Is your Scrum Master frustrated? Can you tell?
A frustration some Scrum Masters have is that most places they’ve worked haven’t let them use their full potential. They end up going down a few different paths but not usually one where they can perform their best as a Scrum Master. This causes organizations to lose value in the Scrum Master without them knowing. The organization misses out on the Scrum Master coaching the organization and many other items as stated in the Scrum Guide. Where the Scrum Master could be “Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption” they are instead focusing on other areas. They may gain value in these other areas but in the end, they still lose out on the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master’s full potential is widespread across the organization and so much more.
Where Things Go Wrong
“The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.” – The 2020 Scrum Guide
There are a few issues that can befall the Scrum Master to cause them to become something different than intended. This can create a ripple throughout the organization that is difficult to stop. You may see your Scrum Master(s) morph in one or more of the following ways.
Receptionists – All about the schedule
- They are accountable for leading Scrum related events and that is it
- Beyond the Scrum related events, they might have other responsibilities like hosting other meetings
- They may even have multiple teams, I’m talking 4 or 5, that they manage events for
- With all the time spent scheduling, the Scrum Master doesn’t have time to work with their Product Owner or any other members of the team
- Having spent all their time on scheduling, the Scrum Master will not be able to make improvements elsewhere.
- This will cause the teams output to plateau
Test engineers – “Helping out” and staying there
- It starts with them helping out with a testing effort that is due soon
- They gain the experience but also the hat of tester for future tests
- This is a different issue, why was the testing effort demanded so soon? As a Scrum Master, how can you help with that?
- Impediments can pile up when a Scrum Master is focused on work outside of their wheelhouse
Taskmasters – Pushing work
- They end up pushing for work to get done because the team has to meet performance goals
- This is a symptom of another problem
- The Scrum Master can lose the trust of their team and the team may feel psychologically unsafe
Pigeonholed – Working with one part of the organization, the team
- They help with their team but outside of that there is no expectation or responsibilities
- The Scrum Guide states that the Scrum Master is used throughout the organization
- Hiring managers may think they need to bring in more people to help with the Agile journey when their Scrum Masters can be contributing
Ways to leverage a Scrum Master and other courses of action
There are a few ways to avoid the pitfalls above. One way is to look for ways that the Scrum Master can help at an organizational level. This may come in the form of starting up a community for all things Agile and Scrum. Give them opportunities to teach and lead beyond their team.
Empower your Scrum Master by removing and delegating excess responsibilities. When you remove the responsibilities more suited for other roles, the Scrum Master is freed to do more cross-team collaboration.
Encourage your Scrum Master to further their learning and come up with ways to contribute. Put the power in their hands.
Identify if you are truly looking for a Scrum Master before hiring one. Ask yourself, am I looking for a Scrum Master or something else entirely. You may be looking for a project manager, program manager, engineer, or product owner. Once you you have identified if you are truly looking for a Scrum Master make sure your job posting truly reflects what you are looking for.
I’ve got a true, short story for you. A Scrum Master was given the time to try an experiment out with their team. They noticed a team was all over the place when it came to their performance. The Scrum Master hypothesized that the team members switching out frequently was causing them to reset.
Their manager gave them the room and support for the experiment. The Scrum Master took time to make sure the team rarely switched to other work. They remained focused and constant. During the experiment, the team was able to make the necessary changes to start to steadily improve. Had the Scrum Master not had the time or backing to do this, the team may never have improved and the organization may not have seen that value in Agile.
When given the opportunity to really leverage their skills a Scrum Master can find solutions to problems the team didn’t even know they had. The Scrum Master is an Agile/Scrum advocate for the organization not just for one team. They are their to help the organization grow. They deal in all things Agile and Scrum. Engineering/testing responsibilities are not something they should be taking on. Reflect on what you (as a hiring company) are truly looking for when you look to bring on a Scrum Master. Doing these things can help you utilize your Scrum Master to the max.
Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon
The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.