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How To Choose A Scrum Master?

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   Who is the Scrum Master?  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.   When to select the scrum master? 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!   Who should be the scrum master? 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.   Problem Solver 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.   Protector 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.   Process consultant 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.   Servant Leader 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.   Changing responsibilities? 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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How To Choose A Scrum Master?

459
How To Choose A Scrum Master?

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

 

Who is the Scrum Master? 

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.

 

When to select the scrum master?

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!

 

Who should be the scrum master?

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.

 

Problem Solver
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.
 

Protector
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.
 

Process consultant
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.
 

Servant Leader
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.
 

Changing responsibilities?
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!!.
 

Rumesh

Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin

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     Necessity is the mother of invention – Plato  This quotation even applies to our software development where things are changing fast and it’s not just an elephant that you have to deal with, it’s the “Titanosaur Argentinosaurus huinculensis” – the massive dinosaur.The software industry has grown by leaps and bounds which implies that the challenges have even multiplied too. For large programs and organizations, the challenges can come from any of the corners, it can be around monitoring or control, communication, stakeholders onboarding, change management, governance structure, the list is pretty long, and any imbalance can impact any of the three sides of the project management triangle – time, cost and scope.With a volatile industry, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) came in as a big rescue for the teams working on the different sizes of solutions. It is an ability to help the teams in maintaining an alignment with the business goals. 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With the need of delivering quality, time-to-market, faster ROI, our leaders in the industry shaped in a lot models and frameworks to support software development like Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) etc.The flexibility these frameworks provide may valued by those with a good understanding of agile, but it might not offer sufficient track for those who are transitioning from traditional models. The usual reason we get to see for agile failure lies in the mindset of cultural change, none of the framework apart from SAFe®️, takes care of this fact.Back in 2011, Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo, together came up with the framework which has helped a wide variety of organizations, so far, they stay strong with their framework by introducing new features and making it more compatible with the needs of the organization.The advantages of Scaled Agile Framework, if taken into account, the ‘Full SAFe®️’ takes care of all the levels in the organization and provides end-to end solution at the organisation level. Scaled Agile Framework was designed to sustain the big picture view of software development, it can effortlessly handle a synchronized plan for large-scale and complex projects with teams that can go beyond hundreds.Organizations can opt the benefits of Scaled Agile Framework, if their focus is on scaling the agile processes up to enterprise level, aligning business and technical goals for the company, utilizing the employee skills effectively, defining effective organizational structures around agility, scheduling for on-time delivery and improving the quality of solutions.It is the framework which not only aligns at the team and program level but also helps us stay aligned with organization strategy. It provides different level of configurations, that organizations can pull as per their needs. Scaled agile framework highlights predominant fears, like architecture, security, performance, and the resolution of dependencies and inconsistencies across the projects.In this framework we talk about releases, trains, value stream, product increment, the reasons to consider SAFe®️, and each and every entity in the whole system is connected to deliver the best solution.I have been a part of the transformation, where our organization moved into scaled framework, it is actually a big change, a big shift from what we were earlier. Now, there was a proper alignment in terms of product, teams and the work assignment. Teams actually understood why we are building it, they got to know what value it is going to add as a whole.As a culture shift, everyone was talking a foreign language but surprisingly they could easily comprehend the whole shift. You can feel the excitement, the lows and highs, the overall chaos in the initial phase and a smooth runway in a longer run.But it takes time, I just mentioned complete 2 years journey in a paragraph!!So far, I have been just talking about ‘what’ and ‘why’ for scaled agile framework, now let’s look into the ‘how’ part of it relating to the business. Trust me, this framework is really huge and the more you dive into it, the more you will be astonished by its beauty and effectiveness.Talking about the business, the organization's main focus is usually on the productivity (output), quality, time-to-market and the engagement. These are the basic reasons for any businesses for adopting SAFe®️ in the organizations. As per the survey, the productivity of your teams increase in the range of 20% to 50%, this owes to the fact that the teams have to be aligned with the product, the continuously collaborate and interact which gives them a high level of transparency on the expectations, they understand the deliverables and in turn set the expectation of the stakeholder too.This framework takes care of the dependencies and complexity which helps in building more. This helps in aligning the right work to the agile teams, even the customer knows what to expect at the end of the release, hence the balance in work assigned and the work delivered greatly increases, and it comes back as an increase in the productivity.Quality is one of the foundations when we talk about SAFe®️, organizations using SAFe®️ reported an increase in quality ranging from 20% to 75%, ‘wow’ factor for any company.Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. Built-in quality is also a core principle of the Lean-Agile Mindset, helping to avoid the cost of delays (CoDs) associated with recalls, rework, and fixing defects. SAFe®️’s built-in quality philosophy applies systems thinking to optimize the whole system, ensuring a fast flow across the entire Value Stream, and makes quality everyone’s job. – Scaledagileframework.com.Quality is embedded at every stage/level in SAFe®️, it can be dev tests, QA tests (scale, security, UAT), environment tests or prod config. A continuous delivery pipeline ensures quality before delivery into production. The scale agile framework also helped in getting happier teams with their satisfied stakeholders.Now, the teams have more visibility into what is building in and why is it building. Constant collaboration at all levels increases the confidence and raises the commitment. Most of the times, the teams actually get to interact with the real customers which helps them own the product and its deliverables, they tend to feel elated about showcasing what they have developed.Problems faced during SAFe implementationLet’s move on to see the real examples that we have from the organizations which adopted SAFe®️, and yes, it was not a smooth drive for them initially.In this article, we will cover the case study from LEGO - It is a line of plastic construction toys that are manufactured by The Lego Group – the company we all love so dearly!When LEGO adopted its scaled agile journey in 2015, they started their journey with moving 5 teams out of 20 to get into self-organizing mode. And later on the other teams followed the journey, but there was a challenge on coordination and collaboration. To make that happen, LEGO followed the SAFe®️ framework pattern and added another level of abstraction- the program level. They followed few practices such as meeting in every 8 weeks for a planning session which lasted for one and a half days.Benefits after SAFe implementation During this meeting, teams showcased their work, worked out the dependencies, estimated risks, and planned for the next release period. With their adoption on scaling, they found the following benefits of Scaled Agile Framework-The team was now more confident on giving the estimates and precise predictability on the delivery of their committed work.The employees felt more empowered to accomplish their work. They focused on adopting lean practices and minimized the documentation and other productive work.They leveraged all the possible options for face-to-face communication and it really had a constructive impact on the way they worked and collaborated, increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.Another plus point was the use of visual boards which helped them stay focused.Other success stories are from FitBit, Accenture, Bank of Canada, TomTom, Capital One, Sony, Cisco. The list is pretty long and has been increasing continuously. Every organization has a story to tell from their transformation journey. Being agile is not a destination, but it is a continuous journey. So, be a part of the scaled journey and enjoy the Scaled Agile Framework pros.Summarizing all the aspects that we have been discussing so far, the crux of adopting the scaled agile framework could be, better predictability, higher productivity, increased quality, greater employee happiness, faster time to market.This framework can be adopted by the larger organizations, we have already witnessed awesome feedbacks from companies implementing SAFe®️, though it has got its own set of prescription, it really helps if the values and principles suggested by the framework are applied at its best. Scaled framework supports the organization at all the levels ensuring they deliver excellence at every stage.
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