Mistakes Scrum Masters Make...

schedule5Being a scrum master is no easy thing to do. It is challenging, and often times out right nerve wracking to say the least. But, being a Scrum Master can be just as rewarding. I know, I been there countless of times.  Growing people is what I enjoy to do, and in the spirit of this here are three mistakes Scrum Masters make consistently. In order of severity...

#1 Scheduler Mode

Scheduler mode is when a Scrum Master forgets there a two words in "servant leadership". You simply can't grow teams when you're spending your day scheduling meetings. Ask yourself (and be true to yourself) how helpful is it to sit all day and schedule meetings for your team? Is that the most important part of the Scrum Master role? I think this calls for a definition of "facilitator".  Merriam Webster defines a facilitator as "someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision".


Ask yourself, are you helping the team learn something? You don't need to be technical to help your team learn. As a Scrum Master you can be helping your team learn about Scrum.  You can help your team understand why the ceremonies (or events as they are called today) are so important? You can help your team learn the benefits of doing scrum the way it is meant to be executed.


How are you helping your team be productive? Am I making you think yet?  If removing impediments came to mind, you are spot on. How efficiently are you removing impediments and getting answers for your team?  How well do you keep your team focused? Do you keep an active list of impediments? I like to keep a list of impediments for two main reasons. The first is to keep track of what I have still to remove and the second is to use it at the retrospective. The list is a reminder to help the team remember what transpired in hopes of improving.


How well are you paying attention to your team? If you really are tuned into your team, you will know when communication is poor and what to do about it. [optin-monster-shortcode id="aidp9pziclmkfyaj"]

#2 Not helping your team get organized

The second mistakes Scrum Masters make is not helping your team get organized. Self-organization doesn't come natural to some. If you don't help your team, who will? I think because many see the the Scrum Master role as a member of the team and not a project manager, believe it is up to the team to find its way. I like this post written by Gunther Verheyen a guest author at scrum.org, "A Scrum Master keeps going back and forth, up and down through the range of services possible. It is not about linearly, sequentially progressing through the presented services, unidirectional upward. A Scrum Master does not steadily provide only one type of service". How well your team is doing reflects on how well you service your team.  So ask yourself, how well are you servicing your team? This is one question I recommend you ask yourself every day.  It is easy to fall into patterns, specially if you're riding against the tide. For those of you who struggle with your company implementing half baked scrum, I get it's hard to keep to what is expected of your role. But, you're doing yourself a disfavor to fall in line, and that of your company.

#3 Allowing your team to take on too much

The third Mistakes Scrum Masters make, is allowing your team to take on too much in a sprint. When was the last time you mentioned to your team that they have slipped again, and were not able to complete their sprint successfully? If you answered all the time, or I frequently do this; when was the last time you pulled out some hard facts about how much they can actually complete? When was the last time you challenged your team? Again, when you are servicing your team, you ask hard questions. When teams start slipping, I immediately get to action.  I don't wait. Waiting creates room to make slippage acceptable.  Use the retrospective to get to the root of the problem.  If they simply took on more than what they could chew, ask the team to take a step back and take on a little less in the next sprint. But, if this has been happening since day one, you have a major problem.  Get to the root by being honest with yourself, looking straight into a mirror and ask have you've done all you can? Ask, what interruptions has the team experienced during the sprint? Is there someone pushing in more work? How did this all get to where it is? During the retrospective, make time to go over what you are finding to be the root cause of the slippage. Ask the team to come up with a plan to finish everything within the sprint. If the problem is someone is pushing in more work, find out who! Ask the team to let you know if there is anyone asking them to do something else.  Conflicting priorities tends to be one of the root causes of slippage. Get to the bottom of this.

Mistakes Scrum Masters make...

Scrum Master mistakes can have a lasting impact on the overall health of the team and the project. A team that consistently slips sprint to sprint, or one that is allowed to forgo events is dysfunctional and will put the project at risk. To avoid these mistakes....
  • I recommend you keep your scrum guide handy and ready to act.
  • Ask yourself every day "how have you served your team"
  • Ask your team during the retrospective how you can improve the quality of your service
  • Courage is not only for your team. Adopt this scrum value for yourself and speak up when you know there is something wrong.
  • Help your team keep focus by trying to be one step ahead.
  • Be a buffer, don't let anyone take your team in another direction.
Ok, it's your turn. What has your experience? Share with us.