This article has been inspired by a former colleague who has recently taken up the mantle of Scrum Master. As a new Scrum Master you face very unfamiliar challenges and your success is very much based on your ability to utilise coaching and soft skills to gently guide your team and colleagues. As a bit of fun, I’ve used some quotes from Yoda to frame the top 10 tips for Scrum Masters:
10. “To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.”
–YODA, Dark Rendezvous
Scrum is an MRI scanner on the business you work with and the team you are coaching. The outcome of a successful Agile transformation is the exposure of issues that impede the progress of the team. The number one role of the Scrum Master is to remove these issues wherever possible or enlist help if the issues lie beyond the scope of the team.
Light the way to a brighter future for your team – remove impediments
9. “On many long journeys have I gone. And waited, too, for others to return from journeys of their own. Some return; some are broken; some come back so different only their names remain.”
–YODA, Dark Rendezvous
Each Sprint is a journey, as is the process of Agile transformation. The path of that journey is illuminated by the Sprint Burndown Chart which at once celebrates success and exposes a deviation from the path or Sprint Goal. Scrum is as heavy or light on metrics as you choose as a team. I would recommend that a Sprint Burndown Chart is created manually or reported daily if you have the software in place to do this. The chart should be displayed prominently on you whiteboard or other information radiator.
Take the journey with your team and share the path – Show the daily burn down
8. “To answer power with power, the Jedi way this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.”
–YODA, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “Lair of Grievous”
Know that you are a Servant Leader and you should be available at all time to serve the needs of your team and facilitate Scrum process. It’s highly likely that you will encounter Product Owners or other colleagues that enjoy the Command and Control approach to management. Command and Control is not the way of the Scrum Leader. You must find ways to protect the Scrum team from legacy power structures and guide colleagues by becoming an exemplar of Servant Leadership.
A key part of the Scrum process is Stacking the Backlog. The Product Owner is the only person who can prioritise the backlog, but the backlog is open to other people to add items and is owned by the team. As a Scrum Master, a great way to facilitate the output of useable high quality chunks of software is to facilitate Stacking the Backlog. The process of Stacking the Backlog is the breaking down of large User Stories to smaller Stories that can be delivered in a single Sprint. The Scrum Master should support the Product Owner.
Know that you are a Servant Leader – Facilitate Stacking the Backlog and support the Product Owner
7.”When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good, you will not, hmmm?”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
It’s important to have a sense of the legacy the team is leaving behind. Time and time again we encounter legacy code that is extremely difficult to maintain and re-develop. A good Scrum Master encourages Agile engineering practices which build quality in to the software development process at the start. Bear in mind that a hyper-productive team will make a hyper-productive mess. Simple practices such as Pair Programming produce code the team can be proud of.
Be mindful of the software legacy you are creating – Implement Agile Engineering practices.
6.”If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play.”
A key principle of Scrum is ‘Inspect and Adapt’. The Sprint Retrospective is the key meeting to examine the process the Team is using and enable the ability to provide continuous improvement. Empiricism is built in to Scrum right from the Daily Meeting, to the Burndown and finally the Sprint Retrospective.
Engage the team in continuous improvement – Facilitate the Sprint Retrospective meeting and act on it’s findings
5. “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Scrum is a team game and it’s vital that work is accepted by the team as a whole. Scrum helps to engage the individuals in the team and reduces the dissatisfaction that leads to people leaving the business. Inevitably over time people will move on. The concept that you need to grasp here is ‘Bus Factor’. Bus Factor is the number of team members who could leave before the team ceases to function. Teams that consist of specialists have a very high Bus Factor i.e. code ownership and knowledge of the codebase is held by one individual.
The team should take the next available Story not ‘cherry pick’ from their comfort zone – Develop a cross-functional team
4.”No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Scrum has a simple set of rules that make up a complex game. The implementation of those rules is straight-forward and the framework and roles should be followed closely. There is a tendency to try to cherry pick parts of the framework and do the bits that fit easily with the existing culture. Commonly you may come across Product Owners that are Scrum Leaders or Scrum teams that have Project Managers. Be clear that mixing roles or missing roles is like having a game of football without a referee or goalie – it just doesn’t work.
Follow the Scrum framework – Ensure the correct roles are in place to guarantee success
3.”Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing. How embarrassing.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Communication is key to the success of a Scrum team. The Daily Meeting ensure that at least once a day the team has the opportunity to let each other know how they are getting on. The Scrum Masters role is to facilitate the meeting. Be wary of the team reporting to you – they should be speaking to each other. If necessary make an excuse and don’t attend the meeting for a few sessions allowing the team the space to speak to each other.
Encourage communication – Ensure the Daily Meeting takes place
2.”Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The incisive nature of Scrum is intimidating to incumbent power structures and those that hide behind them. The role of the Scrum Master is to educate and act as an Agile Ambassador. The business benefits of adopting the framework need to be repeatedly emphasized and communicated to the wider business. Return on Investment and the continual release of reliable and working software are two of the key factors that should be explained regularly and clearly to everyone involved.
Become an Agile Ambassador – Communicate the benefits of Scrum
1. “When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.”
–YODA, Dark Rendezvous
The responsibility for the adoption and practice of Scrum, lies with the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master shows by example that the techniques and framework of Scrum is the most successful way to move forward. If as the Scrum Leader you start to miss elements out or take the line of least resistance that these cues will be picked up by the team and the business and the benefits of Scrum will not be realised.
Walk the walk and talk the talk – Take responsibility for the adoption and practice of Scrum
Thanks for looking over Yoda’s top ten tips for new Scrum Masters.
Here they again in summary:
10. Light the way to a brighter future for your team – Remove impediments
9. Take the journey with your team and share the path – Advertise the Daily Burndown
8. Know that you are a Servant Leader – Facilitate Stacking the Backlog
7. Be mindful of the software legacy you are creating – Implement Agile Engineering practices
6. Engage the team in continuous improvement – Facilitate Sprint Retrospectives, act on findings
5. The team should take the next Story not ‘cherry pick’ – Develop a cross-functional team
4. Follow the Scrum framework – Ensure the correct roles are in place to guarantee success
3. Encourage communication – Ensure the Daily Meeting takes place
2. Become an Agile Ambassador – Communicate the benefits of Scrum
1. Walk the walk and talk the talk – Take responsibility for the adoption and practice of Scrum
If none of that helps then watch – Sh*t bad Scrum Master say…
Have you got any hints and tips you’d like to add to Yoda’s list?