Scrum Master – Maestro of Good Relationships

One of the key roles in an agile team is played by the Scrum Master. He has no direct responsibility for the delivered result, but is in charge of ensuring that everything runs “smoothly” and without stress.

“Deaf phones” represent an exercise from elementary school, when we tried to transmit information between several people in a row. It was always fun for us, because at the end the words are totally different from the initial words. Then, in the course of life, we realized that even communication between just two people can often be misinterpreted. That is why conversation, clarification and seeking confirmation from the other party to understand each other are necessary in order to avoid unpleasant situations and negative consequences. At work, clear and fast communication is very important for the realization of the project and for good interpersonal relations.

A Scrum Master can be compared to the coach of a football team

In agile organizations, in addition to the Product Owner, who is in charge of the product, the Scrum Master, who is in charge of the process, plays a key role in the team. Since scrum is basically “self-correcting”, and teams are complex adaptive systems (CAS), continuous work with people is needed to adapt and improve the process. People are the main focus, as the agile concept is based on self-organizing, cross-functional teams. In such an environment, in order for the process to run smoothly, it is necessary to have mutual understanding and constant exchange of information. This is where the importance of a good Scrum Master comes into play. The specificity of this role is that it does not have concrete and direct responsibility for the delivered result, but masterfully creates conditions and relationships that enable execution. A Scrum Master can be vividly compared to the coach of a football team. His role is to help the players get better, to advise them, to suggest strategies and visions – how they can play together at their best. But, once the game starts, the players themselves are responsible for the way they play on the field.

This is also the role of the Scrum Master in the business team – he helps to apply scrum in the correct way, so that the whole process works flawlessly and in the end a product is delivered that will satisfy clients/customers. The Scrum Master is involved in all activities and meetings, with the aim of optimizing the entire process, precisely because he is separated from the team and can see a wider perspective.

Stages in team creation

An experienced Scrum Master should adapt his approach according to the specifics and maturity of the team. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman also identified several stages in the creation of a team: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (FSNP). The names of these stages describe the psychological development of the team members, which they go through while working on the project:

Forming is the initial stage when the team gets to know each other as a group of individuals, but they still lack clarity about the common goal and personal responsibilities.

– Storming is the second phase when confrontations arise between team members who try to find their place in the team and often argue.

Norming is the third phase that refers to the establishment of consensus and agreement between team members

– Performing phase when the team has a clear strategy and vision and can function autonomously and solve problems.

Scrum Master State of Mind

The goal of every Scrum Master is to have a team that is independent in performing and creating value. In order to reach that desired stage, the Scrum Master as a team leader must learn, master the “Scrum Master State of Mind” model, as well as implement it. It is a set of knowledge from four main areas, which are used in different situations, depending on the needs of the team:

Teaching and mentoring – “I will explain or give advice”. In the beginning, it is essential that individuals, teams and the entire organization learn how to properly apply Agile. This requires a change in mindset, by sharing examples of good practice, learning new models and helping people improve.

Removing impediments – “I’ll do it for you”. This is a key activity of the Scrum Master, as it removes the team’s frustrations. Of course, only when it is necessary, the idea is to create an independent, self-organizing team

Facilitating – taking the initiative and leading meetings. A Scrum Master should know how to keep communication efficient and productive. In meetings, he helps team members to agree and come to a decision together (although he does not make it himself).

Coaching – “What are you going to do about it?” This is the approach for mature teams, which need to be maintained in the shape of a successful team. Here, the coach asks questions, so that the team understands what and how to do it, and does not give them examples and advice.

Observing – in addition to these four approaches, it is important to mention this activity, which a good Scrum Master must continuously implement, regardless of the stage of development the team is in. It is the starting point for each of the above approaches. Quality and detailed analysis always helps to differentiate reacts appropriately to all situations.

Traits of an ideal Scrum Master

If we were to describe the ideal Scrum Master (also known as Servant Leader, Scrum Parent…), he would possess the following qualities:

– An analyst who can look at the situation in detail, evaluate people and understand “why” something is being done

A planner who has a bigger picture and can guess what the next steps are to keep the process flowing

A peacemaker who can help the team resolve any conflict

An empath who listens well, understands and helps each team member to integrate

– A psychologist who discovers “blind spots”, i.e. hidden points of both individuals and teams

A trustworthy person with whom all information can be openly and honestly shared

– A moderator at meetings who, despite having no technical knowledge, leads the team, asks questions, leads to the right conclusions and leads to the best solution

– Team protector who objectively protects the executors (development team) from overload and ad hoc requests

Promoter of the agile way of doing business, who with his personal example confirms in practice the implementation of scrum values (commitment, courage, focus, respect, openness)

– An optimist who transmits positive energy, encourages and believes that everything can be solved.

You can call it what you want, but you definitely need it!

Overall, the Scrum Master helps the team realize the project, in an environment that minimizes stress. This role can be called something else, but it is needed by every organization, whether it is agile or not, because it puts at the core the necessity of emotional intelligence (EI). The satisfaction of all members is important for the company’s long-term success, growth and innovation. Especially now, in an unstable and extremely changing world, it is very important to nurture a team. Dedicated managers, team leaders, HR people, support the organization by sincerely building good interpersonal relationships, with the desire to keep employees happy, motivated, involved and productive.