Home > Agile stuff, Scrum > Scrum Master in the Critical path of the sprint

Scrum Master in the Critical path of the sprint

More then a year ago myself and Eelco Gravendeel wrote the top 9 challenges of adopting Scrum . But those where just the top 9. Some did not make it to the top 9. This post publishes one that did not make it but I think is quite good. here it goes….

 

 

 

“If everything seems under control,
you’re just not going fast enough.”
Mario Andretti

The situation
You’ve got it all setup: a multidisciplinary team, a Product Owner and a dedicated Scrum Master. Deadlines are tight but seem to be do-able, scope appears to be negotiable, and the rest of the organization is well informed and prepared about what is happening. We’re good to go!
However; during the project deadlines are not met, quality doesn’t appear to be as good as expected and overall commitment of team members is not what you would like to see. And although the Scrum Master is pitching in and doing valuable project tasks to help out, things just don’t seem to improve very much per sprint passed.

The problem
The catch here is that the Scrum master is doing “valuable” project tasks. He or she is trying to do work which other team members might depend on to do their tasks. It can even go so far that the Scrum Master gets the feeling that they can’t get the Sprint done without him/her pitching in and picking up those all important / difficult tasks.
What happens next can be a combination of problems, some of these mentioned below:

 Team will not self-organize to meet deadlines
 Team does not feel committed to quality
 Scrum Master does not have (take) enough time to resolve impediments
 Scrum Master does not have (take) enough time to coach Team Members
 Scrum Master does not have (take) enough time to coach Product Owner
 Scrum Master pulls all responsibility towards him-/herself

As a result of such problems the Scrum Master then often feels the Team is letting him/her down and falls into a command & control style of managing (not leading!) the team. That way you miss out on much of the benefits self-organizing teams in general and Scrum specifically can provide.

How to fix this
It is a bit too simplistic to say the Scrum Master can never pick up any development or testing tasks. As always it depends. Here’s what worked for us:

When the project consists of one Team, one Product Owner and One Scrum Master you are best of if the Scrum Master doesn’t do any development, testing or analysis at all. Almost all time will have to be spent facilitating the team by removing impediments, coaching, etc. Some time will have to be spent on reporting about the project to management or other stakeholders. The rest of the time will go into helping out the Product Owner in managing the Product Backlog, managing Stakeholders, etc. Any time spent on doing “in Sprint” work such as development will not be spent on tasks such as mentioned above.

When the project consists of multiple teams or just has a Project Manager assigned to it, all becomes a bit different. The Scrum Master is of course still very much responsible for facilitating the team and removing impediments, but can leave the more “team outward facing” things to the Project Manager. Tasks such as Stakeholder Management, Risk Management, Product Owner coaching or removing impediments on an organizational level can be left to the Project Manager. So, if the Scrum Master has any time left he might be able to help out the team with some development tasks, or testing or whatever. But: The Scrum Master tasks always come first! The team should prevent the Scrum Master from picking up any tasks which might be in the critical path of the sprint, you never know whether some pressing impediment comes along and will require the Scrum Masters full attention!

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