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How To Build A Self-Organizing Team As A Scrum Master

05th Sep, 2023
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    How To Build A Self-Organizing Team As A Scrum Master

    One of the leading roles of a Scrum master is to foster the development of a self-managing team. Self-organizing teams can function effectively without the oversight of a manager or other external authority. Effective communication, well-defined objectives, and an atmosphere of mutual respect and responsibility are the cornerstones of a high-performing, self-organizing team.

    Team members on a self-organizing team are not told how to get their jobs done. Instead, they are trusted to determine the most efficient and effective means. They develop organically due to team members' active, collective engagement in all Scrum practices and activities. Going for CSM certification training and knowing how to build a self-organizing team as a Scrum master will help you get trained well.

    The key element of implementing Scrum successfully in an Agile-oriented business is the self-organized team; however, it leads to a misconception that every team member will be loose cannon, working without the ownership and directions for the assigned task; which is just opposite to the actual experience because the self-organized team members work together under the agreed framework of norms, guidelines, and expectations to achieve iteration goal. Most Agile-Scrum organizations emphasize on building the self-organizing team - why? 

    How Do You Build a Self-Organizing Team as a Scrum Master?

    You must understand the concepts of self-organization before attempting to create such a group. This necessitates familiarity with the principles of agile methodology, which include openness, scrutiny, and flexibility.

    You must understand the concepts of self-organization before attempting to create such a group. This necessitates familiarity with the principles of agile methodology, which include openness, scrutiny, and flexibility.

    1. Set Sensible Milestones and Checkpoints

    Set reasonable checkpoints and milestones to see if the team is heading toward its objectives. These checkpoints help gauge performance and steer the team in the right direction. Moreover, the objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).

    Key deliverables, such as product releases, need milestones to be specified to monitor progress and pinpoint problem areas. Hence, weekly/monthly check-ins allow you to see how far along you are and whether there are any stumbling blocks. Having defined points of reference and progress indicators helps teams maintain momentum and correct course as needed.

    2. Arrange a Short Intro Meeting

    An informal team introduction meeting is the second step in developing a self-organizing group. Before planning the course, you should have this meeting to brief everyone on the framework and assign roles and responsibilities. Additionally, this is a chance to clarify the team's mission and build common ground.

    The Scrum Master's meeting is where you will discuss the Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master roles. You must explain all Scrum events to the team, including Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

    The team meeting is also an excellent time to establish ground rules for the group. This consists of the rules for making and implementing decisions, communicating with team members effectively, and behaving at Scrum events. The team should also discuss any issues that could develop during the project and devise a plan to deal with them. There should be some team-building exercise or icebreaker at the initial meeting to get everyone comfortable and excited about working together.

    3. Let People Leverage Their Talents

    To develop a self-organizing team, a Scrum Master may take advantage of each member's strengths. Doing so will allow the group to perform at its peak, speeding up the process of reaching its objectives.

    The Scrum Master should get to know each team member and understand their skills and shortcomings. It helps make the most of the team's combined efforts. Regular one-on-one sessions or group outings can facilitate this. Knowing the team's skill sets enhances the Scrum Master's ability to delegate work to team members based on their strengths.

    Suppose one team member is better than the others at solving problems. In that case, you can task that person with spearheading the group's problem-solving initiatives. Alternatively, if another team member is better at communicating than the rest of the group, they can handle disseminating information.

    To keep the team motivated and involved in the work, the Scrum Master should regularly assess the group's progress. You may also make changes to the team's structure and responsibilities.

    4. Facilitate Information Exchange

    As a Scrum Master, one of your primary responsibilities is creating an environment where knowledge flows freely among team members. That's why teams must have simple ways to communicate and exchange knowledge and updates.

    Setting up regular team meetings, such as daily stand-ups or sprint retrospectives, is one technique to ease communication. Meetings like these allow team members to report on their progress, address problems, and brainstorm solutions.

    Collaborative tools, such as instant messaging and project management programs, can help people share knowledge more efficiently. Moreover, these tools allow team members to collaborate in real time, regardless of location.

    Every team member must feel safe enough to contribute ideas and seek assistance when necessary. Thus, Scrum Masters should also teach the value of honest and open dialogue among team members.

    It is also essential to promote information sharing inside the group. Team members can contribute to this goal by giving presentations, sharing their knowledge, or taking the reins in training situations.

    5. Avoid Blame Game

    When team members point fingers and refuse to take responsibility for their actions, a hostile work climate develops, hindering progress. A vital responsibility of the Scrum Master is to foster an environment rewarding and encouraging teamwork and personal responsibility.

    Team members can help by learning to take responsibility for their actions and learning from their mistakes. Additionally, collaborating on finding solutions and preventing repeat occurrences helps avoid the blame game.

    Creating a setting where everyone feels safe voicing their opinions and suggestions is essential to encourage teamwork. Promoting open lines of communication and attending to the feedback and concerns of team members help accomplish a safe culture. The last step is to honor and appreciate the team's efforts and successes. As a result, employees will have a more upbeat and encouraging work environment and be more motivated to cooperate.

    6. Go for Regular Review of the Team's Work

    Self-organizing teams must conduct regular work reviews. It is the Scrum Master's responsibility to arrange frequent reviews to ensure progress and pinpoint any areas for improvement. At these meetings, the team should assess its current performance, discuss any problems that occurred, and determine ways to improve.

    It would help if you encouraged team members to offer suggestions for enhancing their work during the reviews. The Scrum Master's role is to assess the team's progress and offer constructive criticism and recommendations. Typical activities in this regard include:

    • Brainstorming ways to improve processes
    • Comparing and contrasting various methods
    • Highlighting knowledge gaps

    Consistent assessments also give team members a chance to gain insight from one another and teach one another new things. This way, you may encourage a culture of constant improvement, guaranteeing the team's performance.

    The 4 Key Benefits of Scrum Self-Organizing Team

     “Individuals in an empowered organization have the knowledge, skill, desire and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads towards collective success" (Stephen R. Covey, Principle-centered Leadership). Before we move to the benefits of Scrum, check out KnowledgeHut CSM training and progress your career in Scrum. The 4 key benefits that drive the experienced Scrum Master to build the self-organizing team are: 

    1. Motivation improves the performance of the Scrum team
    2. Innovative & creative environment is conducive to everyone’s growth
    3. Everyone learns from the failures and successes to perform the best with self-optimization
    4. Improves ownership because each member feels more responsible for the sprint result

    Roadmap to Build a Self-organizing team as a Scrum Master: 

    Who is responsible for building the self-organizing team? Definitely, Scrum Master is primarily responsible for building a self-organizing team ensuring the cohesive working environment for all the team members. Like the job itself, building Scrum self-organizing team is also a complex challenge for the Scrum Masters. The complete task can be simplified by dividing it into three steps:  

    Step 1. Training: 

    The problems can’t be solved with same level thoughts that create them; and, we need the motivated trained minds with a zeal to solve the particular problems. Each Scrum team member is expected to have the best level skill set; therefore, Scrum Master must provide classroom or on-the-site task-specific training to individuals. Often, the efficient Scrum masters tend to lead to problem-solving; but instead of solving the problems yourself, it is better to let the trained team members do it. In parallel, behavioural - communication training must be planned to shorten the training period. 

    Certified Scrum Masters have mostly proved their potential in building such trained teams. 

    Step 2. Coaching: 

    Scrum Master must behave as a coach to guide the team members for solving the problems. Some team members may require more guidance at the start but analytical support trains them to crack the nut on their own. After proper Scrum training and coaching, you will experience the team heading for self-organizing but the task is not completed yet. Scrum Master is expected to observe the team members to make further improvements in identified areas. 

    Step 3. Mentoring:

    Keeping your team self-organizing is also a challenge because changing the traditional work habits is not so easy. The challenge can be easily managed by behaving like a mentor who helps the team members to perform at the next level. As per Scrum guidelines, the most efficient and capable Scrum team member to solve a specific problem is the one who needs to solve it. The mantra of building a successful Scrum self-organizing team is – “Self-organizing team need task oriented coaching & personalized mentoring not the “command & control”.

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    Conclusion with 7 Tips for the Scrum Masters to Build Self-Organizing Team: 

    It takes time to make the people willing to take bigger responsibilities. I always say to Scrum self-organizing team members that they should take initiatives on their own instead of waiting for others to take action for problem-solving. This approach of Scrum self-organizing team speeds up the development besides providing more time for the Scrum Master to focus on other important issues. To conclude, I summarize the 7 points to help you build efficient and successful Scrum self-organizing teams:   

    1. To touch the extremes of your career as an efficient Scrum Master be honest in “Know your stuff & learn that you don’t” approach. 
    2.  Assert the influence but without taking over. Suggest new ideas to address impediments; and, authorize the team members to manage the problem in their own way. 
    3. Ask complex questions to motivate the members to come up with innovative concepts
    4. Support the team members to take actions 
    5. Use safe-to-fail tests to let the team members imply learned skills
    6. Be available for the team members to let them work in a flow 
    7. Be a practical hardliner because your Scrum team needs it


    A Scrum master can only succeed in creating a self-organizing team through open dialogue, well-defined goals, and mutual respect. Scrum projects rely on the efforts of a self-organizing team. Additionally, it is the Scrum master's job to facilitate the team's growth and development to meet the project's goals better. CSPO certification training will aid you excel in addressing challenges through Scrum.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1How does a Scrum Master build a self-organized team?

    To this end, the Scrum Master takes on the role of a Servant Leader, guiding the Development Team as they learn to work through their issues and resolve their conflicts. When possible, the Scrum Master will assist the Development Team in overcoming obstacles. 

    2How do you make a Scrum team self-organizing?
    • Exert control without assuming complete charge.  
    • Rather than relying on the old solutions, provide alternative approaches to overcoming roadblocks.  
    • Give your team members the freedom to solve the problem uniquely.  
    • Pose challenging questions to stimulate members' creative thinking and original ideas.  
    • Encourage your team members to take the necessary steps. 
    3What is the role of a Scrum Master when the team is self-organizing?

    The Scrum Master improves and streamlines the team's processes. The best way to do this is as a team player or collaborator rather than a leader. The most effective Scrum teams are self-organizing and, as a result, don't respond well to command-and-control structures. 

    4What are the 3 top characteristics of a self-organized team?

     A self-organizing team is not defined in the original version of the Agile Manifesto. Experts in Agile and Scrum methodologies have outlined the following critical qualities of a self-organizing team over the years. 


    Shubhranshu Agarwal

    Freelance content writer

    Shubhranshu Agarwal is a technical writer with special interest in business management and project management subjects. Over the 15 years of freelance content writing, he has written a lot to help the industries, businesses and project managers to achieve the sustainable growth by implementing strategic critical management methodologies.

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