The ScrumMaster serves a unique role on an Agile team–part leader, part servant. ScrumMasters are responsible for the overall health of their team and for making sure everyone has what they need to do their work. This is not a technical role but it is helpful to understand the technical issues the team will face to better support them. Here are seven strategies for effective ScrumMasters.
1. Serve your people
We often refer to the ScrumMaster as a “servant leader” as their main job is to support the team. Indeed, it is said the wise king serves the people and so too does the wise ScrumMaster serve their team members and helps the team stay healthy.
2. Remove impediments
Roadblocks come up and can eat up valuable development time. Another job of the ScrumMaster is to give the team what they need to do their work. This can include getting supplies, coordinating dependencies, reporting progress to management, etc. This frees developers to focus on creating software. Developers are most valuable on a project when they are developing. Attend meetings, work with customers, anticipate and handle issues so the rest of the team doesn’t have to. The more time developers have to deliver valuable software the more valuable software you will have.
3. Keep a smart focus by asking questions
Keeping an eye on the overall development process can often help ScrumMasters see bottlenecks that others can’t. Rather than finding all the answers, a wise ScrumMaster helps their team ask better questions. Often, the quality of answer you get depends on the quality of the question you ask. Asking better questions can be very valuable.
4. Support the team
How do teams self-organize? It is up to the team. But there are things a ScrumMaster can do to help such as ensuring everyone’s opinion is heard, helping the team resolve deadlocks, and encouraging people to support each other.
5. Give respect to get respect
When we are in conflict with someone it can sometimes be hard to hear each other. It may be valuable to start by focusing what we like about the situation before discussing challenges. It can also be helpful to avoid blaming people for problems but rather blame the process and work to change it.
6. Keep measurements to a minimum
It is easy to be seduced by metrics because they help us feel secure. The problem is that it is often a false sense of security. It is good to see progress with burn down charts but even velocity can be abused when it is used as a productivity measure rather than a capacity measure. If you push the team to constantly increase velocity then chances are something else, such as quality, will suffer and that can cause projects to fail.
7. Retrospect with the team for continuous improvement
Retrospectives are a valuable practice to review progress and make ongoing improvements. Help find small ways to improve and measure progress then celebrate wins with the team.
The role of the ScrumMaster is unique, part manager, part facilitator. They help keep the team healthy and support them in doing their work as efficiently and effectively as possible.