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Team Spirit: The Scrum Master Role in theory and practice

Are you empathetic and mindful of others? Are you able to read between the lines, and quickly understand the ‘question behind the question’? Do you enjoy removing impediments and obstacles so that team members are able to accomplish their particular tasks in their particular way? If this describes you, then the role of Scrum Master may fit you like a glove, according to Hanne Jacobs, Trainer for Gladwell Academy and a certified SPC.  In this blog Hanne talks about the tasks of the Scrum Master, the challenges that can arise, and how to prepare for the Scrum Master role in practice. 

 

What does the Scrum Master do? The Role in Practice

“It sounds very simple,” says Hanne. “The Scrum Master makes sure that the Scrum Team is running like a well-oiled machine. The better the team members interact and work together, the better their joint performance.”

She lists the core practical tasks of the Scrum Master which are designed to facilitate this smoothly-running team, such as:

  • The retrospective: “This is reviewing the most recent sprint together, then discussing the process,” says Hanne. “How did the team approach the sprint? What can be done better next time?”  The retrospective enables the Scrum Master to fulfill their role in understanding the specific needs of the team, what needs to be arranged to fulfill those needs, and how to best organize everything.
  • The daily stand-up: This is a daily 15 minute meeting in which the team shows up at the same time and place, establishing the plan for the coming day. “According to the theory, the Scrum Master is not required to attend this meeting,” says Hanne, “but on a practical level it is a great opportunity to get an idea about how the team is functioning and where improvements could be made.”
  • Coaching: This may be the essence of the Scrum Master’s practical work: handling the conflicts that can and do arise in the workplace. “The Scrum Master’s tasks include dealing with these conflicts and, though coaching, lending a helping hand, so that the team can continue to work effectively,” says Hanne.

 

‘Must love uncertainty’: A Day in the Life of a Scrum Master

So, in practice what does a Scrum Master’s day look like? No two days are the same, and that emerges directly from the Scrum Master role. “That’s because no standard working method has been defined,”  says Hanne about this highly individualized role. Some Scrum Masters do not maintain a schedule, others like to have as much structure as possible and still others, who combine the Scrum Master role with other roles at the same business, are so busy they are simply not available at all times.

Either way, says Hanne, there’s one key tip for Scrum Masters: “It is advisable to never fill your schedule completely; not only does this give you time to address last-minute surprises, it allows you to devote time to a number of important matters that are key to your role.”

 

Scrum masterVery Important Matters: Keys to the Scrum Master’s role

  • Is the Development Team working together effectively and making joint decisions?
  • Is the Development Team working to improve processes like Test Automation and the Definition of Done?
  • Is communication with the Product Owner regarding the content of the backlog effective? Are the stakeholders satisfied?
  • Is the coordination between the teams effective and are there any organizational obstacles?

 

In Short: You’re Getting the Best Out of the Team

The Scrum Master must continuously ask the question: how do you get the best out of your Scrum Team? An open and curious mind often helps define possibilities. “That is why attentiveness – actually paying attention, being engaged – is one of the most important tasks of the Scrum Master. This puts you in better sync with your team and gives you the information you need to provide them with exactly what they need to do their work and do it right,”  says Hanne. She emphasizes the ‘five fingers’ of the Scrum Master, which have to flex and be used when  necessary and appropriate. In short, the Scrum Master needs to be able to:

  • Coach
  • Advise
  • Manage
  • Consult
  • Facilitate and resolve problems or conflicts

 

Stay flexible: Challenges in the Workplace

There are a wide variety of ways in which a Scrum Master facilitates and smooths things for the team. And the first point of departure is always the needs of the team members and the support they require. “That really determines what the tasks of the Scrum Master might be on any given day,” says Hanne. “It could be something simple –  carrying out a quality check of team facilities and reserving meeting rooms, for example. But it may also involve far more complex situations like addressing conflicts within the team or other disruptions that hinder team performance. One example could be a situation in which stakeholders become involved with the priorities of developers,” she cautions. “In doing so they may bypass the Product Owner or a Scrum Team with too many dependencies in the sprint. This makes it impossible to achieve everything.”

Hanne emphasizes that it is up to the Scrum Master to find a solution in any case. “The functioning of the Development Team is top priority, so that they can focus fully on sprint activities,” she says.

 

Practical Examples During Your Training Course

“During our Scrum Master with PSM Certification training course, you learn to deal with these kinds of complex situations… After all, you are the one who the Scrum Team turns to when they don’ t know what to do next. In that sense, the Scrum Master role is the team’s safety net, the person who knows all the ins and outs and can provide advice on the whole process,” says Hanne, adding: “Thanks to the practical exercises during our training course, you learn to better respond to the challenges that arise. You will also be able to substantiate decisions based on the values of the Agile Manifesto.”

One surprising thing you will learn in the training is that faster is not always better. More effective is better. Your job as Scrum Master is to ensure that the Scrum Team is working more and more effectively, so that everyone can make the most out of their strengths.

 


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Register for our Scrum Master Training with PSM Certification



About Hanne Jacobs

Hanne Jacobs is a Trainer at Gladwell Academy, where she uses her background in theater to create a dynamic training experience for course participants. She is a certified SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) and is therefore qualified as teacher, facilitator and examiner for all SAFe trainings. In addition she is qualified as a teacher, facilitator and examiner for the Professional Product Owner (PSP01) and Professional Scrum Master (PSM1)  training certifications from Scrum.org, at Gladwell partner.

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