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.
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.