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Why ScrumMasters Are Superheroes

8 January 2018


I have been asked many times why we need ScrumMasters in an organization. My answer is the same every time: ScrumMasters are superheroes!

In my experience, I have always related ScrumMasters to superheroes. They perform a balancing act, especially if they are working on big, complex projects with a large number of distributed teams whereby time, cost, and communication play a major role.

Whether you’re in hardware sales or software development, without a ScrumMaster, you don’t have processes that help you be effective.
 

The ScrumMaster’s superpowers

As we all know, a ScrumMaster is a servant leader and a facilitator who:
  • Helps the team with removing impediments and following the Agile principles and practices
  • Empowers the team to make decisions
  • Removes team dysfunctions
  • Helps the team with self-organization and amicably resolving conflicts
  • Upholds team trust by coaching and mentoring
  • Helps handle ambiguous situations
  • Assists the product owner with product backlog items, the ordering process, and prioritization (i.e., which stories hold more importance and which ones less), though the final decision is solely with the product owner
  • Helps with maintaining the release plans
  • Helps to increase team productivity
The ScrumMaster is also responsible for project progress and its high visibility within the team. He or she conducts daily stand-ups, facilitates meetings, and helps with maintaining the task boards, burn-up charts, burn-down charts, and velocity charts. The ScrumMaster also ensures that the team meets the Definition of Done and does not take more than what they can deliver. In short, this individual acts as the protector of the team.

The ScrumMaster bolsters the team’s and the product owner’s confidence in meeting the project or product deadlines by setting up the appropriate processes. Scrum believes in frequent and clear communication among project stakeholders. According to the Scrum Guide, the ScrumMaster ensures efficient and effective communication among the project stakeholders, contributing to project success in a large way.
 

Common challenges

In one of my transition projects, getting my team together was a big challenge. I had to vigorously coach my team on the Scrum processes. It took a while to get the team used to daily stand-ups, sprint planning, demos, and retrospectives. Eventually, though, the team looked forward to these Scrum ceremonies.

Anything new is difficult to accept unless you try it and find that it’s the best! The daily stand-up idea was a concept that the team initially questioned. “Why all of us? Do we have the time? What is the advantage?” The 15-minute timebox of the stand-ups was another challenge in transitioning to Agile projects, initially.

But, as practitioners know, daily stand-ups are highly visible and an easy way to let everyone know the project’s progress.

The stand-ups provide many benefits:
  • Higher efficiency and team productivity
  • Clarity of work among the project stakeholders
  • Clear understanding within the self-organizing teams of their task in achieving the shared goal toward the project or product vision
  • Knowing who is doing which task
  • Specifying what the team members accomplished yesterday, what they are doing today, and identifying the obstacles or impediments in achieving the sprint goal
During the stand-ups, the team also asks, “How can you resolve impediments as a ScrumMaster, helping us speed up our process toward the project delivery?”
 

My experiences as a ScrumMaster

While working as a ScrumMaster, I facilitated informal meetings among project stakeholders to resolve the development team’s issues, whether they were data security issues, production issues, QA, or simply a team conflict, by setting up standard processes. These processes help them organize and accelerate toward a resolution.

In time, my team was completely convinced about how easy it was to implement the Scrum process. This realization gave birth to many more Agile projects in our organization, and today many of my friends working in Agile turn to me as their first help/advisor for Agile projects. Let us give a big thanks to Scrum/Agile for making our work life easier and more manageable!

Any task, big or small, difficult or easy, relies largely on your efficiency in making others (product owner and development team) understand its importance and benefits. The ScrumMaster role is also important while you train newcomers in becoming future effective ScrumMasters.
 

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



Article Rating

Current rating: 3.6 (7 ratings)

Comments

Tim Baffa, CSM, 1/8/2018 1:23:24 PM
I don't believe it is beneficial at all for a Scrum Master to elevate themselves. Scrum Masters are servant-leaders, serving the Scrum Team (Dev Team, Product Owner), and secondarily, the organization. In my opinion, the Development Team are the value producers, and are the real superheroes.

If the ultimate goal is to get the Product Owner and Development Team self-sufficient (i.e. - self-managing), how counter-productive might it be for a scrum master to believe they are an indispensable "super hero" in the Scrum framework?

There are also a few inaccuracies in your article:

- Scrum Masters are NOT responsible for project progress

- Scrum Masters do NOT ensure that the development team doesn't take more than they can deliver. This is a very odd statement, since only the development team is capable of determining what they can handle. A scrum master can provide them with information to help their decision (velocity, capacity metrics, etc), but the decision MUST be the team's to make, not the Scrum Master

- To my knowledge, the Scrum Guide does NOT have the scrum master ensure efficient and effective communication among the project stakeholders. If you could cite where in the Scrum Guide this is stated, I will stand corrected

- Daily Scrum meetings are NOT intended to let everyone know the team's progress. This is an all-too-common misconception. It is not a status meeting. It is a Development Team meeting. It is strictly for them to align on what they accomplished the prior day, and to come up with a plan for the coming day.
Product Owners and other stakeholders may attend, but they are not participants, and there should be many other opportunities (sprint boards, other information radiators) to apprise others on the state of a sprint, outside of the Daily Scrum
Srividhya Srinivasan, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 1/8/2018 4:39:40 PM
thank you, appreciate your comments. The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide (Nov 2017 updated version). Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values. Scrum Master is indeed a Servant-Leader for the Scrum team, he coaches the development team in being self-organizing and cross-functional and helps the development team to create high-value products and in removing impediments in the Development team’s progress and also in Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed and coaches the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood scrum master helps in decisioning, but decision is solely on the team’s part.
The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours This is done by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting the work that could be done before the next one.The structure of the meeting is set by the Development Team and can be conducted in different ways if it focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal. Some Development Teams will use questions, some will be more discussion based

• What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
• What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
• Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

The Development Team or team members often meet immediately after the Daily Scrum for detailed discussions, or to adapt, or replan,the rest of the Sprint’s work. The Scrum Master ensures that the Development Team has the meeting, but the Development Team is responsible for conducting the Daily Scrum. The Daily Scrum is an internal meeting for the Development Team. If others are present, the Scrum Master ensures that they do not disrupt the meeting.

Daily Scrums improve communications, eliminate other meetings, identify impediments to development for removal, highlight and promote quick decision-making, and improve the Development Team’s level of knowledge.
thank you.

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