I am frequently asked by colleagues for advice on how to be a good Scrum Master. I will discuss some of the tips I share in a couple of blog posts.
First of all I do like to state that I believe it’s best to have a Scrum Master that is able to get his hands dirty in the activities of the team (i.e. coding, analyzing, designing, testing etc.). It will enable him/her to engage and coach at more levels than just overall process.
In my opinion one of the most important things a Scrum Master has to do is to make things transparant for the whole team.
Now this seems like very simple advice, and it is. However, when you are in the middle of a sprint and all kinds of (potential) impediments are making successfully reaching the sprint goal harder and harder, the danger of losing transparency always pops up.
Here are three practical tips:
1. Make it a habit to ask yourself these questions after every standup:
- Is it clear for everybody what we as a team should focus on right now?
- Is everybody focussing on the things that we should focus on right now?
- Are we going to reach our sprint goal?
In an ideal world the answers to these questions should always be positive and clear after every standup, but in practice I have seen many standups just becoming a reporting meeting, instead of an inspect & adapt meeting. If you feel these questions have not been answered, make sure they do get answered.
2. Don’t be afraid to adjust your scrum board
Sometimes in the heat of the action, the Scrum board doesn’t give as good a representation of the current, actual status of the sprint, as it did a few days back. This can be due to many reasons. One of the reasons can be that a task/problem turns out to be more complicated than first thought, but the sticky note representing the task still has the more general, original description.
Don’t be afraid to decompose a sticky note into more notes, so it becomes more transparent what we are currently dealing with. What I sometimes do is get together behind a whiteboard, forget the orignal sticky notes and make a small to do list on how to finish the story. After that, I throw away the original sticky notes and replace them with new notes representing the new insights and current status.
3. Point out the gut feeling everybody has but nobody talks about
Sometimes, in the heat of the action, you can have this feeling that things don’t go well. Maybe you feel that although everybody is working and busy, you aren’t working effectively and in-tune with each other. Your job is to make it transparent, because chances are more people have this same undergut feeling if you would directly ask them.
In my team we have a small bell and we have a rule that if you have these kinds of feelings that we don’t completely work in tune and have a common consensus, you push the bell and we have a short standup.
I have found these practices very useful in my daily job as Scrum Master in our DevOps team.