3 Serious Pitfalls Every Scrum Master Should Avoid
Tue 13 Oct 2015 00:03
The scrum master holds a unique position within a Scrum framework. In Scrum, the role of a scrum master is to facilitate the team in coordinating itself, and resolving any problems as and when they arise. Like all Agile based frameworks, Scrum too supports the "inspect" and "adapt" principles. Scrum teams are self-organising and self-managing. The teams govern themselves and streamline the development work. However, at times, the development team may face a problem, and might be unable to find a proper solution to deal with the problem. That is when the scrum master steps in - the person studies the problem, determines the best possible way of dealing with the issue, and suggests ideas to the team how to resolve the problem.
The scrum master may face issues other than technical ones - all aspects pertaining to Scrum implementation are tackled by him or her. Ideally, the scrum master should employ a servant-leader role and foster a healthy working environment by maintaining a personal contact with team members. The person acts as a mentor, listens to the issues faced by the team members, and helps to resolve their issues. Scrum suggests a facilitator's role for the scrum master, and advises that a scrum master should not transgress his or her role. This is important since the development team is autonomous in its working and undertakes its own decisions. As it so happens, if a scrum master has a technical background, he or she may get involved with the work carried out by the team and start suggesting ideas. This could make it difficult for the team to function since Scrum teams decide for themselves how a product feature should be developed. The individual taking on the responsibilities of a scrum master should make it a point not to commit three common mistakes that individuals new to the scrum master's role usually make.
The three major mistakes made by a scrum master
A scrum master's role is not an easy one to play in Scrum. Traditionally, professionals employed at a managerial position were employed as product owners and scrum masters. The common thinking was if a person has worked as a project manager, has handled project work, that person would be an ideal choice for a scrum master. However, managements have learned from previous mistakes and realised that an individual can function as an effective scrum master irrespective of his/her technical background - It is not necessary for a scrum master to develop projects and become tech savvy to effectively carry out his or her role. The important thing is to stick to Scrum principles and ensure they are properly followed by the team. And secondly, a scrum master should make efforts to avoid potential pitfalls which can affect the team's working.
- Coordinating the team
- Taking decisions on behalf of the team
- Unanimously resolving technical issues
The scrum master works closely with the development team, the product owner, stakeholders, and the management. Apart from the product owner and scrum master, the main portion of a scrum team is composed of multi-skilled developers, programmers, testers, technical writers, etc. The scrum master generally remains closer to the development team as majority of the issues - whether technical ones, or those pertaining to management related problems - are faced by the developers and technical members involved with development work. Owing to the frequent and daily interactions with the team, a scrum master may start feeling inclined to be a "part" of the development team, rather than as a separate Scrum entity having a specific role to play.
In the course of action of daily activities, a scrum master may unconsciously start coordinating the activities of the team. This may not be intentional, but simply out of rote. Scrum authorizes the development team to self-organise and self-manage. The team can make informed decisions on its own, and it is not required for the scrum master to intervene or try to coordinate the team activity.
Scrum teams are self-governing. In scrum, teams learn from their mistakes through the "inspect" and "adapt" principles supported by events such as reviews and sprint retrospectives. Teams can learn when they coordinate themselves. A scrum master should not intervene and try to coordinate any activity other than his or her own.
The work done by a development team can be often very demanding and complex. Many times, teams face situations where it becomes difficult to decide upon the correct course of action, or what kind of decisions it should make to solve the problem. It is important for the team to develop individual thinking, make informed decisions based upon their levels of experience, and hold themselves responsible for the decisions they undertake.
A scrum master closely monitors the activities carried out by individual team members. S/he tries to ensure that the team follows scrum properly. Individuals often get influenced by the type of environment they are working in, and in case of scrum masters, they might be tempted to have their say regarding what the team should ideally do to resolve a particular issue. There is nothing wrong with that. However, scrum masters should realise that offering suggestions to resolve an issue is quite different than actually deciding on behalf of the entire team. Scrum promotes team work, and emphasises upon team work over individual efforts. The scrum master should not make decisions on behalf of the team - S/he should rather suggest a correct course of action and facilitate the team to make their own decisions.
Scrum offers an organised way of working. To complete the scrum process, each member in the team takes on tasks specific to his or her profile. An important rule to follow is not to transgress one's particular area of work. Each team member is responsible for himself or herself and is advised to work within the scope specified by the role he or she plays in Scrum. The role of a scrum master is to facilitate scrum proceedings. But many times scrum masters take the initiative and start resolving issues on their own after studying a problem. This should not happen in Scrum. Suppose a product owner faces a particular issue, he or she can consult the scrum master regarding what should be done, but the final decision should be taken by the product owner, and not by the scrum master.
Scrum supports this particular approach because self-correction and self-learning processes cannot exist otherwise. If any of the team members start taking decisions and resolving issues on their own, it would not be team work. It is important for the entire team to learn from the decisions it makes, rather than individual team members.