focused conversations around specific problems or opportunities and you want to give everyone an opportunity to be heard. They may have ideas around how best to solve the problem that serve the team and it’s great to get those ideas out into the open.

Some people arrive at great conclusions simply by talking the matter through and great questions help them do exactly that. Help them explore what their options are and why those options best serve the team.

So, use questions and work at developing your questioning skills to become a great scrum master.

Silence

Silence is a powerful form of communication.

Many people can’t abide silence in a conversation and will rush to fill the gaps in communication.

As a trainer and coach, I use silence a great deal to create space for others to step in with their thoughts or ideas. Sometimes, I won’t say something for an uncomfortably long period of time which is very effective in allowing time to reflect or digest on what has been said.

In most situations, silence allows someone to expand on what they have just said or explore potential new avenues of opportunity. The silence in the room often acts as a prompt for someone to explain their thinking on a more granular level or provide an example to help others understand.

This isn’t so much a trick as it is an opportunity.

Using silence provides others with the opportunity to think about what they have just said and if necessary, provide more detail to the team to help justify their line of reasoning.

So, use silence and use it fairly often. You’ll find that you illicit a great deal more information from others and you will become a far more effective communicator in the process.

Sprint Burnup Charts

This is a great tool for team to assess how much work is being done and how effectively it is being done.

A burnup chart tracks the progress of the team and documents the number of points the team have completed on one axis whilst tracking the amount of time it has taken to complete those tasks on a separate axis.

I love this tool because it is so versatile.

It can be used to help the team estimate more effectively on backlog items and it can be used to measure the effectiveness of the team.

It can also act as a point of discussion and allow the scrum master or agile coach to facilitate conversations around specific items of interest that help the team improve.

The sprint burnup chart can also highlight where impediments arise and help the team understand the impact of those impediments on productivity and delivery.

The data from these charts can be powerful references when demonstrating to others why a specific policy needs to be amended or why certain resources may be required.

Over time, analysis of the sprint burnup charts can also help demonstrate where a team is improving and showcase how productive the team have been, consistently, over time.

I love me a good burnup chart and as soon as you start using this tool, I have no doubt you will too.

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page.

If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Agile Coach Academy.

If you have identified coaching as a valuable skill to develop, visit our on-demand Introduction to Coaching course page.

For more information on John McFayden, visit https://www.johnmcfadyen.com

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