Top Tips to Become a Great Scrum Master

Jan 8, 2020 | Project Management

Professionals who are familiar with agile software development methodologies may have heard about the role known as the scrum master. Initially, the title of the position might seem like a silly character in a game. However, in reality, it is a critical job centered around charisma and leadership.

A scrum master has the job of implementing the Scrum methodology over the course of a project. Since Scrum is a framework designed for complex, high-value projects, it is widely used among many software teams to manage and implement these projects.

The popularity of this technique can be attested by the fact that 89% of the agile users utilize the scrum methodology. However, the implementation of scrum is not possible without the scrum master.

With that said, not everyone who knows the scrum approach can be a good scrum master. Scrum masters become more proficient in their role only through experience and pursuing further knowledge. In this article, we will discuss the top tips on how to become a great scrum master.

Don’t Commit without Consultation

In contrast to traditional project managers, scrum masters do not have the authority to validate change requests without consulting their team. Scrum masters who are new to their roles should consult their team in all situations, regardless of how doable a change request may seem to them.

It also means that they cannot commit to deliverables, team deadlines, or anything similar without discussing it with their team first. With that said, it is not necessary to call a meeting for the entire team every time the product owner or other stakeholders ask for a change request.

A number of teams allow selective members to validate change requests on their behalf. Therefore, if you want to cater to a feature request, you can ask some of these members if these changes are possible within a certain timeframe.

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Photographer: QuickOrder | Source: Unsplash

Facilitate the Team

A scrum master’s job is not to appear good in front of the product owner. Instead, they are responsible for facilitating the team that the management has assigned to them. The only way you can shine in the role of the scrum master is by doing all you can to facilitate the team and help them produce the results the PO desires.

Opposed to traditional project teams, teams in the scrum methodology have sufficient autonomy, especially on the change requests approved by the team. However, you still need to fill in the leadership role in the team to achieve the tasks assigned to them.

Don't Over-Rely on Agile Rules

You must remember that neither agile nor scrum has an unchangeable set of rules for completing projects. When the end product has users, you should create user stories based on their interaction. However, there is no restriction on whether these stories have to follow the same pattern as all user stories in agile.

Similarly, if the client specifically asks for you to deliver an estimate, you should do it after consulting your team. However, it is not necessary to deliver estimates unless the client asks for them.

Don’t Shy Away from Experimentation

Promoting innovation in products is also an important principle of agile. Therefore, if the situation allows, don’t be afraid to experiment with new things. It may seem risky at first, but if it can improve the end product, it is worth the try.

You can also incorporate experimentation in how you plan sprints for your team. If your team is currently making sprints in the duration of a single sprint, you can always experiment with breaking down tasks in a sprint and plan them in a weeklong or three-week-long duration. Experimentation might not be popular with everyone, but it is the only way to discover innovative ways to improve how effectively your team can deliver software components.

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Photographer: Adam Wilson | Source: Unsplash

Treat Team Members and Stakeholders as Peers

Both stakeholders and team members are an important part of the project development, and each of these groups brings a unique perspective for the project. This is why you must value both of these groups equally.

If either of these groups tries to enforce their preferences on the other part, the entire company can suffer because of it. You have to act as the bridge between both of these teams and help one group understand the perspective of the other team.

As a scrum master, you are responsible for making the development team understand why the stakeholders need certain business requirements within a certain deadline. On the other hand, if achieving a given deadline is considered impossible by the development team, you also need to convey this to the stakeholders.

Be the Supporting Figure Your Team Needs

Being a scrum master, one of the most critical jobs is to save your team from an overburdening project. You need to ensure that the stakeholders do not demand too much from your team, and their deadlines are achievable. If you overburden your team with work, it can reflect on the quality of the product in the end.

With that said, you should also be wary of complacency within your own team. As an agile team, it is your job to find room for improvement constantly. Nevertheless, it should never come at the cost of the quality of the product.

Handle Failure Well

When you are pursuing a project on strict deadlines, it’s possible that your team is not always able to deliver its required goals in the given timeline. While it may be frustrating to discover that your team failed to deliver a given component in the given timeframe, you should handle it calmly.

Furthermore, you should also remember that not every time your team falls short of an objective is because of their own mistakes. You should also try to look beyond your team to understand why a certain objective wasn’t fulfilled.

Being a scrum master is no easy job. It takes exceptional people’s skills, patience, in-depth knowledge of the scrum methodology and considerable experience to excel at being a scrum master. However, if you follow these tips, it can make your job a lot easier.

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