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Scrum Master

There are great Scrum Masters and lousy Scrum Masters. There are also great and lousy managers, developers, testers, salespeople, and neighbors. People are people – no matter what their profession or role in life. Scrum Masters are people too. And just like every profession, most people grow and improve with time and experience. Some grow more quickly than others.

Do you have obstacles (impediments) that continue to plague your team because the Scrum Master has not removed them? Or, is communication inside or outside the team poor and hampering your ability to get things done? Perhaps you feel like your team is stuck in a rut and your Scrum Master doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. What do you do if your Scrum Masters aren’t all you hoped they would be?

First, realize your Scrum Master is growing – hopefully. Remember that you too were a novice developer or tester at some point. Early on, you probably wrote lousy code and missed critical tests. Understand that your Scrum Master will eventually get better at coaching for Scrum adoption and growth, self-organization, and impediment removal. But it takes time, just as it took time for you to become the developer or tester that you are today.

Next, give them a helping hand. How do you do that? Here are six ideas:

  • Speak up when something doesn’t look right. Sweeping issues under the rug never helps. Transparency is a key virtue of high-performing Agile teams. But use discretion when calling attention to issues; some things are better brought up in private, especially if it is specifically a shortcoming with the Scrum Master.
  • Encourage your Scrum Master. Good Scrum Masters encourage their teams often. But who encourages the Scrum Master? When you notice that the Scrum Master has done something to help the team, let them know they are appreciated. Yes, that’s part of their job, but we all need encouragement from time to time.
  • Brainstorm with your Scrum Master. Take time to think about what may be causing an issue, and partner with them to come up with a creative solution. No one person has all the answers. Two heads are always better than one.
  • Quit pretending you understand everything. Sometimes a communication is not clear, or a requirement is not well-defined. Moving ahead based purely on assumptions is dangerous and can create obstacles; obstacles that the Scrum Master may have to expend unneeded energy removing. Have some humility, ask questions, and confirm your assumptions.
  • Ask your Scrum Master to teach or refresh your team on a specific subject. One of the greatest motivators to personal growth is having to teach someone else about a subject.
  • Finally, step up and lead. Scrum teams don’t have a defined ‘leader,’ and the Scrum Master is not the team’s ‘leader’ either. Agile teams are self-organizing. Teams often need nudging in the right direction, but it’s OK (actually preferable) for team members to step up and lead different aspects of sprint activity.

The perfect Scrum Master doesn’t exist. But guess what – you are not perfect either. So next time you want to complain about your Scrum Master, take a step back and try to understand where they are in their journey, and lend a helping hand to keep them moving along on that path. The Scrum Master will benefit, the team will benefit, and your working relationships will improve. That’s a win-win-win scenario.

Originally posted on AgileAlliance.org

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About the Author

Dwight Kingdon
Program Director - Agile CoE

Dwight Kingdon is an Agile Coach at Mindtree. He is a thought leader in Agile methods and best practices, leveraging many years of software development, analysis, project management and leadership experience. Dwight has 25+ years of project management experience leading complex information technology projects, and over nine years of Agile/Scrum experience coaching and leading high profile, mission critical projects.

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