This has been a series of posts that deal with the role of a Scrum Master, and his / her dynamics in terms of authority and decision making in the team. The previous post (Power of the Scrum Master and decision making – Part 5) detailed some of the attributes that a great Scrum Master needs to have; the art of ensuring that the Scrum team is taking the right decisions does not come from an assumption of authority, it comes from being able to have respect within the team, be seen as the person who can help resolve problems, who listens to people, and other such attributes that let the team have confidence in the abilities of the Scrum Master. What will this post do ? In this post, I will add more details about the role of the Scrum Master. When a Scrum Master wants to have a lot of influence in the decision making processes of the team without seemingly driving it from the front, the Scrum Master has to develop a set of attributes and environmental factors. Here are some more:
– We had a case whereby a team had a Scrum Master assigned to them, a person with a great reputation. This Scrum Master was seen as a very valuable resource because of his coaching and mentoring skills, but because of this reputation, the person was assigned to 3 teams by his boss. When Scrum was explained to the boss, he understood it to mean that it did not require the amount of effort that a project manager puts in, and this assumption was never sought to be changed. The result of this was that the team could see that the Scrum Master tended to be very busy, and as a result, the kind of interaction between the Scrum team and the Scrum Master could never happen. When such a situation gets created, it gets difficult for a Scrum Master to put in the time for developing the kind of relationships and effort to be able to influence the decision making of the team. This is not an absolute – it is not necessary that if the same Scrum Master is assigned to 2 separate teams, it will get hard for them to have the desired positive influence; but in every case, the situation in that particular Scrum project should be evaluated to see whether there is a need to have a Scrum Master who is full time for that project. If such a need is identified, or if the current Scrum Master is able to make the case for such a situation, it is essential that the team management ensure that this happens. A Scrum team can develop into a high performing team with high amount of productivity and efficiency, but it is also essential that a number of factors come into play for that.
– The Scrum Master should be seen as a mentor. In most cases, the Scrum Master is likely to be an individual who has more seniority that the other team members, and this experience can be put to good use by mentoring team members. For this purpose, a Scrum Master needs to be seen as somebody who is reachable, who listens and then provides good advise (which may not be correct every time, but it is the process of showing how to listen to a situation, work through what needs to be done, and then come out with the advise on what will work). This would require effort on the part of the Scrum Master, but once you are seen as an effective mentor, then you also have the ability to influence the way that team members react to a situation, which in turn gives the Scrum Master a powerful (but indirect) influence on decision making.
Read more about the role of the Scrum Master in decision making in the next post (Scrum Master and decision making – Part 7)