Social Experiment : Do we need a Scrum Master in a self organising team?
 

In a typical agile team, the scrum master is the coordinator/facilitator who makes everything going in the team properly. However, when the team is highly self-organising, do we even need a facilitator? We have a detailed post on the role of a scrum master here.

We have asked this question to a group of experts in different social forums and we have received around 1200+ responses. Here is a quick stats around the same.

  • 9% feels we don’t need scrum master at all.
  • 14% believes that the SM is a full-time role.
  • Rest 77% strongly believes that full-time SM is effective in the start, or in an immature team.

This survey reflects what we have observed in our agile projects.

When we are building a team or team is immature(staffing changes etc), we need SM to help and coach the team by asking right questions.  As the team grows up in maturity, the individual team members know how to organize themselves and hold each other accountable. This is one of the important reason why SM role becomes redundant after some time. And this is also the reason why organizations prefer to hire technical people who can play scrum master role. But in order to attain this maturity, the team members will have to be open for new learnings and continually improve.

Here we have picked some (not limited to) of the comments from the experts we did experiment with. The question being asked was

Do we really need a scrum master in Scrum project? If so, does it have to be full time? Isn’t self-organizing team killing the concept of SM? 

Comments from experts

1. Yes….as much it seems like an oxymoron to have both concepts in concert with each other, you need to have the “check and balance system” embodied by having a separate SM from the team. The team is made up of humans, who are fallible and will attempt to take shortcuts over time. The SM is a check against the scrum team’s desire to “get things done” and circumvent the scrum process.

2. Ideally any team member can be called as a Scrummaster. I can only call the SM designated as a process expert contributor.
The key responsibilities certainly needs a defined role to drive it so it reduces the burden on either the Manger or team.

Also , with value and business ask in mind its challenging for the Manager to inspire, create value, and follow the princple 5 ” build projects across motivated indivduals and trust them that the job can be done” whilst if it can be done, it can be tried out.

3. Scrum is a smallish change to jow people work. 5 hours a week. That said…if you’re running scrum in a not friendly to agile work environment….scrum is essential. However, if you’ve got a long term agile team, whose environment lets them work, the role is less necessary.

Really…the scrum master role as practiced is NOT about scrum, but rather about making the team work effectively together. Once that’s good…?

The XP model creates agile team functionality differently, by shifting work patterns for 35 hours a week, rather than scrums 5 hour change. Honestly, that changes team culture far faster than scrum, and the tech practices shops dont find the role necessary.

Without a deep established culture or hardcore paired-tdd-ci practices, you want a scrum master.

4. Real professionals don’t need a SM. It will save them time.

5.  Once the team is self reliant, scrum masters role becomes redundant.. Either scrum master has to be one of the tech leads or a contractual role to train the teams.

6. Looking at this link, we need SM to fix these scenarios.

7. That depends on the nature of the project. If it is a fairly large sized project with multiple dependent upstream and downstream systems, there would be a fair amount of communication and coordination required. This should happen before, during and after sprint planning. Team members do not need to worry about all these administrative work. They can concentrate on actual tasks. Also, in my personal experience, however well planned you are, things do not go smooth as planned. In that case, there is a need to capture details around any delays by our own team or any other dependent systems and review and revise the integration tests, release plans, deploys to higher environments and finally present the cost of delay and value being delivered to business. This is all just a few tasks for an SM when the project is fairly large sized with up/downstream dependencies. Other typical tasks include, communications with end users whenever required, challenging and motivating teams, conducting team building activities which helps team not only build relationships but provides some relief from day to day and hour to hour work.

8. However mature teams are, if a candid discussion happens during grooming, planning team members need someone else to facilitate their conversations, disagreements and help them come to an agreement. SM can apply various techniques in these situations and it would be totally unreasonable to expect a participant team member to play that facilitator role and be neutral (just not practical)

9. I’ve had the great pleasure to work with many different teams across many organization types, development processes, and industries. Whenever a team loved Scrum Masters, it was because the Scrum Masters were properly performing their role and getting things done, removing road blocks for the team, facilitating effective meetings and conversations, and so much more.

All of the projects I’ve been on where there was no formal Scrum Master role were teams that had one at one point, but dropped them because they were not effective. They blamed the role instead of the individual.

Find effective Scrum Masters and hold them accountable just as you would any other team member. If they aren’t getting the job done for you, find one that will!

10. When a team is mature enough, this is true that need for a Scrum Master is over.
If the team is self-organizing, cross-functional and respects naturally Scrum ceremonies ; if communication with the PO is smooth, there is no misunderstandings, it means that a Scrum Master would be superfluous.
On top of that, the role of Scrum Master still exists: the difference is that it is endorsed by team members, with no prior assignation, but spontaneously, depending on the context.

11. The need of a SM depends on the tasks that he performs. So whether a SM will be required or not will be determined by the availability of resource to perform that role. So if there are skilled resources who is available to perform those tasks then I think the need for SM is already fulfilled.

12. Although SM role is critical but if thats the case all the times it means your team in not improving. If the team is improving, you need to assign other work to SM (Assign other projects, ask to contribute on technology, design etc). If that is not happening, you should plan to bring new SM.

13. Scrum master is ‘Servant Leader’ in practice. Which means he/she has to adapt to leadership style based on ‘Team’ is at what stage. Whether ‘Forming’, ‘Storming, ‘ Norming’ or ‘Performing’. Once the team reaches ‘Performing’, SM job becomes redundant. And at ‘Adjourning’ the last stage SM is no more needed team to do its function effectively, independent and consistent performance. At this SM would also reach its peak of leadership ‘Pinnacle’.

14. A team can gel despite all kinds of organizational impediments to agility. The SM is not obsolete until those impediments are identified and addressed effectively.

15. For a program with multiple streams and releases, a dedicated SM is more or less a necessity. With obvious(more) focus during the initial stages, the SM involvement can reduce as the team imbibes the mindset that is expected of a proper self organised team. He or she will ideally bring in the culture that sets the team on the progressive path

16.  A dedicated Scrum Master is not needed in a Performing team. However, it is frequently the case that a team degrades over time after the Scrum Master leaves – so unless the team is able continuously keep focus on improving they might at least need regular check-ins from an agile coach (could be an actual agile coach or a leader in the organization or a Scrum Master from another team).

17. I don’t think need of SM can be completely eliminated, whether it is performing team or not as there are lot of things SM take care of such as improvement in processes, removing impediments, taking care of backlog, running sprint etc.

Someone from team should not be SM as this is independent role and it has to be a specialist for the job.

18. A team does not mature takes the time to mature. In a mature team, Scrum Master may not require, so a lot of other things e.g. sprint planning and refinement sessions merging, On demand retro instead of one retro per sprint, time boxing of sprint ( may be kanban), etc.

19. I don’t think the role of SM can be completely eliminated and not at least until the team is mature enough to identify impediments and able take actions to remove them or retrospect themselves. Yes, it would be a good idea to have a team member with willing to serve as SM as well, but that should happen at a later stage only as in SCRUM SM is a separate entity and can be supposed to serve multiple teams at the same time.

20. I think a SM is need at the start of the POD, but as stated above once the team starts moving and has proved they can produce and become self serving then the SM has be become obsolete. Now this can only happen if your product owner and B.A. are in tuned with the POD.

21. Instead of picking SM from outside, you can identify a good fit for this role within team and keep rotating. This would certainly increase your chances of getting better results and at the same time you are helping you team member to play interesting role who aspire to get into management.

DAR – How to find a better option when you have multiple solution for a given problem?
 

“You must choose … but choose wisely”   Your decisions play a critical to make or break your future. The company you choose, the girl or guy you marry, the house you buy, the career option you choose. Isn’t it a great idea to have a tool or intelligent mechanism to make the life easy which would help you to choose the best possible decision based on some real facts rather than some random decision?

DAR

DAR is a process to make key decisions in your organization and even in personal life more objectively and wisely. Just to add more clarity, what do you do when you have multiple solutions for a given problem? How do you decide to pick one that most suited and obviously wise?

Human psychology plays an important role while using this technique. We have a lot of information which we don’t really process rather we just go by Halo effect which is nothing but taking a decision based on what you have in your mind at that moment instead of considering all the inputs

Let’s take some examples

Business Decisions

Should I outsource or not.

Is it a good idea to start an XYZ office in Pune or Mumbai?

Technical Decision – Which technology to choose – C++, Java or .NET

Which technology to choose – C++, Java or .NET

Architecture decisions.

Alright, seems boring. Let me get on to more personal stuff.

Which car do you want to buy?

The DAR – Decision analysis and resolution is an answer for above situations. It is one of the process area defined by CMMI but practically used everywhere. The reason DAR works most times

  • You think about every possible solution and list them out. Hence you consider everything before taking a decision over just thinking about limited core items.
  • You rank individual items based on comparison hence you have more clarity.
  • The template would give you amazing results.
  • You do consider Risk and constraints.

Essentially writing down everything and coming to conclusion. There is no guarantee that your solution would be perfect while you are increasing the chances of getting it right significantly.  It takes almost no time to use this process once you acquainted with it.

Please leverage attached DAR template. I have created it to have the better clarity.

Dar Template

Try few times and trust me you would fall in love with it.

Stand up: Why you should talk about your next actionable?
 

Lots of teams that I work with generally follow the best practices of a Scrum stand up meeting. However, as time goes by team tend to fall into the slippery slope of just reporting what they have accomplished the previous or the current day and completely ignore the next actionable & impediments. This happens more when the team/scrum master is not very strict about the process. In this article, we will see the reasons why this is important and the benefits of the same.

Life without goals

Before we delve deep into practices of Scrum method, we will talk about few general principles how our subconscious works. As per the basic behavioral psychology, there are three parts of the self-concept.

a) Self-Ideal – Goals, aspirations, dreams etc.

b) Self Image – impression about self-based on previous experiences.

c) Self Esteem – Emotional component of how much we like ourselves.

When someone sets goals and achieves them, the self-image corrects and the self-esteem improves. And they start setting bigger goals and continues to go on an upward spiral.

How Psychology relates to Scrum

Whenever a team member talks about “What they will do ” before the next meeting, they are indirectly setting a time-bound goal for themselves. When they come and report the achievement of the same the next day, the self-image and the self-esteem goes up. This will bring more success as the time goes by.

The Sprint is systematically designed methodology using the basic psychology of commit and achieve cycle.

Let’s do an experiment. If you are part of an Agile team, state your goal for the day loudly to your team during the stand-up meeting. You would have that in your back of your mind entire day. At the end the of day, if you accomplish what you stated, you will have an amazing sense of accomplishment.  Otherwise, you feel that you have not done enough. This comes to most members as long as they care about the company and their career. All you have to do is take that seriously and you would find yourself growing much faster than your peers.

I have personally asked this to many people and every time I had the same result. Isn’t it amazing? How simple it is to grow in an Agile team. Isn’t it?

So Next time you are in a stand-up meeting, would you talk about “what you are going to do “?

 

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