Scrum Tips to Be a Successful Scrum Master of Remote Teams

6 Scrum Tips to Be a Successful Scrum Master of Remote Teams

What Does It Mean to Be a Successful Scrum Master?

Scrum is a dominant framework for implementing principles of Agile software development that have been described for the first time in the eighties and then refined and made in a Scrum Guide in 2010 (here’s the 2020 version.)

About 70% of organizations use agile methodologies in 2021, and most of them will utilize Scrum. Multiple leading businesses you know — Google, IBM, McKinsey & Co, and other companies from this spreadsheet — it’s not just tech, though: people manage to run teams in a finance company, small retail business, or manufacture via Scrum.

Scrum’s core is continuous improvement, and it’s great for long-term projects where everyone has a lot of thoughts on how things should look (and they’re changing, constantly). That’s… every software project where developers iterate with stakeholders and end-users. So, what’s Scrum? How to become a Scrum Master? What do people in the Scrum Master role do? Let’s explore the answers.

Briefly on Scrum Team

The Scrum Team has a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Developers. It has a flat structure, aims to achieve a Product Goal, and is self-managed; people hold each other accountable. The framework splits the projects into development sprints of 1-4 weeks — it’s rarely more, ‘cause the team has to collect feedback through short iterations.

A Product Owner is a person from the customer’s side that knows all about the product, values, product users and tells the Scrum team about Product Goals; their goal is to improve a product in development.

Scrum Master serves the team and helps:

•  Implement things stakeholders want to see in the productand understand them better by engaging the Product Owner.
•  Understand Scrum principles and utilize them, focus on getting things done, and remove roadblocks that block their team’s performance.
•  Adopt Scrum throughout the company and connect company’s stakeholders (do not confuse with stakeholders represented by Product Owner — they’re not the same) to Scrum Developers, too.
You might think that all of these sounds like there are lots of Scrum Master vs project manager similarities. They’re different: the latter controls the process and risks to meet the stakeholder’s requirements; the second acts as a connection between team, stakeholders, and development team while maintaining & sharing Scrum principles: commit, focus, be open, respectful, and courageous.

Scrum Development Documents

Product Backlog

has features that need to be implemented in the project as a whole to achieve the Product’s Goal. The team can update it with new fixes, suggestions, and improvements.

Sprint Backlog

has tasks that need to be completed within a Sprint. Created by Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers after analyzing what steps need to be taken to progress to the Product’s Goal.

Sprint Burndown

Chart shows how much work still needs to be done in a current Sprint. Helps in scheduling and risk management. Based on productivity data.

Tips for a New Scrum Master

Let’s go through recommendations on our Scrum Master checklist.
Remember Values and Principles from the Agile Manifesto.

Put people & interactions first, processes & tools second.

Don’t separate existing team structures if people are used to working together, allocate time for team building if you have new people in teams or a new team. Closely monitor burn-down charts both to plan for deadlines and to address issues affecting developers’ productivity. Cross-check your team’s performance data with project managers.

Prioritize customers and their experience over contract negotiations.

Invite stakeholders to sprint meetings, get them on board on Sprint Planning, engage them in estimating and prioritizing backlog items. Then, your team will be able to clarify everything they don’t understand directly, and stakeholders will see how you work, agree on delivery beforehand, know people who are responsible for their product better.

Choose high-performing functional software over paperwork.

Ready-to-use product is more important than documentation. Ideally, your team should deliver a few polished, ready-to-use features within each sprint. Use the MVP concept to figure out what features to prioritize (those that bring max value to the customers).

Adapt to necessary changes rather than commit to plans.

Scrum Master must embrace changes and get their development team to implement them in a lean way.

Keep all Parties on Track

To effectively move the team towards the path to Product Goal, talk often.
Within the Scrum framework, Scrum Master runs several types of meetings.

Sprint planning meeting.

Self-explanatory. As we’ve already mentioned, involve stakeholders and a full team. Discuss with all participants what items should be included in the upcoming sprint backlog. Stick to two hours.

Daily scrum stand-up.

Includes Development Team and Scrum Master, often a Product Owner. Everyone is standing so all participants have a motivation to finish ASAP. The goal is for everyone to share what they’ve done yesterday, what they’ll do today, and if there’sanything that keeps them from doing what they’ve planned. Maximize relevant information. Stick to 15 minutes or less. After the meeting, Scrum Master reviews the reported bottlenecks and moves them out of the developer’s way.

Demos/Iteration reviews.

Usually conducted after the sprint or in-sprint milestones to showcase what’s completed. Duration is about an hour. They provide opportunities for teams to exchange feedback and request stakeholders’ to review their work. It’s better to make them celebratory and informal. Include project managers as well.

Retrospective.

Held at the end of the sprint. Retrospectives evaluate what was done right during the sprint, what can be done better, and what shouldn’t have been done at all. Scrum Master is [again] made aware of bottlenecks that impact the work — and Scrum Team thinks of a solution to avoid them in the next sprint. Retrospectives are good for complacency mitigation. If everyone trusts each other, it’s easy for people to admit where they’ve brushed over tasks and settled for “okay” instead of striving for “good,” easy to ask questions they’ve had but didn’t ‘cause they needed to keep up with the pace.
The remote scrum master can also run all these via calls — people can stand at home just as well as in the office.

Establish a Strong Connection with the Team

Scrum Master protects the team from over-committing, crunching, and burnout. In a scrum master vs project lead/manager relationship, you’re your team’s agent and protector. In front of a Product Owner, you are a facilitator — or translator — for them. Active listening and honesty are your friends.

Note: Scrum Masters facilitate software & application development but that doesn’t mean they micromanage! Trust is impossible with micromanagement, so forget about it.

Scrum Master as a Coach

Scrum Masters often act as coaches — we’ve already covered it a bit, but there are some additions.

For individuals.

Support and empower people who feel like they are unheard or invisible. Be empathetic but neutral in 1:1 meetings with a team member. Give actionable feedback. Always be ready to help people organize their work, get involved with development techniques they didn’t know before, etc.

For the team.

Encourage the team to improve, learn and share knowledge, gain new experiences, listen to each other, and embrace Scrum Values within their environment. Be a pioneer of sustainable coding behavior. Help teams to improve, adopt CI/CD, write clean, easily scalable code, do refactoring, etc. For that, you got to have technical skills.

For the organization.

Motivate the team and organization to look at products from the perspective of a business owner. Connect team’s skills and responsibilities to a high-level Product Goal. Help adopt Scrum beyond your team. Notice inefficiencies. Read on how to change the culture n the organization — and apply what you’ve learned.

Find Valuable Insight for Your Team

Keep your team updated on the latest trends and inventions in technology that are relevant for your project, the product you’re developing, your industries, and project management. Talk to stakeholders and other people in the team to learn more about what your team can do better. Research product’s audience and market, be aware of new tools and systems on the market, find out new ways to empower your team.

Get a Certification

Lots of businesses are trying to push their courses and training to get your organization to Adopt “Agile” Now or something terrible will happen. Being a certified Scrum Master isn’t necessary to work as a Scrum Master, actually — but lots of employers now look if you have The Paper n your CV. So, there are three levels of certification for expert evaluation at most courses:

—  Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I — fundamental knowledge,
—  PSM II — advanced level,
—  PSM III — distinguished level.

You’ll have to renew your certification every year or a few.

The Benefits Scrum Will Bring to a Project & Final Thoughts on Agile

Scrum Masters often act as coaches — we’ve already covered it a bit, but there are some additions.

Engineer with better quality.

Everything is based on continuous feedback and exposure — that stimulates the team to do better and fix better. They also see the results of their work and its impact, which is a great motivator.

Decrease time-to-market for a product (up to 30-40%).

With continuous iterations and improvements, everything moves quickly. Additionally, the cost of errors & fixing them is reduced (’cause they’re fixed in the process).

Increase customer satisfaction.

Again, due to feedback and stakeholders being a part of the development process.

There are some challenges, though. The article about product development, in which Scrum definition was introduced, offered an approach that helps teams be more creative, connected to the customers, and independent. With it, such teams were to become a driver of change within a business. In 2021, the speed and velocity of “agile” organizations are often daunting for team members, especially if teams don’t have Scrum Masters. That leads to burnout and an astonishing employee turnover rate. Scrum requires a collaborative, complex effort from its practitioners — but there’s no proper collaboration when people in a community are exhausted.

Now knowing how to be a Scrum Master, remember: people in that role often control the emotional climate in the team. That’s hard to do if you cannot be direct and self-aware about your own emotions, and it’s especially challenging when requirements are unrealistic. You have to be ready to refuse and re-negotiate, always, on behalf of your team.

Recognize your team for the incredible value and goodness they bring to the business and product goal. Guide them, direct them and make them feel seen and heard — then, they’ll achieve incredible results. Good Scrum Masters are great in leadership positions — but they aren’t, ‘cause Scrum doesn’t do hierarchies. They’re just there for their team to be the best developers they can be.

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