Why do we need a Scrum Master?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management, process

If you search Google you will easily find a description of the role and most probably you perfectly know it.

But why there is still an open discussion takes place. Should a Scrum Master be the only role? Can a Developer (QA, whatever…) perfectly perform this role? Here is normal team:

Scrum Master

Team’s output – perfect product; Scrum Master’s output – highly performing team

As it can be seen role of a Scrum Master is critical for the team. Scrum Master is the person who challenges the team and focus on improvements. Key aspects that allow to achieve that:

  • Observation

Scrum Master

Only person who is not committed to a sprint can focus on observing team’s work, fostering difficult discussions and thinking about long term improvements. From my experience it’s much more difficult to do that being a developer acting as a Scrum Master.

It’s written in a lot of books - to improve the system you must be outside. How often do you see a football team coach who is also playing on the field? If you did, it definitely wasn’t a game of professional teams and in all cases this model fails.

Why doesn’t this work? Everything is simple. While you are on the field you don’t see how the whole team performs. You don’t know when it’s best to make substitutes e.g. to give someone a rest before a very important match next week or just to avoid injuries; you can miss when opponent changes tactics or you noticed problems other team has and new learned tricks can be applied.

- Substitutes or injuries can be mapped to handling conflicts, fixing small bugs or implementing some practices

- Change of tactics can be mapped to desire to innovate, learn and build long term value


  • Protection

Scrum Master

I believe by “protection” everybody thinks about external “threats”: Product Owner with new requirements, other teams with questions, noisy room and etc.
While it’s true I think it’s more important to protect team from themselves - over committing, forgetting about technical debt or non-functional requirements, resistance to new practices, lack of courage to say “no”.
Protection gives possibilities for the teams to keep the pace and improve.


You must spend a lot of time on the activities above to grow teams. Decision who is going to perform Scrum Master’s role depends on how fast you want to improve.


Team metrics: who and why needs them?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management, process

Why do I need metrics?

I am not working very close with teams on daily basis recently and it’s not so easy to gather information in order to take actions or discuss priorities. But I need data to have an overview on important areas in the department, foresee problems and understand how I can help.

What do I want?

Teams’ metrics can be useful only if you seek this:

  • Visualize problems and discuss when noticed
  • Focus on trend, not absolute value
  • Foresee the future
  • Take actions proactively
  • Keep the balance among areas

Metrics game?

Don’t forget, metrics are needed to get better. So, treat it as a game.

Elements of the game:

  • Evaluate initial state of each area
  • Set goal for each area
  • Each team every Retro of Retros tells if certain area improved (+11), unchanged (-1), worsen (-9)
    • What does it mean: improved, unchanged, or became worse? It doesn’t matter how teams decide since trend is important, not absolute number
  • Metrics must be actionable. You must agree on rules and take actions. Sules samples:
    • if something doesn’t change/reduces 3 times in a row, all teams must help team which has most of the problems
    • if something doesn’t change/reduces 5 times in a row, each team must include improvements into sprint as high priority
    • Discussion must take place
  • Everything can be changed at any moment if you find it not valuable

If you find first two elements difficult to implement, you can omit this for the first version

One simple, but important NO
Don’t map these metrics to any reward/bonus system

Sample table:

Area/Team Team 1 ….. Team X Start Current Finish
Area 1 +11 -9 50 Previous + ((T1 + … + TX)/# of Teams) 100
Area 2 -1 +11 100 ….. 300
Area 3 -1 -9 60 …..


And this is how your visualization might look like:
teams metrics

Scrum Master: How should she act?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management, quick thoughts

The Scrum Master must constantly explain both rules and rationale used to derive advice or correction. As an example, when a lower priority card completes and the team member asks for more work, the SM should not just advise, “Take the top item from the Product Backlog.”

But following discussion should occur: “Can you help expedite any card that is already in progress? If not, can you work on any of the committed cards that are not yet started? If not, is there a better way to redistribute work across the team based on your availability right now? If not, retrieve the highest priority item from the Product Backlog and commit only to as much as can be completed by the end of the Sprint.”

Vacations – good period to verify your team

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in management

Summer time is a great time to relax and re-energize yourself. Overall output reduces a bit due to team members leave (good that it is temporary J).

There are various ways how teams decide to use their vacation:

  • Whole team goes for a vacation
  • Only part of the team goes for a vacation at a time

Not all managers accept first approach. And it’s a bit dangerous in case if team works on something sensitive that might require instant attention. I personally also think second approach is much better because:

  1. You still have a chance to solve accidents in case they occur, a bit of risk management
  2. Gives you (Scrum Master, team Member, Manager) a possibility to learn a lot about the team
    • And you can find out a lot of things during a relatively short period (2-3 weeks of vacation)

What we learned:

  1. Documentation and knowledge sharing must be improved
    • We identified that some team members have unique knowledge about some parts
    • It is not possible to find it out anywhere – no documentation or some hints at all
  2. Scrum Master can learn more about people and a team as a whole
    • It is very interesting to observe what people are really doing when there is a bit more spare time (no heavy load). Some people will spend time on learning, some on social media, others will go home earlier. It doesn’t mean that you must take actions, but this information can be a good insight in helping the team to improve

These are very obvious items (especially the documentation and knowledge sharing). But the best part about this is that all issues become more visible and obvious for team members. And it leads to team’s self-organization (maybe with some help of Scrum Master J) in order to solve these problems when everyone is back.

p.s. learning is not always very easy