Can the whole organization benefit from scrum master’s services? … How?
The scrum master helps the organization by supporting scrum adoption, participating in scrum implementation, and ensuring continuous improvement. Scrum masters support cross-team events, design and implement processes, and build a knowledge exchange culture.
There is different type and scale of engagement depending on whether an organization is just starting to adopt agile methodologies or is already in the game.
Supporting scrum adoption
Leading, training, and coaching the organization – wrote Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in their Scrum Guide.
As I see it…
The scrum master can lead the scrum adoption, but the management must empower the change.
It has to be a transparent decision so everyone knows that changes are on their way. Without the support of the management, scrum is just an idea that will be easily rejected or in the best case – postponed.
So, the firm wants to work in scrum. They hired you – a scrum master to lead. The training and coaching can begin.
Never do any change alone. First, be sure to have agile-sympathetic people on your side. They will naturally support you when it comes to convincing the skeptics. It is essential that every manager on every level understands the pros and cons of the agile way of work. Their attitude is an example for every other employee.
Training – this is teaching scrum framework. Everyone must know:
- how this framework works
- what roles will we play
- who is going to participate, how, and at what stage
- what is incremental development all about
- how to build feature teams
- how to estimate scrum product development
- how to work transparently – what tools and attitudes do we need
- how scrum fits in SDLC traditional model
- how much does it cost – scrum is more expensive because of more roles and more time spent on planning and inspect and adapt sessions.
Business people ask business questions. Be prepared to answer those types of questions too.
A question like: why do they have to waste time on those “ceremonies” instead of coding?
Explaining the empirical approach. A scrum master should help understand and enact an empirical approach to complex work.
This applies to employees and stakeholders as they must collaborate at different stages to enable inspection and adaptation.
To understand the empirical approach you should explain the cynefin framework. It shows clearly the different conditions in which we work. If we recognize the conditions we can choose a suitable method.
Scrum framework is used in complex conditions, in simple conditions all the ceremonies are just a waste of your time. That is the answer to the ceremonies as a waste question. We have to invest time in planning and improving and aligning. If we don’t we will waste more time in doing the same thing twice and risk more bugs in the process.
A complex system is a system in which there are no clear links between cause and effect as they change over time – these can be detected through experimentation. If your work domain is complex – the agile way is a good choice.
Coaching – this is helping people to solve their doubts and concerns about the change. The advantage of coaching is that people find their own solutions. You can’t give them your own. That means that the training about agile and scrum should be already done. The adoption decision should be already made. After all, you don’t want anyone to come up with – not doing scrum 😛
If you are expected to lead scrum adoption – you have to be self-confident, bold, and most of all… well-prepared.
Participating in scrum implementation
This is the time in which scrum is set into motion.
The implementation must be planned across the organization. Should we make the change all at once if we have multiple teams? It really depends on the organization and the dependencies between teams.
If there are a lot of dependencies between teams they should all adopt and implement a new way of work simultaneously.
The number of scrum masters should be matched accordingly to the number and size of the teams. There is a lot to do when advising inexperienced developers on how to work in an agile way. I would say that at the beginning of scrum implementation, 2 teams per scrum master is the max.
With multiple teams, the coordination and knowledge exchange between scrum masters is relevant to scrum implementation’s success.
Ensuring continuous improvement
This is for both types of organizations: aspiring to work the agile way and those who are already in the game.
The goal of continuous improvement is to continually enhance the quality and efficiency of a product, process, or service. That leads to better customer satisfaction, and increased productivity.
“Hey Michael, that’s what sprint retrospectives are for, right?”
Yes, but every process in the organization needs designing and regular evaluation. Those are also beyond the team. Scrum masters work with the process so they are the ones who should feel obligated to help in finding improvements.
After designing a process, or taking it over after someone – you have to evaluate its effectiveness. It is like designing a product actually. You take requirements from clients on how they want to work. You quickly make the simplest version and go live with a small group to gather feedback. Then, with valuable information, start improving with the Deming cycle: Plan, Do Check, Act.
- Plan – Identify the problem or area for improvement, and define specific goals and objectives for the improvement effort.
- Do – Implement and test a solution or change to the process or system.
- Check – Measure and analyze the results of the change, and compare them to the original goals and objectives.
- Act – Based on the results of the analysis, either standardize the new process or system or repeat the PDCA cycle to make further improvements.
I’m talking about the process but of course, it can be applied to anything – from personal growth, through the way the meetings are facilitated, guests are welcomed in the headquarters, exit interviews, and more.
The key thing is to figure out how to measure the effectiveness of an improvement. If you have solid data for your analysis you can base decisions on it. The metric should be chosen accordingly to the goal you want to achieve.
- Goal – you want to deliver faster
- Improvement – you take a shortcut
- Metric – you measure time before and after the improvement
Note that an improvement can have undesired effects – in our example, the shortcut can put your vehicle at risk of failure due to the bad technical condition of the road. Those risks should be taken into consideration.
To improve continuously have a registry of things you are working on, plan evaluation dates, and execute relentlessly.
Helping an organization with scrum implemented
And now some ideas on how to add to an organization that has already scrum in motion.
Support cross-team events
There are many opportunities for different teams to work with one another. The scrum master should spot those, make sure those meetings make sense and will bring value, and encourage team members to attend and be active.
The Scrum Master can facilitate collaboration between teams, organize cross-team meetings, and establish communication channels between teams.
It is important to ensure alignment between teams by facilitating the creation of shared goals and objectives, and by providing guidance or coaching on how teams can work together effectively to achieve these goals. This can involve working with Product Owners to align product backlogs, and helping teams to understand how their work fits into the broader context of the organization.
Specific cross-team events examples:
- Integration tests
- Communities of practice
- Knowledge sharing
- Social meetings
The Scrum Master can also help to identify opportunities for improvement and work with teams to implement changes that improve collaboration and efficiency. This can involve analyzing data on team performance, identifying areas for improvement, and facilitating the implementation of changes.
Design and implement processes
There is a lot going on in an agile organization. Some processes work, some are absent and some are just waiting for improvement. Here are a few examples of fields in which a process-oriented scrum master can aid an organization.
Cross-team dependencies management
Often there are many dependencies between teams. The scrum master can help to establish how to address everyone’s needs and keep an eye on how the collaboration is going. Building communication channels, and facilitating meetings for a better understanding of mutual demands are some of the key things a scrum master can help with. Also tracking the progress of dependent work is useful if we want to make sure everything goes according to plan or recognize delays as soon as possible.
In complicated organizational structures, any change in an IT environment can cause risk or may result in a disaster. Changes should be properly planned and commenced with the knowledge and agreement of all the people impacted by that change. We as an organization have to be ready for all kinds of changes. A couple of change examples:
- New version releases
- Critical access approvals
- New procedures
A scrum master who sees bugs in the change management process or has an idea of how it should work can really help the organization.
We should take risks in business but it has to be calculated and managed. If the organization has no risk management process in place and you happen to have the knowledge about it – go out there and help. It is crucial for every organization to take risks consciously. Tasks that emerge from risk analysis as a mitigation method can be a part of a product backlog – so you can help the product owner at the same time.
There are many dependencies between development and operations. If you see communication obstacles, unnecessary delays, and other dysfunctions – be proactive and do something about it. Propose a process that will save time, and nerves and will make your organization work like a machine.
That’s a process that has to be present in all organizations.
- Is it effective?
- Do people get all information they need?
- Do they have all access on time?
- Is there a structure in place, or improvisation?
- Is there a buddy that will take care of the new one in the first sprints?
Those and other questions should be answered yes. If they’re not – you can propose a process that will make the onboarding procedure pleasant and effective. A simple checklist of things you always do during the onboarding process is a good start. Remember not to overwhelm new colleagues with all the information at once – consider a plan that will gradually deploy people to the team’s world.
How to build a knowledge exchange culture
Lead by example – share your skills.
Teach scrum and go beyond – maybe you have some other skills, for example, you know how to make a superb presentation. By the way, I made a post about it so if you don’t check it out: Presentation on a sprint review. Communication workshops.
Or maybe You are also a Git Flow master and You can help some developers with their version control process.
Whatever it may be – go beyond your scrum role and beyond your team and inspire others on how to share knowledge.
Recognize the needs.
You are close to your developers. Their needs should be transparent to you and if their not – make sure you know what your developers need to be more efficient.
Maybe they need to learn a new tool or good practices in using one – find someone in the organization who can help and convince them to share knowledge.
Find people with vast competencies and teaching skills.
This is the best combination of all but also rare. If You can find a diamond like this, many people in the organization could benefit from learning from this mentor. Be proactive and show the benefits of growing skills in the organization to convince this mentor to share and teach.
Organize communities of practice.
CoP’s are special kinds of meetings in which people from the same specialization share knowledge, and good practices and work together to upskill and establish standards.
Show all positive results to encourage more knowledge shearing events.
People have their goals – it is not easy for anyone to take a couple of extra hours a sprint to teach someone instead of working. You have to show the benefits of others being better and better in what they do. For example, faster future development, fewer bugs, and therefore more satisfied clients.
Show results to management – gain their support to strengthen the initiative.
The benefits not only motivate mentors – it is also important for the management to know that time spent on improving employees’ skills was worth it. If events like CoP’s are supported by managers they will be easier to organize.
Keep an eye on what is going on in those meetings. If there is no value in those meetings – You should do your organization a favor and shut down those events.
Be innovative – for example Brown Bag Session
There is a trend to share knowledge that is unrelated to everyday work. During those meetings, people can share their interests, hobbies, and knowledge about anything. Find someone that can inspire others with piece of extraordinary knowledge.
Keep an enthusiastic approach
Only this way you can inspire people to open themselves to teaching others. No one wants to be part of a sad lecture that is done under duress. Support your mentors and help them get ready with a smile on your face – they will thank you for it… eventually 🙂
Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams
Collaborating with stakeholders is very important in agile methodologies. We want to have the best feedback as often as possible. If there are barriers to gathering feedback – the scrum master should do something about it.
A couple of examples of barriers to be removed:
- Lack of familiarity with each other’s roles and responsibilities – if stakeholders are new to agile, the roles we play during development can be a puzzle.
The scrum master should make sure at the beginning of a collaboration that everyone understands the way we work and why.
Some stakeholders don’t understand that they are a part of the development process – explain their importance and encourage them to be active.
- Communication barriers – poor communication between stakeholders and the development team can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and a lack of alignment.
This can be due to language barriers, cultural differences, or simply a lack of effective communication channels.
The scrum master should recognize what potential barriers can we expect and act proactively to mitigate them.
Ask yourself at the beginning – who are you dealing with, how fluent they communicate, what time zones different groups are working in, what cultures will meet each other, and does everyone have the link to the right meeting 🙂
- Lack of transparency – the stakeholders should have the best possible knowledge that allows them to give sufficient feedback. If they do not have any insight into the progress of developing their system – stakeholders may not have a clear understanding of the state of the project.
This can lead to misunderstandings, mistrust, and a lack of alignment between stakeholders and the development team.
Also, the stakeholders should be transparent about their priorities or decision-making processes – this will allow the development team to have a clear understanding of what is most important to stakeholders.
And by the way… Who are the key stakeholders in agile?
There is a lot to do beyond the team. The more you understand how the organization work, the more you can help your own team.
As a scrum master be eager to face challenges in the whole organization.
It can be done in many different ways, surely many more than shown above, explore it and be the change agent.