A common problem most of the scrum teams face is with regards to selecting a suitable team member to become the scrum master for the team. It has become a strenuous activity for some teams, for some a ritual whereas for some others it has become just another activity not to be stressed about. However, giving careful thought to the process of selecting a suitable scrum master will be beneficial for any scrum team with different scrum tools
A common analogy when teaching scrum is to refer to the scrum in rugby. The rugby scrum is where the two packs of the two opposing teams lock horns in order to gain possession of the ball. The scrum stays firm when the lines stay upright and strong. The responsibility of the scrum half is to get the ball out of the scrum and give it the direction to be taken by passing it on to the next suitable in line.
The agile scrum master’s role is similar to the scrum half. The scrum master is the one who gives the team the correct direction and helps them achieve objectives of the project by guiding them in the correct direction. The scrum master is expected to be the protector, problem solver and process consultant for the scrum team.
So when is the most suitable time to select a scrum master for the team? Like with any project the work begins once the contract has been agreed upon and signed between the two parties. This precedes analysis of the problem or opportunity, analysis of the stakeholders, identification and agreement on a solution statement and finally the development of a business case.
Once the project is confirmed it is handed over to a scrum master. So, it seems most suitable to assign the scrum master for the project as soon as the project is confirmed and contracts are signed. But is it the case?
It will be much better to appoint a team member who would be involved in the project while the bidding for the project or the proposal stage is in progress. The team member would thus be in the best position to understand the exact requirements of the project as well as the expectations of the client. By again, is this the most suitable person to be nominated as the scrum master? May be, or may be not!
Selecting an appropriate scrum master is prudent for the smooth execution and success of any agile project. First of all lets see characteristics of a scrum master.
It is said that the scrum master must be like a road construction worker who is developing a new road. He would need to identify big rocks or thorny areas on the path ahead and be able to clear that path by applying suitable problem solving skills. Similarly, the scrum master must be able to apply necessary facilitation skills, negotiation skills and problem solving skills to remove any impediments that the team may face.
The Scrum master must be like the guardian angel of his team. A project team is always pressurized by the client to deliver value within the triple constraints of time, cost and scope. Similarly, the team is pressurized by the management and other teams to take or share team members in other projects. The scrum master must be able to protect his team from such external interferences and allow the team to focus on doing their task.
The scrum master must be the one who defines and adopts agile processes and practices for the team. As the process consultant the scrum mater must be able educate the team members about the tailoring made to agile practices, be able to guide the team on a daily basis and be able to make necessary process related decisions as and when required.
Available and committed
The scrum master’s presence is essential for any team to schedule scrum ceremonies, facilitate those events and to guide decision making during those events. The mere presence of a strong scrum master will be a confidence booster for the team. So, if the scrum master constantly takes leave or is not present for team meeting and is busy at other client meetings that person may not be the suitable to be the scrum master.
The scrum master is by no means a project manager. The scrum master must be knowledgeable to lead the team by example. He too should be able to contribute to the cross-functional team. Similarly, the scrum master must be a person who sticks with the team during good times and bad. Once, in one of the projects that I was involved in, the team had to work 12 to 15 hours per day for 2 whole months to meet client deadlines. The team was on the verge of quitting when the scrum master himself brought in food and drinks for the team and handed over the items to each team member in person patting them on the back and sitting with them a good 10 to 15 minutes.
It is always good to have a change in scrum master role thought the life of the project. This will bring a different perspective and a point of view. However, it is always important to keep in mind the afore-mentioned qualities of a good scrum master and to ensure that the new scrum master does not disrupt the existing good state of the project. As the old adage goes the leader is as good as his team!!.
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