The larger a Scrum team is, the more opportunity for wastage there is, and so the more difference a good Scrum Master makes.
A team with a bad Scrum master can feel powerless, floundering, isolated, and overwhelmed whereas a team with a good Scrum Master generally feels well informed, connected, directed, powerful, and like they are working at peak effectiveness.
- Set a regular cadence for the team.
- The daily scrum is always at a predictable time so no time is wasted trying to organise it every day. The larger the team, the more important this is.
- This of course also applies to the Review, Retrospective, and Planning meetings too.
Set a strict agenda
- Tangent topics will come up regularly during meetings, and although sometimes these can be important discussions, they often take up a lot of time. Make sure that there’s never a time when 2 or 3 people are talking and everyone else is phasing out. If it’s on topic for a Scrum meeting, everyone should be involved, otherwise it should be taken offline (after the meeting with just the relevant people).
- Make sure that someone takes a note of these topics as they can sometimes be forgotten otherwise.
Help your team
- The people who know best how to make software are the people actually making it. If they raise an impediment, take it seriously and work towards a solution.
- Help to motivate the team by showing appreciation for quality work. Doing this publicly often helps motivate other team members to strive towards the same level.
- Encourage collaboration amongst team members. If one person is stuck, help them to realise that it’s always ok to ask for help.
- Protect the team from excessive scope change. Adding a last minute Product Backlog Item (PBI) to a sprint should only be allowed if the team can drop an equivalently sized one.
- Minimise WIP (work in progress) by encouraging the team to finish each PBI before picking up another whenever possible. This helps to minimise multitasking and ensure granular delivery of value to the stakeholders.
Help your Product Owner (PO)
- A good Scrum Master should help the PO effectively communicate his requirements and priorities with the team. He should then reinforce those priorities and encourage the team to work in priority order whenever possible.
- It’s a good idea to have high level conversations with the PO on occasion to work out what their more abstract goals are so you can help by making micro decisions for the team when appropriate. This way you can occasionally act as a Proxy-Product Owner when needed.
Coach your team
- Make sure the team follows the Definition of Done.
- Make sure the Product Owner creates well fleshed out PBIs with easy to understand Acceptance Criteria.
- Ensure that the team has a uniform understanding of the estimation method being used (we use 2-Small, 4-Medium, 8-Large, where a Medium is about a day’s work)
The difference a good Scrum Master makes is well documented, and if you follow the above guidelines, you should be well on your way to empowering your team.
Along with my brother, I made a video on this topic which explains how the Scrum Guide defines the role of Scrum Master:
I’ve written many more specific tips on SSW’s Rules to Better Scrum