No Scrum Master? Is it still Scrum?


What happens when the team gets all the training about Scrum, begins to kickoff the process but they don’t have a Scrum Master?

There are arguments (some legitimate and some not) to justify why Scrum will work without a Scrum Master. First, let me say that a Scrum Master is a role not a title so there really shouldn’t be any restrictions on who can fulfill the role.  Second, someone should take on the role and really dedicate time and energy to give the team the support they deserve. Check out Mike Cohn’s blog about Rotating the Scrum Master Role.

SAM_2306So what work does a Scrum Master do that now needs to be covered by someone else or the team as needed?  There have been a number of response to this question all over the internet and books so you’ve all probably heard that standard answers of remove impediments, champion the process, shields the team from outside interferences, etc. but I’d like to take it a step forward or maybe sideways.

Scrum Masters are champions for the team, their decisions, their delivery and even their failures. They are constantly looking at how the team operates from both an internal and external lens; one that the team members are very rarely able to use because they are in the thick of things and may not have the objective eye.  When a Scrum Master is able to identify things that are impeding the team and help them discover it rather than point a finger, jump up and down and demand they fix it, a bond is developed between the team members that gives them the confidence and trust that someone is looking out for them and is there to help them achieve their next level of expertise.

Eventually, a Scrum Master should find that the team needs their guidance less and less over time.  There are a few exceptions to that.  Teams that are dispersed  teams that gain new team members, teams that experience growth and then split (scaling scrum) will need more time and attention from their Scrum Master during these times.  They may have been experts at their process and become self managing but anytime the dynamic changes, there will be more to talk about, more to decide on and generally shakes the team for a time.

Another thing to note is that Scrum Masters are not Project Managers or even Tech Managers in their primary role.  There is a tendency to do this and it’s a dangerous thing because it can taint decisions and imply a level of power and control that should be absent from a Scrum Master.  Members of a scrum team should continue to rely on their managers and peers to improve their level of skill and professional growth whereas a Scrum Master may notice and relay recommendations about team members to their manager as a way of keeping the health of the team and growth of the team moving in a positive direction.

Hope this helps some of you!

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Timeboxing the Sprint Review, Retro and Planning in a Single Day


Prep work for the Project Manager, Scrum Master or the like:

  1. Break the meeting scheduled in calendarto explicitly time box the Sprint close from the Retro (maybe two separate meetings in calendar)
  2. Have a set agenda posted along with detailed descriptions as noted below (Customize as you like as a team) for the Sprint Close out and Retro sessions as a reminder of the flow of the meeting.  Posters or even a wiki page with the info is good.
  3. Move any retrospective item that you accomplished in the last sprint from the improvements/retro poster to a “completed improvements” poster so you can reference things you did and agreed to do over time.

Sample agendas for the last day of the sprint:

  • Team Prep Night before Sprint Close out
    • Remind the team to close out any task(s) that they completed in advance so that all you have to do during the Review meeting is do the QUICK CLOSE on any stories with zero remaining hours at the story level. This will set status to Done and zero out the remaining hours of the task in one click
    • Confirm any unfinished tasks/tests that are not done, update the remaining hours, make the task estimate the same number as the new remaining hours number (this helps with capacity planning for the next sprint)
  • 930-10am Sprint Review and Close out
    • Confirm which story and defect is complete (QUICK CLOSE the story)
    • SPLIT any partially completed story to move the unfinished tasks/tests to the next sprint and then
    • CLOSE SPRINT
    • After everything is done (sprint closed and new sprint activated), this is when you can move into the RETRO section to talk through why the team is completing more or less story points each sprint.  If an idea comes up during this discussion, this is a perfect time to slide into the Retro portion of the day
  • 10am-11am Sprint Retrospective
    • Review the VELOCITY TREND report on the  Sprint Planning/Sprint Scheduling section and discuss what the team is doing that is causing the trending to be what it is. Are there some improvements they could be making to improve it? Are there some things that the team is doing that is making a positive difference to the trending?
    • Look at the Retro poster (or wiki) to see what improvements the team has talked about in the past. Are there new ideas to add? Has the team completed some of the items already? CELEBRATE them!
    • Vote on which item(s) the team would like to tackle in the next sprint. Maybe there is more than one that can be accomplished?
    • Add a story card to your sprint backlog for each item the team agrees they want to add and assign the owner(s) that will be responsible for doing the work it will take to make the improvement and/or providing updates on it throughout the sprint as requested.

11-Noon Product Owner/Scrum Master Prep Session

    • Add new stories to the sprint backlog that should be considered in sprint planning
    • Remove stories that should be moved out of the sprint
    • Review any blocks, issues or impediments to resolve them or pull stories out of the sprint if they are not resolved yet
    • Prioritize the sprint backlog (will review again with team at the sprint planning session)
    • If time permits, plan out the stories a few sprints ahead as a “request” to the delivery team and to assist with forecasting/scheduling
•    1-4:30pm Sprint Planning (entire team include Product Owner)
  • 1-1:45pm – Story walk through and Estimation
    • Product Owner walks team through the stories they would like to consider for the sprint, should include the story description, user acceptance criteria and stop to add more detail or to explain any new stories that need additional information so that the team will be able to size/estimate the story
    • Team members “sign up” for stories they would like to work on (add themselves to the OWNER field on each story)
    • Team sizes each story after all have been reviewed based on relative sizing technique (“smaller than this, bigger than that”)
  • 1:45p-3:45pm – Story Detailed Planning
    • This time is informal and time to self-organize!
    • People tend to group together as needed by story to detailed out the tasks that each person will be doing on each story, entering the tasks/tests as they discuss and then estimating the hours for their work
    • Each team member should look at the Sprint Planning/Member Planning page to see who is over allocated based on their assigned work against their offered capacity.  Talk to other team members to help them out by discussing how to spread the work more evenly across the team.
  • 3:45p-4:30p – Sprint Plan Commitment and Kickoff
    • Review the Sprint Planning/Member Planning to ensure no one is over allocated
    • Review the total story points planned for the sprint – Is it higher than the trending velocity? It’s ok to go a little higher if work was partially finished in the last few sprints but the completed story points were low because of splitting.  Just remember to keep your new sprint somewhere between what you did and what you planned last time so you have a better chance of doing it!
    • Do a fist of five vote on the final sprint plan and you are ready to kick off the sprint!

Help with Agile Assessments


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