Scrum Master Survival Tips: Build Your Team

In our occasional series about how to survive as a successful Scrum Master, today we’re looking at how to make sure you’ve got a winning team.

A Scrum team involves a number of different disciplines, and part of the Scrum Master’s job is to bring those all together to create a highly motivated, self-managing team. First, let’s look at who you need in the team.

Product Owner

The Product Owner is the person on the team who is the business representative for the deliverable you are creating. In other words, they set the direction of the product. They need to have enough authority to be able to make decisions. It should be someone with good knowledge of the business and what the customer needs and they should be based close to the development team. If you can get your Product Owner embedded in the team and working from the same office as the developers, that’s going to be hugely beneficial. Ideally, your Product Owner should be spending about a quarter of their time working with the rest of the team on the project, so that’s more than one day per week. It makes a big difference if they’re just along the corridor when you need them.

It helps if your Product Owner has some idea of what it takes to get a piece of software built, for IT projects and as a minimum, they should have an understanding of the Agile methods, tools, and techniques that you are using on the project.

The Development Team

This is the group responsible for making the product. There will most likely be a number of people in here, each with their own areas of special interest.

The exact makeup of your team will depend on the technical disciplines required for the product. For example, you might need a UX specialist, web developers, an SQL database expert and someone who can manage app security protocols. It’s more important to get the skills you need than have an individual with every skill — where it makes sense that someone takes on several development roles, let them do so as that makes the team more flexible overall.

Testers

Your development team might include people who are adequately skilled at testing, but you may find that it’s more effective for your project to have dedicated testers. Don’t worry: there will be enough work for them to do! Scrum requires frequent testing — much more so than projects managed the waterfall way.

Your testing team is also the group responsible for managing any automated testing that the project requires. Automated testing tools can be time-consuming to set up, but once they are in play, they will save you hours of manual testing time (and do the job as well as a human tester). Managing your automated testing tools should be a role for someone on the team as this will ensure that adequate regression testing takes place every time a new feature is developed and launched.

If you are concerned that there will not be enough for your testers to do, make sure they develop their skills in other areas so they can support the developers, get involved with quality management beyond the scope of their testing, prepare user documentation and so on.

Scrum Master

That’s you! The Scrum Master is the team’s facilitator. You ensure everyone is engaged with the process. This isn’t a role to be confused with a project manager. The role of Scrum Master is to make sure that the process is followed effectively and that the team continues to learn and develop ways of working together. The Scrum Master also ensures that the team is strict about sprint runs.

Sometimes the Scrum Master is the lead developer on the project, but that can result in the individual getting too stuck into the ‘doing’ and not spending enough time facilitating. If you have experienced and enthusiastic people you can rotate the role of Scrum Master if that helps develop the individuals in the team.

Scrum Master Survival Tips: Build Your Team

As the Scrum Master, you may have the luxury of picking your team for this project, but it’s far more likely that you’ll be allocated a team of developers, be told who your Product Owner is and left to get on with it. That should mean your first job is getting to know the people on the project so you can start to facilitate them working together.

Spend time with them and watch how they work individually and as a group. Remember that part of the Scrum Master job is to lead the team from within. Watch out for conflict and issues with the group — this is where understanding their work preferences and characters will make it easier for you to keep the team aligned with the end goal and focused on creating the product.

Try to build in some time to your busy project schedule for fun. Think about what team building events you could do to create some shared experiences. Even calling out for pizza at lunchtime counts! It’s the little things that will bring your team together, help you understand each other more and create a positive working environment where you can all do your best work. Ready to take on your first Scrum Master team? Triumph Strategic Consulting can help you find the perfect team. Drop us a line today!

Originally published at www.triumphstrategicconsulting.com on July 24, 2017.