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5 Effective Dos & Don’ts of a Scrum Master

With the advent of Agile Methodology, many organizations have adopted Agile and started implementing the Scrum framework. Scrum is one of the most simple frameworks which any organization can adopt and learn faster. As a company that has been using traditional software methodologies in the past, adapting to Agile Methods becomes a challenge. There would be many resistances among the team members and other members of the organization for ways and methods introduced to them via Scrum. The Project Manager who was the sole person accountable in the traditional methods is replaced by other practitioners who make sure that every person in the team is accountable for the work done. Initially, the team members may not understand how Scrum works. Also, as the process of development begins with Scrum, there would be many instances where the team requires guidance. This is where the role of the Scrum Master becomes crucial. As a Scrum Master, there are many things that you are expected to do and there are others which you should avoid. In this article, we discuss the Dos and Don’ts of Scrum Master following which you would become an effective and efficient Scrum Master. 


Who is a Scrum Master?

The Scrum Master is a true leader who upholds the understanding of Scrum in the team and encourages the team to practice Agility. The Scrum Master ensures that the team follows empiricism and delivers the products accordingly. The Scrum Master is also responsible for coaching, teaching, facilitating, and mentoring the team so that the full potential of the team is achieved. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner to create the product goal and the purpose of developing the product. Scrum Master also ensures that Scrum is planned according to the requirement of the product and the Scrum meetings are facilitated properly. The efficiency and productivity of Scrum is also the Scrum Master’s responsibility. While these things are simple to understand, there are many things that you are supposed to do as a Scrum Master and many things which you have to avoid. 

Do’s and Don’ts of a Scrum Master

Do’s of a Scrum Master

Here are the five Do’s of a Scrum Master

1. Be an Observer

As a Scrum Master, your job is to help the team members understand how the process of Scrum works. However, you are not supposed to micromanage everything the team is doing as it would not be productive to you as well as the team. The team may not have the freedom for creativity and the product could not be developed to its best. Hence, as a Scrum Master, you have to learn to be an observer and should teach the team to resolve their problems on their own. Every time any situation arises, the team should work together and brainstorm different ideas with little support from the Scrum Master. 

As an observer, you are allowing the team to become independent and self-managing. When you are always spoon-feeding solutions to the team where they do not have the freedom to think, they do not grow in the work environment. You are expected to be an observer and not judgemental. Noting down things you observe in the team and sharing the areas on which the team has to work on, is one of the most daunting and crucial tasks for the Scrum Master. 

2. Become a Transparency Facilitator

If you have worked as a Project Manager in traditional methodologies, the team may not have had access to the project progress. However, in Scrum, the team has full access to any type of information relating to the project. Maintaining this transparency about the project across the team and the stakeholders is also an essential task of the Scrum Master. In Scrum, maintaining transparency also means that the Scrum Team members should regularly update the status, progress reports, and requirements of the project. This information should be easily accessible for the stakeholders so that they do not have to reach out every time to get the information. Transparency between the stakeholders and the Scrum Team would significantly reduce the friction between both parties. Transparency also helps the team to track continuous improvement and helps the team to get the best outcome possible. When the Scrum Master makes sure that the process is transparent, the team members get valuable input from various other authorities which helps them learn more and perform better. 

3. Be a Technical Coach

The Scrum Guide does not specify that a person has to have the technical knowledge to become a Scrum Master. However, a great Scrum Master could also coach the team on engineering practices. There are many arguments that anyone can become a Scrum Master; which is true to some extent. Nevertheless, having technical knowledge about the work would help the person establish a connection with the team and help them understand their concerns more thoroughly. If the Developers are facing an issue with the work, they would want an expert opinion to tackle the situation. Hence, having technical knowledge and becoming a technical coach would be an added advantage for becoming a great Scrum Master. It is not mandatory to know in-depth about the engineering practices, but having an overall idea and knowing how the process works is always encouraged.

4. Be a Facilitator

We always address the term facilitator with Scrum Master as it is one of the primary roles of a Scrum Master. They facilitate Scrum Events and team decisions and help everyone stay on the same page. Scrum Masters ensure that the Scrum Events are taking place and are fruitful and productive. They should know the difference between facilitation, hosting meetings, and becoming a mediator. Scrum Masters should initiate conversations with the team members with open-ended questions. They should make sure that they are not using leading and close-ended questions. Open-ended questions give freedom for the team members to propose their creativity and may also help in decision making and planning a Sprint. Another role of a Scrum Master is to provide structure to support dialogue and facilitation. 

5. Become a Lean-Agile Practitioner

It is easier said than done to become a Lean-Agile practitioner. As a Scrum Master, if you want to change within your team and organization, it has to begin with you. You have to be a role model to the team members and need to embrace Agile values and principles. You have to apply the system and learn thinking while making decisions. You do not have to use only Scrum; to be Agile, you have to learn about other frameworks and know how it functions. Having experiences with a few popular frameworks and practices would enhance your credibility as a Scrum Master. The idea of being a Lean-Agile practitioner is to be a life-long learner and know that we do not have all there is to know. 

6. Become a Certified Scrum Master

While being certified is not an absolute necessity to become a Scrum Master, it is always great so that you learn all your roles and responsibilities and work effectively and efficiently. Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org are two prominent organizations that have excellent training programs. So better become a Certified Scrum Master or a Professional Scrum Master and gain that extra credit in your Scrum Master’s journey. 

Don’ts of a Scrum Master

Here are the five Don’ts of a Scrum Master

1. Don’t be the only Decision Maker

One of the most important principles of Agile is that any decision taken for the project should not come from a single person or any particular leader, in this case, a Scrum Master. You are not solely responsible for deciding everything for the project. The team members also have an equal right to give their opinions and understand where they are headed with the project. Rather than coming up with conclusions, you have to listen to everyone’s views to get a better outcome. It is the responsibility of a Scrum Master to make a team self-managed rather than the team members depending on the Scrum Master. There may be instances where individually the team members are great, but they cannot function properly together. In these cases, the Scrum Master should make the connections between the team by team-building exercises such that proper communication between the team takes place. Hence, the opinion of the team should be more significant than the decision of the Scrum Master.

2. Don’t be Biased

As a Scrum Master, you are an Agile leader who the team members look up to and come for advice whenever they are in any sticky situations. Scrum Masters are called facilitators because they resolve conflicts between team members. It is the Scrum Master’s job to ensure that there is minimum friction between the team members and effective communication takes place. Hence, the Scrum Master themself should not be biased towards a specific team member. Each member always has an eye on the Scrum Master as to how they behave to each team member and you must remain neutral in not only conflicts but also during process development tasks. Scrum Masters are advised to conduct conflict resolution meetings such that they identify the loopholes or find the problem by identifying its roots. You should always find the root cause and eliminate it as simply detaining the team members or being strict would not do any good to the team members or the project. 

3. Don’t Represent the Developers

The Developers of the Scrum Team should have their own identity and should not be represented by a Scrum Master. The Developers should learn to be independent and self-represent themselves on all occasions. The Scrum Master is not a coordinator between the team members. The team members should have effective communication among themselves and should not depend on the Scrum Master for basic information about other team members’ status of the project. Hence, when new Developers come together, the Scrum Master should first know about each team member and help the team know each other. The basic idea is to empower new individuals to become independent and teach them how Scrum and Agile work. 

4. Don’t Micromanage

In the traditional methods, the Project Manager used to overlook every step of the team member’s work. However, in Agile methodology, there is no concept of micromanaging the team members. They are given a certain amount of responsibility such that a sense of ownership is developed. Each person is accountable for the project as there is no single person who is responsible for the project. This inculcates accountability and trust among each team member which helps them work together and produce valuable products. As a Scrum Master, you have to trust your team members and provide them with a sense of accountability. Do not be a leader who is always curious about others’ business and does not give freedom to their employees to go about with their work. You should not get behind everyone to ask about any task as the team member should themselves submit it before the deadline. When you give personal space to the team members, it is more flexible for them and better results are achieved as their productivity is boosted. 

5. Don’t be a Project Manager

Most of the Don’ts reflect that a Scrum Master should not control and command the team and should ultimately focus on giving free space to the team member. As a Scrum Master, you should have eagle eyes and know where the project is headed and whether there are any dysfunctions to tackle. You should not do the work assigned to the team but only guide them in how to do that work. The role should not be confused with that of a Project Manager where they direct the team, collect status, compile reports, and share it with stakeholders. The Scrum Master should take different perspectives from the team members and should not directly work as taskmasters. The Scrum Master should focus on enhancing transparency in the team and encourage them to practice empiricism.

Conclusion

A Scrum Master is a true leader who facilitates the Scrum Team in various Scrum Events and the development process. They are Agile leaders who need to have all the qualities of leadership so that they can help the team to reach their full potential. Being an expert in their field, having technical knowledge, being a transparency facilitator, and being a life-long learner is a few of the things which a Scrum Master has to do. Not micromanaging and being a Project Manager, and being the sole decision-maker are a few things that Scrum Master are not supposed to do. All of these things are known clearly when the person steps into the shoes of a Scrum Master. Experience is the best teacher and knowing these points during your course as a Scrum Master would surely help you become a great Scrum Master. 

References
  1. https://www.nilc.co.uk/what-makes-a-good-scrum-master-the-dos-and-donts-of-the-scrum-masters-role/
  2. https://www.c-sharpcorner.com/UploadFile/230635/effective-scrum-master
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dos-donts-scrum-hadi-hatif/
  4. https://geekbot.com/blog/how-to-be-a-good-scrum-master/




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Author

Paula

Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.