Agile has become one of the most popular and dynamic project-management styles among the software industry; and many non-software organizations have adopted it in their companies. It can be applied to many teams and project groups and extends far beyond software developers and engineers.
Scrum is one of the Agile Frameworks that is used for software and non-software product development. It is well-recognized among the engineering teams due to its immense benefits and easy approach among the groups and organization. Education, businesses of various kinds, use Scrum for their product development and operations and have achieved success in their respective fields. Hence, many organizations are using Agile frameworks such as Scrum for their software and non-software product development initiatives.
With organizations implementing more Scrum-related projects in their company, the rise of ScrumMaster has also increased. The Scrum is a framework that is easy to understand, but hard to implement. It’s the sole responsibility of the ScrumMaster to fully implement the Scrum framework and make sure it is successful in producing effective results.
Who is a ScrumMaster?
A ScrumMaster is a professional who is responsible for helping the Scrum team, motivating them, identifying and tacklings resistances, and successfully developing and delivering the products. He acts as a servant-leader and makes sure that all the Scrum practices are implemented and works with the Scrum team to continue to improve them.
The ScrumMaster has many vital roles to play, of which some of the critical ones are:
- To serve as the glue that holds the entire Scrum Team
- Support the whole team even if not participating in regular decision making and the Daily Scrum Meetings
- Help in the building a robust Agile team
- Facilitates Scrum Events
- Helps Product Owner to deliver maximum value to the customers
A ScrumMaster may face challenges that need to be addressed with more straightforward and simple solutions. As a ScrumMaster, here are a few challenges that you may overcome. If solved would make your job much more comfortable.
1. Keeping everything Time-boxed
One of the essential aspects is time-boxing the Scrum Events by restricting the maximum amount of time used to concentrate on a particular Sprint. For example, the Daily Scrum Meeting ideally should not exceed 15 minutes. Still, practically the meeting gets longer than expected by either lack of clarity of its intended purpose, distractions, and individuals who take-over the meeting. This challenge is one of the classic ScrumMaster practical challenges that you would come across.
Mitigate: Start small, for example, the Daily Scrum Meetings, and help your team understand that we are experimenting with following a strict time-box for this meeting beforehand. The team members may be taking a definite amount of time to speak, and also they get to prepare their points to address before coming to the meeting, which would make the meetings shorter. This way, you can start implementing it to other Scrum Events once this method shows definite results or keeps making small modifications to any technique works to expand to other services. Some teams have used a timer, which helped them to timebox events better. Thinking outside the box and bringing fun to the workplace, have made timeboxing much easier with global teams.
2. Lack of Agile awareness for the teams
As a ScrumMaster, you would expect that your team is well-versed in Agile foundations and principles and thoroughly knows the Scrum Framework. Often, in many situations, few Scrum team members do not understand the way of processing or development and may face difficulties with it. Even if a single member is facing an issue, this could ultimately affect the whole process and can slow down the development and delivery time. It is one of the challenges of the ScrumMaster to help Scrum Teams deliver the product on-time irrespective of the team member’s coordination.
Mitigate: Start identifying the problems faced by your Scrum Team and talk and listen to them individually. More often than not, many people would face difficulties in similar areas. You can hold up training sessions and ensure that all your Scrum Team understands that concept thoroughly. As the ScrumMaster is considered a person who would have a better knowledge of Agile and Scrum, you would gain credibility and trust among your team members and earn more respect. You could also create awareness to the stakeholders, thus creating a mark with your stakeholders.
3. ScrumMaster as an Admin
The ScrumMaster is tasked with booking meetings, scheduling events, taking notes, and inviting people to ceremonies. This is not the primary function of a ScrumMaster and may seem like an additional task taken up. With already a dozen of role expectations, another work task may seem like a burden which you would not prefer to do it.
Mitigate: Think of these tasks to communicate with people who are upstream and downstream to the team. This challenge that you are facing is all about your perspective of how you are looking at it. You should consider this task to connect with most of the people and build your relationships. Use it as a shared responsibility and communicate the learnings and knowledge and be known as a person recognized in the community and who can identify and solve “tricky-problems.”
4. Managing Role expectations
The management can have expectations like higher productivity, making team work harder, statistics, higher business value, increased team ability to solve problems, etc. Sometimes all these expectations can come from different managers. It would make your life a little hard as a ScrumMaster, and even harder for you to achieve success in your organization.
Your management may also expect a hundred things that may be out of your domain, and it is up to you to manage these expectations.
Mitigate: You have to gain clarity with your reporting manager and the principal sponsor of the project and clearly understand what is expected of this role and also understand what are the parts that fit-out of your domain. When you gain clarity of the things that you can achieve and the things that are out of your area, you make a list of these things and present it to the other managers in the meeting and discuss your progress and list of things they can expect from you. You may still want to go beyond the role expectations as long as it is adding value to the organization.
5. Getting Timely Resolution/ Fix for a problem
Timely fix or resolution for a problem has a significant impact on the team’s performance and makes a big difference in product delivery. Timely delivery of Sprints entrusts faith in customers and gains time to develop other Sprints to manage the timelines. As a ScrumMaster, you are responsible for the timely delivery of Sprints by effectively identifying and solving the software’s resistances or bugs. Your team members may not understand the importance of the appropriate fixing of obstacles. The burden falls on your shoulders for identifying, solving, and delivering the sprint within the time allotted. This is a tricky situation, and you may feel you are alone in your team in handling these resistances.
Mitigate: You should consider getting help from people outside your team if you feel you can’t have enough support. You can seek connected groups and individuals to build up trust and relationships with shared understanding. Doing this early while adopting Agile can save up a lot of time and help you gain advice from people who are experienced and significantly reduce the amount and severity of obstacles that affect the team.
6. Constraints, Constraints, and Constraints
In every organization, there are constraints that we perceive, such as one that can be removed if there is a shift in mindset or purpose, and real constraints such as those which may or may not be removed with great effort. One example of these constraints is distributed teams. If the Scrum Team is distributed geographically, there may be network issues, meeting delays, different time zones, cultural and regional differences, etc. Other constraints can also be associated with people- their thoughts, behavior, and styles; process- reporting, steps, and hierarchy; and technology- its applications, tools, and systems. All of these constraints may be a significant obstacle that would stand in your way of becoming a successful ScrumMaster.
Mitigate: These constraints may seem endless, and you may seem you cannot control it, however, begin by listing out all the obstacles that you are facing clearly and write down what exactly is causing you the problem and may block the team’s performance. There may be numerous things in that list, that’s why it is essential to prioritize the things that are bothering you the most and use a method called the rule of 3 where you pick out three things that have to be addressed. You can allow more things, but don’t make it the same as your previous list. Now discuss the prioritized list to your sponsors and other managers and effectively find ways to reduce and eliminate them. Next time, you can bring up other constraints and eventually keep solving them until you adapt yourself and become a successful ScrumMaster.
Many of these challenges are due to the structure of the organization and people’s behavior, which would be hard to overcome. Seek-out like-minded Agile leaders and participants that value empowerment, transparency, and other values, and try to work with them. You could also seek advice from them and understand how they have overcome the challenges thrown at them and how they ultimately outshined it and reached today’s position. Most of the time, not everyone has the answer to everything, and it is up to you to find out the solution for your challenge. Not losing hope and working towards your goal, and effectively fighting your problems would make you a person who would look up to and also make you a Great ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster’s role is challenging, but at the same time, but all the challenges would ultimately be worth going through and challenging yourself and others. It is with the same notion that you should go through these challenges and see them as opportunities to grow in your field, and eventually helps the Scrum Teams and the organizations.
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