The Scrum Master (SM) plays a very critical role in the success of Agile/Scrum implementations in an organization. Agile transformations are bound to fail if the role of a Scrum Master is not understood clearly.
However, many Scrum Masters do not follow the spirit of the Scrum Guide, and these violations—called Anti-patterns—hamper progress and slow down the achievement of goals. While these Anti-Patterns may seem like a quick fix to the problem at hand, in the long run they will impair team work and cause the Scrum Master undue stress.
Listed below are some of the Scrum Master anti-patterns that should be avoided-
Inability to coach the Product Owner
Scrum Master following a Command and Control Leadership Style
Scrum Master taking updates from the development team during Daily-Standup, as opposed to the actual purpose of a Daily-Standup
Allowing the spillover of work to subsequent sprints
Taking partial credit for the unfinished work in the current sprint by splitting story points
Allowing for burn out of the Development Team
Playing the role of Scrum Master without believing in Agile/Scrum values and principles
Always conducting Sprint retrospectives in the same fashion
Playing the role of SM without understanding the behavioural aspects needed to play the role
Solving all impediments for the team, without allowing them to participate
Demonstrating the working software during the Sprint Review to the stakeholders
Not creating awareness on Agile Engineering Practices in the team
Not following Timeboxing
Allowing Managers to attend Sprint Retrospectives
Assigning tasks to Dev team members
Trying to influence the team estimates
Forcing the team to make commitments for Sprint deliverables
Doing the planning for the team instead of facilitating the plan
Playing favourites, showing differences and bias among dev team members
Lack of knowledge on implementation of Agile/Scrum
Providing solutions for the team
Allowing dev team members to work on items other than what has been committed during the Sprint Planning
Hiding information from the dev team members
Scrum Master playing the role of a Manager
Not listening to the team issues during Sprint Retro and being biased and pushing his/her viewpoints
Providing explanations for each point during Sprint Retro
Micro-managing the team
Creating poorly organized Minutes of Meeting for daily standup
Ill-management of the Triple Constraints (Scope, Cost, and Schedule)
Playing the role of Scrum Master for multiple teams despite not having the bandwidth
Playing the role of Scrum Master in spite of not understanding the role of a Coach in the team
Exactly what does a good Scrum Master do?
As indicated by the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master is in charge of guaranteeing that the Scrum principles are comprehended and followed correctly. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team sticks to established Scrum ideas, practices, and guidelines, and helping them to do so.
In other words, the Scrum Master is a Servant-leader for the Scrum team. Also, the Scrum Master helps the team to understand the gist of an outside conversation, and summarise it into useful points to be followed.
A Scrum Master is required to wear many hats and take on multiple roles. A great Scrum Master is someone who knows which role to play at which time, and is capable of helping the team to apply Scrum effectively and efficiently in any given scenario.
In his/her daily life, the Scrum Master acts as a:
- Servant-Leader - Keeps focus on the necessities of the team members and on the client’s requirements, with the aim of achieving business objectives
- Facilitator- Facilitates by providing clear requirements so that the team can work collaboratively
- Coach- Trains the Scrum team to follow the Scrum principles appropriately
- Conflict negotiator - Resolves conflicts to manage unproductive mindsets and uncooperative behaviors
- Manager- Manages the impediments and facilitates Scrum processes, removes wasteful procedures, confining limits of self-organization, and follows the Scrum culture
- Mentor- Transfers Agile knowledge and experience to the team
- Teacher- Helps teams to understand and follow Scrum methodology and principles
A GREAT SCRUM MASTER
Let us first take a quick tour of the daily life of an ideal Scrum Master.
The above infographic pretty much sums up the daily activities of a great Scrum Master. A successful SM essentially is one with the following traits-
Includes the team when setting up Scrum processes
A good Scrum Master ensures the entire team adheres to the chosen Scrum process and understands the value of every Scrum event. Therefore, the Scrum meeting is always planned according to the convenience of all the team members. A common concern behind engaging all the team members in the meeting is to plan the processes, decide upon future steps and discuss the desired output.
Comprehends the stages of team development
As per the renowned psychologist Bruce Tuckman, there are five distinct stages of team development- forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. A Scrum Master who clearly understands these five stages and is able to guide the team to achieve high performance by following these stages, is able to achieve success.
Understands that principles are more crucial than practices
A team with internal conflicts will never be able to work well together. A Scrum Master should be able to understand the reasons behind team friction at an early phase, and sort out the issues by applying appropriate conflict resolution strategies.
Is aware of the organizational activities
A great Scrum Master can have a profound impact on the culture of the organization so that Scrum teams can perform to their best potential. He understands that changing people's behavior isn't all about changing people. He/she must be aware of the activities happening in the organization i.e. should be aware of the climate and culture.
Does not always protect the team
While the Scrum Master, through experience, knows when a team is about to fail, he or she will sometimes allow the team to make mistakes as experience is the best teacher.
A great Scrum Master motivates his team to assume complete ownership of the tasks they are mapped to.
Should be self-organizing
A good Scrum Master comprehends the importance of a self-organizing team. They should be able to make their own decisions, manage their own work, and cooperate with each other to achieve project targets.
Knows the power of silence
A great Scrum Master is always aware of the three levels of listening-
- Level 1- internal listening
- Level 2- focussed listening
- Level 3- global listening
A great Scrum Master does not simply hear, but listens!
By being aware of all the three levels of listening, a Scrum Master knows how to make the best use of them. They listen carefully to what is said, and also to what isn't said.
The Daily Scrum is arranged by the team for the team. The Scrum Master just observes the session, keeps a clear view of what is being discussed, and notices how the team members played their roles in the session.
One of the unique traits of successful Scrum Masters is that they always share experiences and relevant information with their peers. This might be intra-organizational or through seminars and conferences, which are great platforms to share experiences and garner knowledge. Undoubtedly, noting down and sharing the lessons learned is also a highly commendable trait on the part of an SM.
Has a knapsack loaded with numerous retrospective designs
A great Scrum Master has a repertoire of numerous retrospective designs, knows which to refer to according to the team’s situation, and can make sure that the retrospective is functional and valuable for the team. While he or she acts as a facilitator, they will allow the team to host their own retrospective.
Can guide professionally
A Scrum Master is required to be an expert guide and coach, who knows how to steer people in the right direction without explicitly telling them what to do. By empowering team members to understand themselves better, the Scrum Master helps them to benefit as much as possible from their potential.
Has influence at an organizational level
A successful Scrum Master always motivates and influences team members at tactical and strategic levels. Team members often face difficulties at these levels, and it is important that a Scrum Master knows how to act at all levels within an organization.
A great Scrum Master resolves impediments and mitigates risks. Based on his/her past experiences, the SM reads the situations and acts on them proactively.
Is always available
An extraordinary Scrum Master is always accessible, even though he or she does not breathe down the necks of individuals and micromanage their tasks.
Forms an incredible pair with the Product Owner
An incredible Scrum Master has a remarkable pairing with the Product Owner. The Product Owner 'pushes' the team while the Scrum Master secures them. This strong partnership is very significant for the Development Team, as together they can achieve incredible product success.
Allows leadership to grow
A great Scrum Master allows leadership within the team to develop as a natural progression of team work. They believe in the mantra "leadership isn't just a title, it's an attitude". This is something every single member of a Scrum team should follow.
Knows about gamification
A Scrum Master can infuse the spirit of fun by incorporating gamification into project-related tasks. By encouraging and motivating team members to carry out their commitments, the Scrum Master can help them to outperform and achieve success.
Comprehends all things Scrum
An incredible Scrum Master is skilled in XP, Kanban, and Lean, and knows the qualities, shortcomings, and risks of each technique/framework and how and when to utilize them. Whenever the situation requires it, he or she is able to comprehend what the team needs to accomplish and suggests the most viable technique from an Agile viewpoint.
Leads by example
A great Scrum Master is somebody that team members need to emulate. He/she does this by motivating them to maximise their inner potential and leading by example . The Scrum Master always follows industry standards and best practices, and quietly shows the path that must be followed.
A good leader tells, a great leader leads, a Scrum Master sets examples.
Is a great facilitator
An incredible Scrum Master is a born facilitator. Scrum events are conducted in a fun and engaging manner, and all meetings are arranged beautifully, offer value and achieve the desired results.
It is, unfortunately, all too easy to fail as a Scrum Master. The absence of organizational support, unsuitable team members, and internal conflicts that are hard to resolve, are common challenges that Scrum Masters have to face on a daily basis. It is important that the team stands by the Scrum Master and offers sincere support, as this is not an easy role to execute! After all, Scrum, in the end, is a group activity.