You have been appointed as the Scrum Master for a Scrum team. The project is about to start and you are expected to lead it by using the principles of Scrum methodology which is being widely talked about as one of the most efficient ways of completing projects. You may or may not have been trained in the methodology (if it is the latter, then you really need to talk to a Scrum expert right away and at least get the basics right) but the success of the project hinges on you. Though Scrum is a simple methodology, but implementing it the right away often proves difficult for project managers who have spent years implementing projects using traditional waterfall methodologies. However, help is at hand. There are some important aspects, which if you keep in mind, will help you in your project. Before we begin, let us recap what the Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge™ has to say about the role of a Scrum Master:
The Scrum Master is the “servant leader” of the Scrum Team who moderates and facilitates team interactions as team coach and motivator. The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the team has a productive work environment by guarding the team from external influences, removing any obstacles, and enforcing Scrum principles, aspects, and processes.
With this in mind, let us look at the biggest pitfalls which a Scrum Master SHOULD AVOID:
1. Lack of focus on the team members: Unlike traditional project methodologies which focus almost solely on roles, responsibilities, structure and processes, the focus in Scrum is on the individuals. It is the contribution of the individual team members which is key to completing the deliverables quickly and with high quality. Your job is to facilitate their jobs and motivate them, not bog them down with unnecessary documentation or rules. Keep the team motivated – go out together for lunch once in a while. Have breakfast together. Do whatever your company culture to create a bond amongst the team members. Curb your instinct to rely on tools and learn to rely on the capabilities of your team members – you will be pleasantly surprised.
2. Conduct long standup meetings: This is far more common than one would imagine. Traditional projects typically have long meetings which rarely last for less than an hour. Indeed, the default setting for many meeting schedulers is 1 hour. Scrum advises strictly against it and for good reason. When meetings are conducted daily, the focus has to be on discussing issues and any additional resources the team might need. Do not get sidelined and stick to the agenda. Make sure everyone stands and more importantly, make sure that you keep standing. This acts as an auto time check. The longer you stand, the more tired you feel and it forces you to focus and wrap things up quickly. However, if you keep making the team stand for longer than 20 minutes, the team’s attitude towards Scrum as a methodology might become negative, which will be disastrous for the project.
3. Not keeping the whiteboard updated: Team members will slip up in updating the status of their tasks from time to time – that is human nature. It is critical that you do not let that become a habit and make sure that the whiteboard is updated before every meeting. Without this, the daily standups will involve wasting precious time in updating the whiteboard by individual members rather than discussing issues. The meetings will end up being longer and disenchantment will start setting in.
Of course there are other aspects as well about managing Scrum teams about which you can read more in the SBOK™ Guide, but keeping the above 3 aspects at the top of your mind will see you through the toughest phases of your Scrum project.