When various teams in an organization embark on an Agile journey, the transformation seems complex. And the bigger the organization, the more complex it gets in terms of enterprise products, inter-departmental processes, the hierarchies, and old legacy, a traditional mindset, etc. This is where the Scrum Framework can be more effective as Scrum helps to solve complex adaptive problems iteratively and incrementally.
One of the key services a ScrumMaster can provide to the organization is building learning and sharing culture. During the Agile transformation journey, each team learns from its mistakes while overcoming the impediments. A ScrumMaster can develop a learning culture by leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption. Besides, a ScrumMaster can also work with other ScrumMasters to improve the efficacy of the application of Scrum in the organization.
In this article, let us explore how a ScrumMaster serves an organization, along with some key takeaways you can use to develop your arsenal as an aspiring ScrumMaster.
ScrumMaster’s role is often not understood in its entirety
Presently, several organizations hire Agile coaches. The expectations are to coach at the organization level, train teams, coach the leadership to embrace an Agile mindset, help other departments, make an organizational change, and help move the organization towards agility.
One question that arises is: Why can’t ScrumMasters perform these responsibilities at an organizational level? Well, one of the reasons could be – the ScrumMaster role is often not understood completely and is frequently perceived to be focusing on Scrum Teams only. And that the organization expects ScrumMasters to work only with the Development Team and Product Owner to improve their efficiency, remove impediments, facilitate Scrum Events and help do Scrum right.
Other reasons could be the ScrumMaster is too junior to play such a crucial coaching role and may lack the right skills and experience etc.
ScrumMasters are generally employed in a hierarchical organization or in an organization that is moving towards agility, and their position in the organization is sometimes too low to be heard. But as a ScrumMaster, you need to recognize yourself. Make your role visible, make attempts to be heard, make attempts that will bring a positive change.
According to the Scrum Guide, a ScrumMaster serves at three levels:
- Product Owner
- Development Team
How can a ScrumMaster serve an organization?
Plan Scrum implementations:
Scrum can be implemented in all projects (product initiatives) and units (or departments). The concept behind Scrum is simple, at least seems so – It is a framework in which multidisciplinary teams function as a unit to delivery product Increments early and continuously. While Scrum adds simplicity and agility to an organization, it might be challenging to implement.
A ScrumMaster is responsible for planning Scrum implementations in an organization. Here are the steps that a ScrumMaster can take:
- Draw up a transformation plan for other departments such as Sales, Marketing, Legal, Finance etc.
- Help define ground rules and implement Scrum in those units.
- Train teams on Agile mindset, Scrum framework etc.
- Detect and expose organizational risks.
- Discuss good practices and success stories that worked well in the initial teams. Expand those good practices to other teams. Discuss failure stories for critical learning.
Help stakeholders understand and enact Scrum:
The ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. To do this, the ScrumMaster needs to ensure the stakeholders understand the Scrum theory, practices, and rules. This includes creating awareness and setting expectations for stakeholders about Scrum, along with planning how to implement Scrum, and getting necessary support as needed.
While setting expectations, discuss the following:
- What to expect, what will be the deliverables.
- What will be communicated (and how).
- What will be their level of engagement, including when and for how long.
- What is Agile mindset, how to develop it etc.
- Also that Scrum is not a silver bullet. It may not solve all the problems, but helps identify the problem very early in the cycle.
Causing change that increases productivity:
A ScrumMaster should always look for changes that can increase the productivity of the Scrum Team. Scrum is based on a continuous improvement philosophy, where the primary objective of the ScrumMaster is to boost performance. But at the same time, the ScrumMaster also needs to give his team the time to think about how to do the work, be realistic about their commitments, and learn from their failures and successes.
The ScrumMaster needs to make sure the work is accelerated creatively, along with paying attention to how the team is spending its time. Who else could be a great coach helping the teams and organizations to maintain a sustainable pace other than the ScrumMaster.
Work with other ScrumMasters:
Larger organizations developing complex enterprise products have the necessity to look beyond one Scrum Team. Multiple Scrum Teams may require multiple ScrumMasters though there is no one to one correlation in many cases.
A ScrumMaster needs to help other ScrumMasters to ensure the effective application of Scrum in the organization. It is essential to collaborate with fellow ScrumMasters to discuss and share objectives and challenges. A ScrumMaster can serve the organization by closely working with other ScrumMasters to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards achieving unified transformation goals.
I have seen ‘Community of Practice’ (CoP) working beautifully for ScrumMasters to get together, share knowledge, success and failure stories – so that the overall learning cycle is shortened for the organization.
As a ScrumMaster, you should become a Change Agent for your organization, make minuscule improvements, present the results, and make them transparent. Treat your organization as a holistic system, listen to its needs, and help remove organizational impediments, plan and adopt Scrum.
A ScrumMaster is the brand ambassador of Scrum in the organization.
About the Author:
The author, Suresh Konduru, is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) certified by Scrum Alliance, and is based out of Hyderabad, India. He has more than 22 years of working experience in Fortune 500 companies globally.
He conducts workshops for Scrum Alliance flagship certifications such as Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). These are interactive zero Power-Point sessions conducted across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi and other cities in India; as well as in USA, Europe, APAC regions. Suresh uses real-world examples, group learning activities to make the workshops learning as well as fun. Trained more than 7000 students globally.
Suresh also consults for Fortune 500 organizations in product development, Agile transformation and change management initiatives.
Suresh runs ‘ASK’ program – a lifelong free mentoring program for his students registered through PremierAgile.
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