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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!!.  
How To Choose A Scrum Master?
Rumesh Wijetunge
Rated 4.0/5 based on 20 customer reviews
How To Choose A Scrum Master? 228
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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The Importance of the Transparency Value in Agile

1. Introduction In this article I’ll be writing about Agile and the importance of transparency in Agile Software Development.  This article is focused mostly around Scrum teams, but many points would apply to Lean and Kanban environments as well. Transparency is one of the core values of Agile.  Transparency is critical to the success of organizations and groups adopting Agile.  In Scrum we use burndown and/or burnup charts to report the progress of the team throughout the Sprint.  In Scrum we also have “ceremonies” or meetings that help with transparency, which include the Daily Standup, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Retrospective meetings.  These all give the team and product owner a chance to raise issues and be honest about things like the team’s progress.  The meetings also give the team a chance to adapt and improve. 2. Why is transparency important to Agile Transparency in Agile Software Development cannot be overstated.  In some organizations it is not easy to be transparent and open.  There are lots of pressures to say what the business wants to hear.  But I believe in the long-run a lack of transparency hurts an Agile team, the project, the organization, and ultimately the company.  I've seen firsthand organizations that claim they want “openness” but then, I can say that true transparency is not easy.  Transparency is critical to the success of Software Development using Agile Methodology  and it is well worth the effort.  Without full transparency there are lots of bad things that happen, including: Lack of trust with the Product Owner Team has to get caught-up in politics instead of focusing on what needs to be delivered Team morale can suffer Measuring future work is more difficult The team’s true velocity is not known 3. How teams can be more transparent with a Product Owner There are several steps a team can take to prevent the issues raised in the previous section.  In this section, we will cover some of those steps.  Use burndown charts to be honest about how the team is performing in a given Sprint. A burndown chart tells the true story of how the team is performing. Some teams also use a burnup chart for this purpose. If you cliff-dive at the end of the Sprint, that's not the greatest, but at least you are being honest to the Product Owner in terms of what happened.  If you are not going to make the Sprint commitment, at least that will be more obvious during the Sprint (i.e. the burndown will show that the team is not closing enough points each day and is at risk of either cliff-diving or not meeting the commitment). The point is that the team is being completely transparent.  The velocity is what it is.  The product owner knows what the team is capable of delivering. Using the raw data and not hiding anything from the business frees an Agile team. I believe it is Kent Beck that has an excellent quote in one of his presentations about what he calls “schedule chicken.” He tells a story about people around the table during a typical project meeting and the project manager is going around asking each team how things are going. Everyone wants to put on a good face and says “umm, yeah we are on schedule” even when they are not. Now they have to sit there and know that they might be caught in a lie later. Better to just be honest and say “Well, we are about 2 Sprints behind.” Done.  Now there is nothing to hide and you can move on and deal with the reality of the situation you are faced with. There are a couple things that happen when the team is honest with the Product Owner.  The first, as mentioned previously, is the relationship between the Product Owner’s trust in a team and the team’s transparency.  Figure 1 below shows this relationship.   But there is another benefit we get from being transparent: the team’s velocity becomes more accurate.  This can be seen in Figure 2 below.   4. What Product Owners Should Ask If you are a Product Owner what are some of the signs that a Scrum team is not being 100% transparent?   This section will focus on some of the red flags or “smells” that may indicate a team is not being truthful and transparent.  If a team does not want to share their burndown and/or burnup charts, that is an obvious red flag and is simply not acceptable. If the velocity of a team is very static, that may also indicate issues.  This may indicate that the team has a fixed amount of points they will always commit to for a Sprint, regardless of their actual capacity.  More on this in the section below on case studies.  Another possible red flag is when most User Stories have the same point value.  It could indicate that the team is using a “one size fits all” for their estimates.  The Product Owner should not be afraid to press the team if they feel the team is not accurately estimating User Stories.  But you need to ask in a way that is not accusatory. 5. Case studies In one Scrum team I saw a real lack of transparency and it really was not a good experience. Soon after joining this Scrum team, I attended my first Sprint Planning meeting on this team. In the meeting I noticed something odd. Their true velocity was let's say, 40 points, but they would only commit to around 30 points. They would then find a few more stories and put them in the next Sprint. These additional stories were what they would call “a stretch goal”. But they knew their velocity was much higher than what they were committing to. This seemed very wrong to me. It was a total lack of transparency and honesty. Not surprisingly, the team would typically finish the stories in the current Sprint and then work on a few more stories from the next Sprint that they had put aside. For the most part, this was a management decision because they did not trust the team to meet their velocity in a consistent fashion. This led to a lack of transparency with the business, and normal tools like burndown charts could not be trusted. Also, it did not make the team feel very good because they knew they were not being honest with the business. Instead of using this "stretch goal" approach, use the velocity of the team to measure how much work can be done in a given Sprint. 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The Importance of the Transparency Value in Agile
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The Importance of the Transparency Value in Agile

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Difference between CSM & PSM certification ?

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In the end, you have to pass the CSM test, and you have only two attempts for taking the test. On the other hand, PSM is entirely different from CSM. There is no need to attend any classes for this program neither any test for the PSM 1 and PSM 2 both. What is the passing grade? For the CSM, you have to take at least 69% marks or 24 out of 35 to get passed in the Certified Scrum Master program which is very low as compared to the PSM. In the PSM, the passing criteria is quite tough. You would get 80 questions and have to complete it in only 60 minutes. You have to be accurate in the answers because only those attendees with the final marks of 85%+ will pass the test and will get the Professional Scrum Master certificate. What is the exam format? The exam format of CSM is quite simple. The test paper of CSM is only based on multiple choice of question and they also allows you enough time to fill it twice. On the other hand, there are two levels in Professional Scrum Master Certification program. One is PSM 1 which is also based on the multiple choice questions and the other one is PSM 2 which is also not only based on MCQ’s but you also have to write essay in it. How difficult is the exam: This is the question that almost every student ask. The Certified Scrum Master program test is relatively easier than the PSM 1 and PSM 2. The reason behind is the weekly classes and the tests that you have attended on these classes prepares you for the final exam. However, PSM doesn’t have any scheduled classes systems that is why students find hard to pass the exams. Moreover, the PSM 2 is much harder to pass as compared to the PSM 1 that is why people always leave the PSM program after taking PSM 1 certificate. How much does it cost? There is no standard fee of CSM. The CSM is attached to the course, and many different institutions offer this certificate program. 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Because many institutes are providing CSM program that is why the program content varies from institutes to institutes and trainer to trainer. Whereas PSM has only one body, and all the teachers of that body follow only one content. However, the interpretation of the trainers may vary. What is the reliability of the Program content? Because the program content in the CSM varies from trainer to trainer, that is why it is hard to keep the reliability of the program content at its top. Every Scrum trainer creates its own program content and also its interpretation. That is why it is impossible to maintain the monotonous or the quality of the program content. Whereas only one body provide Professional Scrum Master program and their trainers follow only one content, that is why the reliability of the PSM program is at its highest, and there is no comparison between CSM and PSM contents. Last Words: Both of the programs are highly compatible, and both have their own importance. CSM may look back in the race but its originality and the history of this program makes it equal to PSM. However, aspects like no renew, content reliability and the tuition fee of PSM makes it a better choice to take if you want to be a Professional Scrum Master with the certificate.
Difference between CSM & PSM certification ?
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Difference between CSM & PSM certification ?

Scrum can be defined as the iterative framework or work management sys... Read More

Scrum vs Kanban: Deciding New Agile Benchmark

Today in the rapidly changing market, software development is changing its list of requirement every now and then. As we all know, Agile is one form of software development methodology which mainly focusses on continuous delivery of project with client satisfaction. Agile always accepts the change and works on complete specifications to turn the project into a deliverable product. In the recent times, Kanban software development methodology is in the limelight for its ability to enable DevOps. Many of the organizations are moving from Scrum to Kanban for better results. So the question arises, which Agile methodology works better? And  Scrum vs Kanban becomes the essential question. The key differences between Kanban and Scrum depend on the Rules of using the methodology and the workflow. GOLDEN RULES Both Scrum and Kanban have a list of mandated and optional rules for their implementation. According to the Agile advice list for implementing Scrum, there are around 23 mandatory and 12 optional rules. Here are few examples: Teams are functioning in a  cross-functional manner During sprints, Interruptions are strictly avoided Work is always time boxed Scrum meetings are held on  daily basis To measure progress a burndown chart is used Firstly, the problem arises when organizations follow “Scrum But”- which is basically ignoring some specific set of rules for internal reasons. The next issue arises with timeboxing, which forms the core of Scrum. It allows the developer to define milestones for the stakeholders to evaluate and guide their project. Now in the case of Kanban, the rules are comparatively less restrictive. The principal rules are- Limiting the  work in progress To Visualize the workflow Kanban is a flexible and an open methodology that can add rules as needed, borrowed from Scrum depending upon the requirement. In Kanban, the focus is mainly on the flow and not on the timebox. This feature makes Kanban a very appealing choice to use with DevOps. WORKFLOW METHODOLOGY For Scrum: If we take the case of Scrum, every feature is decided before and it is ensured that it will be completed by the next sprint. After that, the Sprint is locked and work is finished over a couple of week, that is, usual sprint duration. The locking of the sprint is done to make sure that the team is getting enough time to make last minute changes depending on the requirement. There is a feedback session for reviewing the work accomplished. This helps to ensure that the delivered amount of work is approved by the stakeholders and is enough for directing the project as per business requirement. For Kanban: In the case of Kanban, the priority is to focus on the workflow and not on the time. The limitation is only regarding the size of the queues. Kanban’s main focus is on the productivity and the efficiency of the product. This allows them deliver superior  quality work items. In addition to this, concentrating on the workflow will keep things moving. In Kanban, there is an extended feature known as stakeholder participation. If your team is responsible for enhancing the feature development feedback of the stakeholder, then go for Scrum. But if your team is in charge of maintenance and requires to be more reactive, then you have to consider Kanban. Eventually, the need for every team is different and depending upon the requirements, methodologies need to be decided for the achievement of the goals.
Scrum vs Kanban: Deciding New Agile Benchmark
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Rated 4.0/5 based on 20 customer reviews
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Today in the rapidly changing market, software development is changing... Read More