So, you took the Certified Scrum Master course and passed the test with flying colours. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. While the CSM is a great foundational course for beginners, getting down to the nitty gritty may seem challenging to you. But just like everything else, even in the Scrum Master’s role, the more you practice, the better you get.
So, here are some pointers on Scrum Master best practices that you can follow, to make your new role easier to manage and be a better Scrum Master.
Probably the most important tip for a Scrum Master, is to know that to be effective you should rely on the principles of self-management and not managing the team. Your primary responsibility is to be a servant leader and you can accomplish that by letting go of authority and promoting self-management.
There is a reason it’s called a Scrum team. The results of a collective team effort are immediately apparent. In this approach, emphasizing on individual results becomes an impediment.
You need to remove any blocks and barriers that may stop your team from achieving its goal. You will have to monitor your team’s progress and prevent distractions like unnecessary procedures, delay in resources, challenges pertaining to work environment and even other factors like having to attend too many office meetings that interfere with the workflow.
As a Scrum Master, educating the team about Scrum practices is one of your primary responsibilities. Through these practices, you must be able to:
Scrum is continuously changing and as an evangelist of Scrum, you as a Scrum Master need to ensure that your team stays abreast of all the latest changes and techniques and uses these techniques and engineering tools for the enhancement of the project. Keep a simple design, provide a time-to-time review, reduce time and efforts with automated builds, provide a multi-level automated testing, improve the software quality, and adapt to the latest industry trends and procedures to make the project more efficient.
While a good scrum master is responsible for ensuring the success of the team by removing roadblocks that may hinder project progress, a great Scrum Master is one who takes the onus of driving the team on the road to Scrum success. Though a Scrum Master may lack authority to direct the team, a great Scrum Master addresses the unspoken needs of the team to be able to comfortably work with each other. A great Scrum Master ensures that the team environment is conducive to discussion and collaboration which is, undisputedly, the soul of any successful work.
A team member’s lack of motivation reflects not just on the individual’s work but also on the Scrum Master’s job. When the team works in unison, it means you can achieve desired results. However, if a team member is not motivated enough, it means the Scrum Master is not doing his/her job well. As a Scrum Master, it is your responsibility to make sure that team members are motivated. Even if one team member is not in sync, it increases the project risk.
One of the primary reasons that made you take up the role of a Scrum Master is the responsibility vested in you to guide and motivate team members. You are passionate about this, but remember that the role of a Scrum Master is similar to that of a tourist guide. You can guide, but cannot control. As a Scrum Master you may not have any formal authority over the team members but as a mentor and guide you can make a difference.
A great Scrum Master knows the importance of a collaborative culture for a successful team. The intent here is to establish collaboration, discussion, and debate to resolve any question, query or conflict among team members. The need to develop a collaborative culture among team members is continuously reinforced by a good Scrum Master.
The creation and delivery of a quality product within the given time is possible only when the team is focused and has predetermined goals that must be accomplished in every sprint. The deadlines keep the team oriented towards completing tasks. As a Scrum Master, your duty would be to make deadlines and goals clearly visible to everyone involved in the team.
Scrum-prescribed collaborations help you etch out a strong plan that enables faster and better results. So, encourage collaboration among team members by releasing planning sessions, iterating these sessions, conducting daily stand-up meetings, reviewing iterations, having demo sessions, and finally holding a retrospective session to reflect on the issues related to the project.
Maintaining a balance between the product owner and development team tactfully is one of the major responsibilities of a Scrum Master. Knowing the product owner’s requirements and conveying them to your team in a way that will yield expected and quick results is not as simple as it sounds. You will have to ensure your team delivers with maximum efficacy while rolling out high quality products and meeting client’s specifications.
Make no mistake here. You and the product owner may appear conjoined, but you are still two different roles. A cross-functional team might be defined as a team of equals, but the Scrum Master is responsible for enabling the team to get the work done. Your responsibilities may overlap but guiding the team and maintaining the work velocity is your job.
Let’s be honest. It’s extremely difficult to motivate people if work is a drudge, so make it lively. Teams that are engaged are more motivated to perform better than their best.
Reward your team for a job well done, take them out for happy hours, break away from rigid huddles—instead be more flexible with biweekly stand ups rather than daily. A happy and fun workplace translates to a more productive team which subsequently delivers better value.
Each of your team members comes from a different background, and has a different personal situation in life. Try to understand where they are coming from, and be empathetic in order to support them and help them perform.
There could be times when you feel in need of some empathy yourself. Sometimes, it’s lonely being a Scrum Master. Nobody understands your situation, and you have no one to turn to. Join a support group if you must. It’s good to know that there are others out there who understand your plight, so reach out to your fellow Scrum Masters and feel good about consoling yourselves.
A good Scrum Master relies on coordination to bring the team on the same page but a great Scrum Master understands the need to facilitate the scrum process. Any Scrum Master would know that glory for a Scrum Master truly lies in the success of the team rather than just for their own self.
A great Scrum Master can identify and align the value that each member brings to the table and thus enhances the overall team potential. Also, the key ingredient here is to know that each team is different and each team may need a different approach.
A great Scrum Master is someone who ensures commitment to the project through the sprints till the successful completion of the project. Usually, this requires a focus on removing all impediments as soon as possible to ensure that every sprint can achieve its desirable outcomes.
Timely addressal of all roadblocks is a hallmark of a great Scrum Master.
Though every Scrum Master learns Scrum and improves their approach with every project, a great Scrum Master continuously learns and unlearns the details of what the team does as part of their scope. This helps the Scrum Master be better and work better, understand the criticality of decisions taken and address issues that may be technical in nature.
Knowledge helps you be more effective and more successful in facilitating the team.
Be it for yourself or for your team, learning should be a continual process. Learning new techniques and inculcating new methodologies will definitely help in the enhancement of the product. You can learn new ways of solving problems. It also gives you the benefit of knowing the ever-changing market and customer needs.
This mode of continuous learning keeps the humility alive in a great Scrum Master.
As a ScrumMaster, you have many responsibilities. The good to great journey for a Scrum Master may not come easy. There are always roadblocks associated with managing team members, keeping the team focused and most importantly maintaining the momentum to achieve deliverables in each sprint.
Being mindful of these aspects can be the starting point to scaling that journey. Open communication, active contribution from team members and product owners, stressing on people over processes and customer value over extensive documentation, are some of the Scrum Master best practices that help in deriving effective outcomes and ensuring complete customer satisfaction.
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