A few days back, there was a discussion whereby a colleague (who was the Scrum Master of a Scrum team) had been asked by Senior Management about the apparent tardy performance of the team (this was a team new to Scrum and had been in the second Sprint cycle, with each cycle being of 1 month each). He was asked by the senior management about why he could not drive the team towards better productivity and increasing the amount of work done. Now, in Scrum, the role of the Scrum Master is to act as a coach and a facilitator, not as a driver, and hence we were confused. We started discussing how to ensure that the Scrum Master could ensure that the group was being influenced towards improvement without actually trying to drive the group. As a part of this, I am writing a series of posts that capture some of the thoughts of the group. The previous post (Scrum Master and driving decision making – Part 6) covered situations where the Scrum Master was not having enough time for ensuring improvements in the group and also seeing as to how the Scrum Master could do mentoring of team members. This post will continue to describe what a Scrum Master should be like, and some of the actions of a Scrum Master to ensure that they can influence the Scrum team rather than try to drive the team.
One of the biggest items is about a mindset. If you start out with a mindset that you have more experience and skills in the area of project management and try to use that with the team, you will run into problems with the team sooner or later. Even if they are fine with you driving the progress of the team, this driving will ensure that the team will never reach a situation where they feel that they have decision making capabilities. A major input to the whole situation is for the Scrum Master to ensure that they have the right answer to this question – what direct powers does the Scrum Master have ? There is only one answer to this question – the Scrum Master does not have any direct powers over the team, all the powers relate to being able to have an influence over the members of the group and using that to see that the group moves in the right directions leading to improvements in productivity.
Now one way that the Scrum Master can be very effective is in terms of causing the removal of impediments to the functioning of the team. If the team is getting stuck because of some specific problems and are either unable or unwilling to figure out the reason why they are getting stuck, the Scrum Master can ensure that as a part of removal of impediments, the team discusses what the impediments are, what are some of their causative factors, and eventually lead the team towards an overall improvement.
Another significant problem that can happen in a team is some level of tension between team members, which could be due to trust issues, or any other reason. In most cases, such tension does hamper the productivity and efficiency of the team and needs to be resolved or minimised, and that is an area where the Scrum Master can do a lot – identify if such a tension exists (since most people do not believe that this sort of tension could be possible), figure out any possible reasons, and then talk to the team members and their managers to see whether such these could be resolved.
More on this series in the next post (Power of Scrum Master and driving decision making – Part 8 – TBD)