Scrum Master – Facilitating Project Success

9th June 2020

A Scrum Master is one of the most important roles in any organisation that is running or looking to run Agile and Scrum. When done correctly it can be the difference between a team becoming self-organising, effective and efficient… or a team becoming disillusioned and ineffectual.

At Waracle, we have been running our software delivery in an Agile manner since we began. We have successfully supported our clients in implementing Agile, whether it is Agile consultancy or placing seasoned Scrum Masters into our client’s teams.

To illustrate our expertise, we wanted to showcase a few examples of the kinds of problems and patterns we see when we engage with businesses trying to implement Agile methodologies.

Getting Back to Basics

Something that we see a lot, when we first engage with our clients, is teams not following the basic Scrum principles.

Developers just want to develop, and left to themselves they will work away unconcerned about story size, refining PBI’s (product backlog items) ahead of time and choosing to only code the stories that they are interested in. This leads to unstable team velocity, unfinished work at the end of the sprint and uncertainty around version release dates and road mapping.

This is where the Scrum Master role is so important. Making sure the Ceremonies are in place & adhered to and working with the Product Owner to help and facilitate the backlog, to ensure it is enriched enough that the team can refine stories and estimate work ahead of time.

The foundation of any way of working is adherence and in our experience the Scrum Master is the nexus that can drive individuals to collaborate effectively.

Servant Leadership, not Control and Conquer

The role of the Scrum Master is to serve the needs of the team.

A Scrum Master is not a Project Manager and the soft skills required to help the team become self-organising are equally as important for success as managing the ceremonies and unblocking impediments.

Being able to read the team, know individual personalities and being able to spot patterns is vital. There are so many factors that can contribute to a team not functioning correctly and knowing when & where to implement changes is only something that an experienced Scrum Master can do.

The Scrum Master is there to protect the team. That’s why when we see people in organisations weaponising burndown charts and story points, we are always worried. The Scrum Master is responsible for helping the team achieve that amount of work that they committed to, not to call out individuals based on how many story points that achieved.

Scrum Master, What Scrum Master

There is a tendency (in some businesses) to overlook the role of Scrum Master entirely, deciding that they have no need for one in their team.

The prevailing thought is that other team members can share the role, or the responsibilities can fall upon the Product Owner… and therein lies the problem. The Product Owner and Scrum Master roles conflict, as the Scrum Master is there to support and challenge the Product Owner to enrich the backlog enough to ensure there are enough fully refined stories and that they are ready to build.

Regardless of whether you think your team is working well, self-organising and maintaining a stable velocity, you need a Scrum Master. Time and time again, we see how easy it is for teams to lose impetus, fall back on bad habits and slow productivity. A good Scrum Master will work tirelessly in the shadows, to shield the team from unnecessary outside influence, and maintain the environment that will engender the traits of a high-performing team.

The above are just a few examples of things we have seen over the years. At Waracle, we are an advocate for Agile practices and our Scrum Master and Agile coaches have a passion for helping businesses get back on track.

We have had great success in injecting these roles into our client’s development teams. Developers tend to work openly and honestly with our talented individuals, as they feel they are not a business manager and therefore only have the team’s best interest at heart.

Our team can be onboarded remotely, get to work the moment they hit the ground and make positive changes in weeks rather than months. If you are in the process of adopting Agile or feel you need the right individual to course correct your team, get in touch.

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