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The Scrum Master role and its problems

Scrum Master role

Scrum Master is one of the three roles in the Scrum team. He cares for all parties and strives to preserve the order, rules and principles of Scrum. Scrum is a way of working that strives to maintain sustainable productivity for the teams and the product produced to be of high value.

Scrum Master is called a servant-leader because it puts the needs of others above all else, helping teams do their job well and grow. By following the rules and principles of Scrum, it guarantees the peace of mind of the team, reduces house and micromanagement. Reference: The Scrum Master role,, BVOP Agile Guide, 2020. Otherwise, people’s motivation will decrease, defects will increase and deadlines will not be met.

He does not have the authority to manage the team or the work because there are no managers in the Scrum team. Acts as a leader who leads the team to achieve the set goals. Scrum Master is focused on the development of others and the Scrum culture of the company. Reference: Scrum example team and projects scenarios, 2020

How does Scrum Master achieve all this?

By observing the work process and removing any obstacles.
Protects the team from external influences, problems, personalities and phenomena.
Organizes meetings and events in Scrum, invites everyone who needs to attend, shares instructions, prepares everyone present for meetings and topics for discussion.
Train and guide everyone in the Scrum team, as well as business stakeholders in Scrum practices and concepts. Reference: Every Scrum Master must know the Kaizen principles, 2020

Over time, the team is nurtured of respect, hard work, value and cooperation, and the Scrum Master role gradually begin to become a mentor who is always available around.

Problems of the Scrum Master role

The described problem situations are answers from the point of view of Scrum Master. Reference: Scrum Master related situations concerning Product Owner, Development team and managers, 2020

The Development team shares your idea that they want to nominate you for a Product Owner appointment and take over its functions, and for the Product Owner assigned to your team to go to another team and have no contact with it.

First I will try to understand the reason why the Development team does not want to have contact with the Product Owner. Obviously, there is a problem that needs to be solved. I will talk to both sides to understand both points of view. Reference: The Product Owner role in Scrum

I will tell the Development team that if one person plays both roles, it will not be effective. If Scrum Master also works as a Product Owner role, there is a danger that product progress will slow down and its value will not be at the required level, because Scrum Master will focus primarily on Scrum and the team, not the product.

The other option is for the Product Owner to play the role of Scrum Master. Then the focus will be on the product and fast work and they may violate Scrum’s values ​​and events. Reference: Professional Scrum Master vs Professional Scrum Developer, 2019

After 2 days you have a meeting to present the current progress of the product. Your Product Owner role and most of the Development team are on leave for another 5 days.

The presentation of the progress takes place during the Sprint review, and this is a Scrum event at the end of the sprint (last day). And since sprint and work are planned on Sprint planning, it is right to take into account weekends and holidays. If such planning of this meeting took place during the vacation of important participants in it, then Scrum Mastera has not done its job and has not followed the rules of Scrum.

Business stakeholders share the view that the product is not progressing as expected.

I remind stakeholders that we hold regular meetings (Sprint review) where we present the progress of the product and discuss what will be developed in the next sprint. There is no surprise in this regard and they are under development. If they insist that we need to speed up the work, I will explain to them that this will be a prerequisite for more errors and defects, therefore lower value of the product. Let’s not forget the tension that will fall on the Development team, which will affect their effectiveness.

All this is contrary to the principles and values ​​of Scrum. Another option is to hire more developers (if they are currently under 9), but stakeholders must also agree to increase the cost of development.

You notice that the Development team spends more and more time in the games and entertainment room in your office.

If he spends more time in games and at the same time on the Daily Stand Up everyone announces that the task from the previous day has been completed, for me this will mean that the team has deliberately predicted the completion of the tasks for longer than the required time. I will seek the assistance of the Product Owner and share my suspicions. This task evaluation will be discussed at the next Sprint planning.

The Product Owner role in your team goes on a business trip for 2 months in one of your customer support centers. No one has made any plans, no comments. The customer has not shared anything more. The development team does not know what it will work on and your colleagues are worried about the future of the project.

The transparency of knowing what each team is doing is violated. The Product Owner role is part of the team and his departure had to be communicated in advance, planned, and made known to everyone.
I will try to persuade the Product Owner to “hand over” his work to one of the developers who have extensive knowledge and interest in the field of the product. The new Product Owner will be supported by Scrum Master because the latter has collaborated with the “old” Product Owner to clarify User Stories in more detail and has helped prioritize the Product Backlog. If this is not possible, the option is for the Product Owner to continue to remotely do its job and team duties. As the last and most undesirable option remains Scrum Mastera to take on the role of Product Owner. Reference: What makes a good Product Owner and what do they do?, 2020

It is possible that Scrum Master will escalate the problem to the top management and if he needs to communicate with the client the need for this business trip and an option for postponement or at least planning in accordance with the tasks.

One of the programmers in the team asks the designer for regular adjustments to the visual concepts he offers.

The team is so named because they all take on tasks together, work on them and are jointly responsible for the outcome. There are no individual players here. When planning the goals for the sprint / project, it is clarified what the tasks will be for the different roles and the team together decides how to deal with them. Everyone is aware of the goals and the tasks are understood. Therefore, this programmer should not tell the designer what to do and even more to “want” adjustments. This is not his job. The designer should immediately seek help from Scrum Master, who in turn communicates with the programmer his behavior. Reference: 11 Responsibilities of the Scrum Master role,

The QA specialists on your team who test the product plan to integrate additional technologies, tools and testing procedures. According to the product owner, this will double the work and the progress after the sprints will decrease.

The fact that QA specialists offer new technologies, tools and testing procedures is a commendable initiative on their part. They show their desire for self-improvement and to improve the quality of the product. It is appropriate for Scrum Mastera to organize a meeting of the entire Scrum team to demonstrate these technologies. To assess then whether the work will really be doubled, as the Product Owner fears and what is the value of the benefits we will receive. If we all agree with this proposal, Product Owner must communicate our decision to stakeholders and convince them that the slight delay is at the expense of higher quality.

The designer and the programmer have decided to exchange part of their work on their own initiative. The designer will take on some of the easy programming tasks, and the programmer will do parts of the interface.

They can’t change roles when they decide. There must be transparency and the other members of the team must be informed. If there are “difficult” tasks, do they return to their original roles? This will only lead to distraction and mistakes. Let’s not forget that if a job is started by one person and finished by another, then the second one will waste time getting acquainted with what he has done before finishing it. This will also slow down the work of the whole team. Let’s not forget that it is good for Scum Master to encourage colleagues to improve, but this should not be at the expense of the planned work.

QA specialists want you to assign them good testing tools for the next sprints, as you will already be developing new components that require a different type of test.

Scrum Master must take care of the team to do its job smoothly. Once the new components are needed for product development, action is taken on the channel line request for such changes to the manager of the maintenance department, obtaining permits, supplier selection procedure and purchase. The point is that this should have already been done. At the beginning of the project, when the Product Owner introduced and explained User Stories and everyone understood them, QA specialists were required to start these tools and the above procedure to start immediately so that they are available when needed. In the first case, there can be a big delay in the whole project.

The development team wants to replace a major software part of your product. We currently use the paid Enterprise popular environment. The license is paid by your customer, who does not think that the cost is a problem.

Scrum Master organizes a meeting of the Scrum team and the client to discuss the request of the Development team. He, in turn, must have prepared a detailed and clear presentation, why he wants this, what will be the benefits of this change for both parties, are any problems expected, how this change will affect the current project in time and financially? aspect. We all need to discuss these issues together, to assess the benefits and risks. Take a unanimous decision and take the necessary steps.

The Product Owner role requires the designer to increase communication with the product testing team.

The Product Owner role has no right to require or insist on specific practices and processes. But he can, if he has noticed that something is wrong in the communication between the designer and the testing team, share it with the master and he will already deal with the possible conflict. Scrum Mastera needs to talk to both parties to understand the nature of the problem and work together to resolve it. Good communication, relationships and respect between the people in the team are extremely important for effective work and achievement of goals.

Your client is not happy with the tests, and wants to urgently increase the number of QA specialists in your team, with an additional 6 people as soon as possible. He wants three more senior programmers to join the team by the end of the week. The project budget has been increased accordingly.

The client’s wish is to add 9 new members, which certainly exceeds the recommended number for a Scum team. My suggestion is to divide the QA specialists and programmers into two teams, which will have a common Product Owner and Scrum Master. So there will be no problem with the number, even if the original team was completely filled. There will also be programmers and QA specialists in each team.

The two teams will work in parallel with a common Product Backlog. In this case, it is very important to properly plan the work and distribute User Stories so that one team does not interfere or slow down the work of the other. All Scrum matches and events are reserved for both teams.

The director wants you to move temporarily, for about a month, to another team. He has discussed moving your role with Product Owner, who will take over the Scrum Master function in a month, as he said he has time for that.

Scrum Master should discuss with the director the reasons for this request. He has to explain in detail what the risks are for a Product Owner to take on the role of Scrum Master, namely the Product Owner role is focused only on the product and fast work, while the Scrum Master role is focused mainly on Scrum and the team.

This would bring additional tension to the development team, most likely they will be given a condition for faster work, which in turn will lead to errors and bugs, and hence a poor quality product. In this case, there will be no one to protect the team from external influences, including the Product Owner, and a number of Scrum’s practices and values ​​would be violated. A good option is to discuss the possibility for this month, Scrum Master to work with both teams. In this case, efficiency and benefits will be greater.

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Author: Anton Radev

Front-End Web Developer

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