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Here Are The Questions Scrum Masters And Product Owners Should Be Asking

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Last updated on
21st Apr, 2021
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21st Feb, 2018
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Here Are The Questions Scrum Masters And Product Owners Should Be Asking

Being a part of an Agile team is no easy street. Especially if it comes to handling critical roles such as a Scrum Master or a Scrum Product Owner. They are typically at the helm of the organizations and mean a lot to the respective Agile teams. While it is tempting to seek opportunities as a Product Owner or a Scrum Master, there are a few things the aspirants need to take care of. These mostly pertain to the unique roles and responsibilities and the approaches to seamlessly integrate Agile values into the organizational fabric. 

Founder of Apple Brook Consulting – Daniel Gullo says, “Certifications are just a way to establish a baseline. Just because someone has an Agile certification doesn’t mean they’ll be good at their job.” 

In this article, we have compiled the most common Scrum Master questions and answers, alongside some of the standard Product Owner questions and solutions. 

Two Commonly Asked Questions On Estimates:

1.Can I get an estimate of the time needed to complete this work (in terms of hours, days, weeks, months or years)?

There can be answers like- many weeks, which can even take more than a month. But getting an estimate from the team members like- “probably a week or a few weeks” can be good to make a decision if the team can formally estimate that work in a more precise way.

2.How confident are you in that estimate? 

From this question, you can assess the- 

  • Degree of confidence of the team members and 
  • Agreement level of the team members

If most of the people in the team are 90% confident about the estimate, it is more likely to be accurate than the one where the confidence level is scattered.

However, disagreement in the confidence level of the team members indicates that the team rushed to create an estimate, which can be less credible.

Three Questions On Team Discussions:

Scrum Masters or Product Owners sometimes want to know, after what level of detailed discussion and thorough analysis, the team has reached that decision. Here are some questions that the Scrum Masters and the Product Owners ask often:

  • What are the three other options you considered before making these decisions?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if we pursue this way?
  • What has to go right and what will be the best decision?

As a Scrum Master or Product Owner, you don’t need to ask these questions, rather you can overrule the decisions made by the team members. But it is your right to understand the ‘confidence level of the team members’ in making the decision and how aligned they are with that decision. These questions are formulated to bring to light the disagreement among the team members about a decision. 

Two Questions On Meetings:

‘If you meet too often, the team will get frustrated and worn down.’

Scrum Master or Product Owner should not call up meetings very frequently. During each of the meetings, the participants should be less. Here are the two questions that the Scrum Master and the Product Owner keep asking:

  • Do we need each and everyone present here?
  • Should anyone else be present here?

The first question is concerned about the team members’ attendance at the meeting. Usually, team members think that they should be there in every meeting, even though it is completely irrelevant to them. The presence of the team members in every meeting, however, is not mandatory.

E.g: A Java developer can attend the meeting on the discussion of the ‘latest release of Java’ and whether to upgrade that release or not. In this case, Java-based developers additionally working on related technologies can also participate in the meeting. It is the responsibility of the concerned manager to appreciate those people who are eager to attend the meeting and like to work collaboratively. In such cases it should be ensured that they do not attend the irrelevant meetings.

On the flip side, the second question will help you to find out the missing person for the meeting whose presence is utterly needed.

One question to ask while roaming around:

The Scrum Master should spend ample time in healthy conversations. This is referred as a “management by wandering around”. They can do this whenever they find team members discussing something important related to work. As counterintuitive as it may sound, these sorts of “unplanned corridor meetings” are more effective and impactful than the scheduled Scrum meetings. 

E.g. if a programmer and a tester are having an important conversation, the Scrum Master might listen to everything in case he/she can help solve anything. 

  • Does anyone else want to know anything?

This question is a mandate and will help the team members dig deeper into the problem or else get the query resolved with the help of team members and the Product Owner

One question during Daily stand-ups:

Finally, here comes a question which can be asked during Daily Scrum especially when the team feels confused about the Sprint burndown chart. Whether they will be able to finish everything as per the plan or not. At this time, looking at the Sprint burndown chart, the SM and the PO may ask questions like:

  • What do you know that I don’t know? 

The response to this question might vary from person to person. One team member may react that he/she has not yet updated the time in the tool or they are at the learning stage and require more time to speed up.

Last words-

Being a Scrum Master and a Product Owner, asking questions frequently is the best way to grasp new things quickly. Also, this gives a clarity about the team members and their work because asking questions divulge more than the making statements.

That exactly is how you live Agile!

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