Arunvignesh Ramakrishnan

Five ways a Scrum Master can improve Team’s Effectiveness

I have always been in awe of the conciseness of the Scrum Guide. Scrum Guide has many simple yet powerful statements that run deep into the subject. One such piece of information is below.

Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s Effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices within the Scrum framework.

Scrum Guide 2020

Who is a Scrum Master?

As per Scrum, Scrum Master is a leader who focuses on enabling people. One who firmly believes success is stimulating others to thrive and flourish.

Let us look at the practices Scrum Master can bring to enable the team’s effectiveness.

Facilitate decision-making

“We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.” — Ken Levine

Ultimately, what one decides has the potential to shape our destiny. So decision-making is crucial. The context applies to Scrum Team as well.

In Scrum, the Scrum Team makes lots of decisions. Some of them are,

  • The product owner decides on the order of the product backlog
  • The scrum team decides on the Sprint length
  • The scrum team decides on the Sprint Goal
  • The developers decide on the path towards achieving Sprint Goal
  • The Scrum team decides on the quality of the product

So effectiveness in decision-making determines the effectiveness of the team.

How do the Scrum team know if they are making better decisions?

Scrum Masters can rely on the Scrum Principles and Values to play a vital role in enabling the team to make better decisions.

Scrum Principles & Values
Scrum Principles & Five Scrum values — Credits: Scrum.org

When presented with decision-making situations, Scrum Masters can

  • Prompt the teams to skim the traces of evidence (Transparent Information) that can substantiate the decision.
  • If nothing is available, prompt the team to create a piece of quick evidence before deciding.
  • Prompt to consult appropriate parties to bring collective intelligence to decision making like a PO collaborating externally with business stakeholders to consider business risk and collaborating internally with the Scrum team to assess technology risk.

In the above contexts, the Scrum Master is bringing Scrum’s principles of empiricism into practice — taking decisions based on what is known and not by assumptions.

Scrum Master’s can also prompt to check how the decision-making is in line with the five values of Scrum. Few of the prompts could be,

  • How are we focusing on our goal here?
  • How do we symbolise courage here?
  • How are we keeping our commitment here?
  • How are we embodying respect here?
  • How do we bring openness to this decision-making?

Consider any problematic situation in which the Scrum team is struggling to make a decision. For example: Consider you are a start-up or mid-size organisation working on launching a new feature that may potentially grab market share. But, a big player competitor has launched a similar feature and started its advertisement in media. You have been working on that for two months now. But you are two weeks away from releasing it.

Yes, it would ultimately be a business or a Product Owner’s decision. But Scrum Masters can utilise this ground to bring scrum values into practice. Sometimes, decision-making would be pretty straightforward when we use Scrum values, but sometimes it will still be challenging to make it.

Take evidence from every opportunity. It will definitely keep one on the path towards effectiveness.

Concluding thoughts

Facilitating decision-making is one of the ways for Scrum Master to help in Scrum Teams’ effectiveness. Scrum Masters need the Scrum Principles and Scrum Values as an ally to do that effectively.

Stay Tuned for the other four practices.

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