As a True Leader The Scrum Master Serves…

…the Scrum Team, Product Owner, and the organization. 

That’s your answer. But, the reality is that it’s so much more. 

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What Serving a Scrum Team Really Looks Like…

It’s possible to have a lot of people doing their job, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are working together effectively. The Scrum Master’s central role is to increase the effectiveness of the Scrum Team. They take the lead in delivering maximum team value.

For starters, the Scrum Master will coach the Scrum Team on self-management and cross-functionality. When the team can handle their own business, set goals, and exceed expectations consistently without external management coming in and directing everyone on what to do and when to do it, then they have excelled in the art of self-management. Put otherwise; the Scrum Team becomes proactive in solving problems before anyone asks about the problem in the first place.

The Scrum Master does not micromanage instead, they act as a facilitator. Their role isn’t running all meetings but empowering the team to do it themselves. However, they may step in whenever the need arises. Likewise, the Scrum Master teaches the Scrum Team how to tackle impediments. Nonetheless, those barriers that have evolved beyond the Scrum Team and have reached the organizational level get handled by the Scrum Master.

Stop mothering

A Scrum Master that is essentially stuck on the team level, handling meetings or picking up all the small tasks, eventually evolves into a micromanager – basically a Scrum Nanny. Aside from coaching the Scrum Team on self-management, the Scrum Master should effectively work to optimize compatibility between the organization and the teams. This way, organizational strategy, and goals align squarely with the team’s objectives and free up the Scrum Master to handle bigger organizational challenges.

What Serving a Product Owner Really Looks Like…

The Product Owner’s accountability is to maximize the value that the Scrum Team delivers. While the Scrum Master is not in charge of creating Product Backlog items, they help to coach and empower the Product Owner to maximize the value of Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management. 

The Scrum Master teaches and coaches Developers to ask better questions regarding Product Backlog items during a Sprint to ensure effective progress toward the Sprint Goal. Helping the team focus on the purpose of the work promotes collaboration with the Product Owner to adjust the work of the Sprint as new information is learned.

Waiting for the perfect requirement

Sometimes it makes sense for the Scrum Master to coach the Product Owner to avoid complete detailed requirements because the distance from the detailed solution sparks creativity from the team. 

Perfect requirements do not exist, and not proactively exploring answers and team collaboration stifles innovation and creativity.

Prepare for complexity 

A Scrum Master regularly reminds the Scrum Team of the complexity of the current working environment. For instance, where will Google stock price be two years from now? You’re lying if you know the answer. There are more unknowns than knowns in a complex product development environment, which requires room for trial, error, and innovation.

So, what should that look like? The team can try introducing something new–a very little something–to the market and assess how the market reacts. The Product Owner can monitor in terms of customer response, investment strategy, and return on investment. As the team moves forward, they can use this data to adjust the approach and increase effectiveness.

Forecasting

Sometimes the stakeholders are still asking for means of telling the future–I want to know exactly how much money we’re going to make by the end of the year, when the new feature will be done, what products are going to be developed, and how many customers we’re going to have.

In such a case, a Scrum Master coaches the Product Owner to give the best forecast possible using current data while clearly explaining what forecasting looks like and why it’s essential. This leaves room for inspection and adaptation as the plan changes and creates opportunity for updates to the forecast based on new data.

Foster stakeholder relationships

Finally, the Scrum Master should encourage valuable collaboration between the Product Owner and stakeholders. Oftentimes, the Product Owner owns the relationship with the stakeholders, with the Scrum Master observing the system as a whole and facilitating stakeholder interactions whenever necessary. Frequently it makes more sense to set up a meeting and talk outside of Scrum events.

What Serving an Organization Really Looks Like…

Say you purchase a beautiful tomato plant and decide to plant it in the middle of a highway, surrounded by concrete. You come back a week later and it’s clearly dying so you water it a little bit. It perks up, but inevitably it can’t be sustained in that environment. That is what happens when organizations implement Scrum without preparing in a meaningful way. It’s the Scrum Master who leads the way in terms of the training and application of Scrum. 

Scrum Masters should be positioned to coach those with authority to influence legislation. This brings about a singularity of purpose, leading to growth–a tomato starts to form.

The Scrum Master is a leader who inspires and brings to light an innovative approach to thinking and doing things. Using empirical processes, the Scrum Master can articulate the need for organizational evolution. This goal ought to be transmitted from top-level management down to the Scrum Team. The organization may be used to the classic project management approach that entails traditional waterfall planning and execution. The Scrum Master can show stakeholders why they should not lock complex work into a contract through empiricism.

Removing organizational impediments

Another role of the Scrum Master to the organization is addressing impediments that may exist between the stakeholders and the Scrum Team. A good Scrum Master will work towards removing natural organizational barriers to allow for a more fluid collaboration with stakeholders and teams. This is not an exact science since organizations vary in culture.

The Scrum Master may be effectively trying to build a cohesive and collaborative Scrum Team. However, the organization’s incentive structures, as well as the rating structures and how they get raises and reviews from their bosses, may actively incentivize them not to collaborate. 

This is a typical stumbling block for most organizations, and they may not be able to see things clearly since that’s how things have always been done. This is where the Scrum Master comes into the picture by highlighting choices that the firm has made that actively oppose its new foray into Scrum.

Be the One in the Room Who Gets Them There…

The accountability of the Scrum Master calls for experience, patience, knowledge, and a ton of people skills. To take a team or an organization to the next level, frankly, you need to up your game and tone your skills. 

That’s where we come in. 

At Responsive Advisors, we specialize in Agile and Scrum principles. Our training helps you build a holistic picture of implementing Scrum in an organization as we guide you in aligning the company’s goals across every level. 

We work to demystify Scrum and help turn the theoretical framework into practical, real-life situations applicable in complex environments. What’s more, we have comprehensive training sessions for individuals, teams, and organizations. Reach out to us to get your Scrum Team “there.” Learn how to revive that poor, sad tomato plant–before it’s too late.

Greg Crown

Likes baking, craft beer, whisk(e)y & beaches.
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