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Articles : Multifarious - The Scrum Master
on 2009/11/15 11:30:00 (9251 reads)

Clearing out all impediments

Another important task of the Scrum Master is to get rid of all possible impediments that might disturb the work of the team. Usually problems can be classified in three different categories. The first one is problems the team cannot solve. E.g. the team cannot do any kind of performance-tests because the hardware is not in place, the IT-department does not provide Bug tracker, or the ordered software just still did not reach the team. Another impediment could be that the marketing or sales manager was there again demanding that another feature gets integrated “quickly”.

The second one regards impediments that result through the organizational structure or strategic decisions. Maybe the office is not capable of handling the important meetings or teamwork – e.g. because there is no media. One mistake that occurs quite often regards the problem that the Scrum Master is seen as the personnel responsible for the team members. This is often because of the classical role of a project leader, but using Scrum it only leads to conflicts of interests and is strongly against its major principle: The team owns a management role in the method of Scrum and is therefore coequal with the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. Another aspect can be the insufficient bandwidth of the internet for the new project.

The third problem refers to the individuals. Someone needs a hand with the debugging. Another one cannot solve a task alone and needs someone else for the pair programming. Someone else has to reset his computer....

Even though a Scrum Master can’t and shouldn’t realize some requirements himself, he is still responsible for solving and getting rid of problems and needs to give proper criteria. This task often takes up a lot of time and requires great authority and backbone. The Scrum Master has to create an optimal working-condition for the team and is responsible for this condition to be retained, in order to meet the goals of every sprint – i.e. for a short sprint the defined requirements.


One carrier for two hats

With the introduction of Scrum there is always the question whether the Scrum Master is part of the developing team and therefore can be integrated in the development itself. The response to this always asked question clearly states a NO. Depending on the situation of a project it might be that the Scrum Master of the one team works parallel to that one as a developer in another team, but the important thing is: Scrum depends on the direct communication, on the commitment to fulfill given tasks in a certain amount of time and on a clear structure. A person that carries two hats at the same time cannot necessarily judge nor act objectively. Even the decision to realize a task or to clear out an impediment would lead to a conflict of interest for the personal union of the Scrum Master/Developer.

The responsibility for the success of a project does not have the Scrum Master. The team gives its commitment to the Product Owner to fulfill certain requirements, the so-called User stories, during the following sprint. Thus the team is as well as the Product Owner responsible for the success of a project. The Scrum Master on the contrary is responsible for the realization of Scrum as a project-management-method by the team and that it acts in respect of the rules of Scrum. A good comparison would be a Sports Coach. He prepares his team for a game, but when the match starts the team is self-responsible and has to give everything it can offer.

A Scrum Master steps back as a person, coaches the team, turns mistakes into a subject – also of a personal matter – and creates with that a team culture, within the team as well as with all other stakeholders that is marked by an open communication regarding possible occurring impediments.


Scrum in the entire company

Even though he is required to keep his focus on the abidance of the process he is an important part for the success of a project. Because: without Scrum Master no Scrum and without Scrum no successful project. The term Scrum Master and his significance regarding the introduction of Scrum are often discussed in the Scrum Alliance as well as in many public blogs. The meaning and the use of Scrum have changed a lot over the last recent years. Following the principle “inspect and adapt” Scrum is not only used in individual projects, but rather developed to a method of management that improves the entire communication and collaboration in a company and with that it as well increases the productivity. Terms as “Scrum of Scrums” or “Enterprise Scrum” can be heard quite often and these terms clarify that this method is far more than just a method for an individual project.


Certifications – yes or no

Dependent on the complexity of the situation of a company and a project it’s often necessary to do a strategic adjustment of the process and the goals of the particular company introducing Scrum. One has to balance chances and risks and evaluate those in order to define a roadmap for the introduction and realization of Scrum. These activities ask for a good process- and project-know-how as well as for experience in the section of management consultancy. If a person is able to introduce Scrum only depends on his experience and capabilities and not on the “name” Scrum Master or a certification.

It’s often asked whether a certification is necessary or not for a Scrum Master. The answer cannot easily be given with a yes or no. It depends on the goal that is chased by someone with a certification. The trainings are done by CSTs (Certified Scrum Trainers) which usually stands for a high quality standard. If the participant only participates for his CV or participates actively in including his experience can’t be said by a certification. Therefor the certification is not an indication if the person who has the certification is a good ScrumMaster or not.

The goal of the apprenticeship to CSM and CSPO (see box “Scrum-qualifications”) is to teach the participants the basics of Scrum-Framework as well as the responsibilities of the three roles, the three artifacts and three ceremonies of Scrum. The one who holds this expectation of a certification-training certainly won’t be disappointed.

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