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How a Scrum Master Can Support Problem Solving Workshops
By Happy Sharer
Problem solving workshops are a great way to bring together stakeholders to collaborate on finding solutions to complex problems. Having a Scrum Master present at these workshops can be a great asset, as they have the training and experience to facilitate the process and ensure it runs smoothly.
A. Definition of Problem Solving Workshops
A problem solving workshop is a meeting designed to help a group of people work together to identify and resolve a problem. These workshops are often used when there is no one single solution or when the problem is complex and requires a collaborative effort. The goal of such workshops is to create a shared understanding of the problem and generate ideas for potential solutions.
B. Benefits of Having a Scrum Master Support a Problem Solving Workshop
A Scrum Master is an experienced team leader who has the skills and knowledge necessary to facilitate a problem solving workshop. They can provide invaluable guidance and structure to the process, helping to ensure that the workshop achieves its goals. Here are some of the ways in which a Scrum Master can support a problem solving workshop:
A. Establishing a Shared Understanding of the Problem
The first step in any problem solving workshop is to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of the problem that needs to be solved. A Scrum Master can help with this by:
i. Clarifying the Problem That Needs to Be Solved
A Scrum Master can help the group to identify and define the problem that needs to be solved, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. This helps to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved.
ii. Facilitating Collaboration Between Stakeholders
A Scrum Master can also help to facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders, ensuring that everyone’s views are taken into account. As Katherine Jones, Senior Director of Product Management at Microsoft, puts it: “The best ideas come from collaboration, so it’s important to get the right people in the room to discuss the problem and brainstorm solutions.”
B. Creating a Safe Environment
Creating a safe and comfortable environment is essential for any problem solving workshop. A Scrum Master can help to do this by:
i. Encouraging Open Dialogue
A Scrum Master can help to encourage open dialogue and make sure that everyone feels comfortable speaking up. By doing so, they can help to create an environment where everyone feels their opinions are valued and their contributions are respected.
ii. Building Trust
Trust is essential for any successful problem solving workshop. A Scrum Master can help to build trust between team members by creating an atmosphere of openness and respect. According to research by the Harvard Business Review, “trust is the foundation upon which effective collaboration is built.”
C. Facilitating Group Discussions
A Scrum Master can help to facilitate group discussions and keep the conversation focused on the task at hand. They can do this by:
i. Guiding the Conversation in a Constructive Way
A Scrum Master can help to guide the conversation in a constructive way, ensuring that everyone’s ideas are heard and considered. They can also help to keep the conversation focused on the task at hand, avoiding unnecessary tangents.
ii. Ensuring All Voices Are Heard
A Scrum Master can ensure that all voices are heard and that everyone is given the opportunity to contribute. They can also help to mediate any disagreements that arise and ensure that the discussion remains respectful and productive.
iii. Identifying the Best Solutions
Finally, a Scrum Master can help to identify the best solutions based on the ideas generated during the workshop. They can do this by taking into account the preferences of all stakeholders and weighing up the pros and cons of each option.
Time-boxing is an important part of any problem solving workshop. A Scrum Master can help to manage the available time by:
i. Managing the Time Available
A Scrum Master can help to manage the available time by setting realistic goals and breaking the task down into smaller steps. This helps to ensure that the team does not become overwhelmed and that the workshop runs smoothly.
ii. Keeping the Team Focused
A Scrum Master can also help to keep the team focused on the task at hand, ensuring that they stay on track and do not get sidetracked. They can do this by regularly reminding the team of their goals and encouraging them to stay on task.
E. Capturing Outputs
One of the key tasks of a Scrum Master is to capture the outputs of the workshop. This includes:
i. Decisions Made
A Scrum Master can help to capture the decisions made during the workshop, ensuring that everyone is clear on what has been agreed.
ii. Action Points Agreed
A Scrum Master can also help to capture the action points agreed during the workshop, making sure that everyone knows who is responsible for what.
iii. Ideas Generated
Finally, a Scrum Master can help to capture the ideas generated during the workshop, ensuring that none of them are forgotten. This can be done by documenting them in a shared document or using post-it notes.
A Scrum Master can provide invaluable support to a problem solving workshop. From establishing a shared understanding of the problem and creating a safe environment to facilitating group discussions and capturing outputs, they can help to ensure that the workshop is successful and that the team achieves its goals. The presence of a Scrum Master can also help to build trust between team members and encourage open dialogue, creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas.
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Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.
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Insights > Agile Training > A ScrumMaster’s Checklist for Problem-Solving
A ScrumMaster’s Checklist for Problem-Solving
In my blog post, “Growing and Improving as a ScrumMaster,” I wrote: So, how do I know if my ScrumMaster is effective? Consider these three questions: Are we making the same mistakes time and time again?– A good ScrumMaster will work with the team to ensure that once a mistake is made, that the team […]
By Richard Cheng
October 14, 2020
In my blog post, “ Growing and Improving as a ScrumMaster ,” I wrote:
So, how do I know if my ScrumMaster is effective? Consider these three questions: Are we making the same mistakes time and time again? – A good ScrumMaster will work with the team to ensure that once a mistake is made, that the team develops practices to ensure they do not continue repeating the same error. Mistakes are things the team does that does not have the outcomes or consequences they intended. Are we encountering the same issues time and time again? – A good ScrumMaster works with the team so that when issues arise, the teams can recognize issues as they arise and will put in practices to ensure that those issues are effectively dealt with going forward. Issues are problems that arise that the teams did not directly create. Are we getting better over time or are we stuck where we are? – The concept of having highly effective teams versus ineffective teams is relative. What we really want is that our team is getting better over time. If we see that our teams are not repeating the same mistakes, that our teams recognize issues as they arise and are able to effectively deal with those issues, and that our teams are constantly improving, then that’s a signal that we have an effective ScrumMaster. If these things are not true, that’s a sign that your ScrumMaster needs to improve their abilities to work through these issues with their team.
To expand on this concept, one of the key goals of the ScrumMaster is to ensure their team is continuously working through problems and improving. To aid with this, I have created a checklist for ScrumMasters that are potentially stuck on one issue and unsure how to proceed.
ScrumMaster Checklist for Solving Problems
- Did the Scrum team discuss the problem at the retrospective? – The retrospective is the Scrum event where the team is focused on addressing problems and paving the way to continuous improvement.
- Did the Scrum team discuss the impact? – If the problem is very impactful, it’s essential to discuss it as soon as possible. If it’s not particularly impactful, the team could potentially wait to address the problem.
- Did the Scrum team identify the root causes? – A critical part of understanding a problem is understanding what’s causing the problem. Using techniques such as 5 Whys, Fishbone Diagrams, Pareto Charts, and Systems Modelling can help teams with root cause analysis.
- Did the Scrum team come up with a solution? – At this point, the team comes up with potential solutions and identifies how to address this problem. Note that steps 1-4 are done in the initial retrospective meeting where the problem is first discussed.
- Has the Scrum team tried the solution? – In the subsequent retrospective, the team will discuss if they implemented the solutions they developed last retrospective.
- What were the initial results? – The team identifies the results of their initial solution. Did the solution address the issue? Did the solution cause any unexpected results or additional action items?
- What are next steps from here? – If the problem is solved, then great! If not, what are the team’s next steps from here? This usually results going back to step one.
Note the first four items above are part of the team’s retrospectives to address the problem. Items 5, 6, and 7 are discussed in the subsequent retrospectives to see if the problem is addressed.
If we have a Scrum team that is continuously experiencing the same problem, I would pose these seven questions to the ScrumMaster. Any ScrumMaster that’s fumbles and bumbles in answering these questions is probably a ScrumMaster who’s still a bit green and working through their ability to help the team work through their issues.
For information on how to improve as a ScrumMaster, see Growing and Improving as a ScrumMaster .
To learn more about retrospectives and continuous improvement, join our Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Advanced-Certified ScrumMaster courses (A-CSM).
Categories: Agile Training , NextUp Solutions , Scrum , ScrumMaster
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A Scrum Master is like an orchestra conductor, guiding a group of individuals to create something that no one of them could create alone. —Mike Cohn, Paraphrased from Succeeding with Agile 
SAFe Scrum Master/Team Coach
Scrum Master Stories: Yolanda
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The SAFe Scrum Master/Team Coach (SM/TC) is a servant leader and coach for an Agile team who facilitates team events and processes, and supports teams and ARTs in delivering value.
They help educate the team in Scrum, Built-in-Quality, Kanban, and SAFe and ensure that the agreed Agile processes are followed. They also help remove impediments and foster an environment for high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and relentless improvement.
In SAFe, the Scrum Master/Team Coach (SM/TC) assists the team in meeting their delivery goals. They coach teams in self-organization and self-management and help them coordinate and participate in Agile Release Trains (ARTs) events, increasing the effectiveness of SAFe across the organization.
SAFe SM/TCs are integral members of an Agile Team and share responsibilities with the team for their overall performance. The SM/TC has the specialty skills that support adopting SAFe Scrum practices, ensuring no substantial gaps, and that the team knows how to plan, execute, review and retrospect. In addition, SM/TCs can actively coach SAFe Team Kanban teams and help each Agile Team achieve Team Flow .
Characteristics of a SAFe Scrum Master/Team Coach
The SM/TC role is a team member who has the responsibility to help the team achieve its goals. They do this by teaching and coaching SAFe Scrum and SAFe Team Kanban, and by supporting SAFe principles and practices. They also help identify and eliminate bottlenecks to flow.
SM/TCs come from various backgrounds and roles, and they are in high demand. Although they are not typically people managers, SM/TCs are influential members of an Agile Team, and they should have the following attributes:
- Empathetic – Support the team by displaying an authentic understanding and concern for a team member’s beliefs or feelings. In turn, the team is more likely to build relationships with others, resulting in higher levels of collaboration and performance. Empathy is a crucial ingredient of trust, which is essential for people to accept and welcome coaching.
- Conflict navigator – Supports team members in resolving interpersonal conflicts, problem-solving, and decision-making. Agile coach and author Lyssa Atkins opines, “Navigating conflict is our new mindset, in which we help teams move from conflict to constructive disagreement as a catapult to high performance.” 
- Servant leader – Persuades rather than uses authority. As servant leaders, SM/TCs focus on the needs of team members and those they serve, intending to achieve results aligned with the organization’s values, principles, and business objectives.  They have choices in how they collaborate with the team depending on the situation and their accountability for team performance. SM/TCs should have options for achieving their responsibilities. For example, when it comes to events their accountability should be ‘ensuring that all team events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.’ SM/TCs can facilitate the events or let the team self-manage and facilitate their own events. Rotating the responsibilities for facilitating events and meetings is essential to the team’s growth and its ability to self-manage.
- Mentor – Supports the personal development of team members, helping them gain a continuous learning mindset. They guide the team to find solutions to their problems independently instead of being given the answers.
- Transparent – Transparency is a Core Value of SAFe and one of the pillars of empiricism. The SM/TC is open to feedback and appreciates transparency from others. They help the team provide transparency by ensuring artifacts are inspected, identifying significant differences between expected and actual results, and detecting anti-patterns.
- Coach – The SM/TC understands and educates the team on methods beyond Scrum, such as SAFe, Kanban, Flow, Built-in Quality, and more. They often have advanced training and experience in one or more technical and business domains.
The SM/TC fulfills many critical responsibilities in performing the role, as illustrated in Figure 1. Each of these responsibilities is described in the sections that follow.
Facilitating PI Planning
SM/TCs play an essential role in PI Planning . They collaborate with other SM/TCs and the Release Train Engineer (RTE) , working actively with the team during PI planning. An effective SM/TC is critical to a successful event, and they typically do the following activities to help facilitate PI planning:
- Prepare for PI Planning – Before the event, the SM/TC ensures the team is briefed on upcoming features by Product Managers , Business Owners , and other stakeholders, as illustrated in Figure 2. They help Agile Teams and the Product Owner identify local stories, maintenance, defects, tech debt, and other work the team needs to accomplish during the upcoming PI.
- Draft PI plans – The SM/TC facilitates the team in creating a draft PI plan for the PI’s iterations, writing draft PI Objectives , and identifying ART risks and issues. The SM/TC also helps the team set up their digital or physical planning areas, providing visual radiators that create transparency and collaboration. They help the team determine their capacity and keep within this constraint.
- Coordinate with other teams – SM/TCs help ensure cooperation and communication during the event. During PI planning, they usually secure subject matter experts (SMEs) and ART stakeholders and foster communication with other teams to determine how they will collaborate on feature development and resolve dependencies.
- Create team PI objectives – SM/TCs help teams create team PI objectives, the things they intend to accomplish in the upcoming PI. They ensure the objectives are written before the draft plan review and that a proper mix of committed and uncommitted goals is present.
- Review final plans and business value – Before the final review, SM/TCs help ensure PI objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) and are written in a way everyone can understand. The SM/TC often facilitates Business Owner and team collaboration during business value assignments.
Supporting Iteration Execution
SM/TCs support Agile Teams during the iteration, increasing the likelihood of achieving its iteration goals and PI objectives. For example they:
- Facilitate team events – Agile Teams use cadence-based events to coordinate and sync their efforts. While Scrum and Team Kanban operate somewhat differently, all teams need to plan, sync, review, inspect their work, and hold retrospectives. Figure 3 illustrates the events (or activities) that Agile Teams typically do during an iteration.
- Work within the ART’s cadence – SM/TCs help teams apply Scrum or Kanban within the development cadence and synchronization requirements of the Agile Release Train (ART) . This cadence and synchronization facilitate alignment, dependency management, Release on Demand, and fast integrated learning cycles ( SAFe Principle #4 ).
- Collaborate with the PO – Since the Product Owner (PO) is accountable for maximizing the solution’s value resulting from the team’s work, an essential aspect of the SM/TC’s role is supporting the PO. They do this by:
- Helping the team understand and apply the tools and techniques for Customer-Centricity and Design Thinking to build the right thing at the right time
- Ensuring the team understands the need for clear and concise team backlog items and aligns to the ART’s capacity allocation for each work item type.
- Helping the team apply empirical planning and development where progress is evaluated based on observation and experimentation of working solutions in small increments
- Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed
SM/TC can significantly improve the team’s flow of work, eliminating bottlenecks, delays, and waste. This coaching often includes the following activities:
- Establish the team Kanban board – SAFe teams use a Kanban board to visualize their work and enhance flow. Implementing an effective Kanban system adapted to meet the needs of a specific Agile Team is based on the type of work performed (marketing, software development, hardware), the team members’ skills, and their role in the ART. Creating the Kanban system is best done by involving the entire Agile Team with the guidance and facilitation of an experienced coach like the SM/TC. The SAFe extended guidance article, Applying Kanban in SAFe , describes how to establish a Kanban system and how the Kanban systems are connected in SAFe. Figure 4 illustrates an example of a Team Kanban board.
- Measure and optimize flow – SM/TCs help the team establish metrics to assess and improve its overall performance. Specific measures for flow , competency , and Outcomes are described in Measure and Grow . Flow Metrics help the SM/TC and the team evolve its process iteratively and continuously adapt to fit the team’s needs. After defining the initial process and WIP limits and executing for a while, bottlenecks should become visible. If not, the team refines the process or further reduces some WIP limits until it becomes evident that a workflow state is overloaded or starving. Other coaching opportunities for optimizing flow might include merging or splitting steps, adding buffers, swim lanes, and classes of service, or redefining workflow states.
- Build quality in – Agile Teams operate in a fast, flow-based system to develop and release high-quality business capabilities quickly. The SM/TC helps achieve this by coaching Built-in quality practices, which enable fast, reliable execution and helps ensure that needed and frequent changes are made efficiently and effectively.
Building High-Performing Teams
Creating healthy Agile Teams is essential to creating high-value increments of working solutions. Fortunately, many of the ingredients for high-performing teams are built into SAFe by design. For example, Agile Teams in SAFe are small, cross-functional, and self-organizing. They are empowered to define and execute the work needed to accomplish the team’s objectives and those of the ART. Everyone agrees that all increments should meet a shared, scalable definition of done. SM/TCs play a critical role in building high-performing teams and accomplish this through the following types of activities:
- Self-management and taking ownership and accountability
- Aligned and collaborative
- Success focused on clear goals and purpose
- Influential decision-makers who understand their work’s impact on others
- Operate with open and transparent communication and trust
- Value diversity and healthy conflict
- Provide effective, timely feedback
- Highly engaged and have fun with work, and each other
- Encourage high-performing team dynamics – SM/TCs foster an environment for high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and relentless improvement. The SM/TC mentors the team and creates an atmosphere of mutual respect, helping resolve interpersonal conflicts, and identifying growth opportunities. They assist the team in focusing on creating increments of high value for each iteration.
- Become a more effective Scrum Master/Team Coach – Every servant leader knows that their growth comes from facilitating the development of others who deliver the results. SM/TCs serve the team and the larger organization. The SM/TC supports the overall adoption of SAFe across the enterprise by coaching stakeholders and non-agile teams on effective interactions with Agile Teams, participating in the SM/TC Community of Practice, and supporting the organization’s SAFe Practice Consultants (SPC) .
- Serve as Lean-Agile Leaders – SM/TCs also advance the adoption of SAFe. They lead by example and incorporate the Lean-Agile Mindset and SAFe Lean-Agile Principles . They integrate these concepts into their responsibilities and serve as a role model for others to follow.
- Foster collaboration on the team – The SM/TC role fosters more effective and cohesive teams, enabling better business outcomes, solutions, and products. They offer observations, feedback, guidance, and advice based on what they know and have seen work.
- Coach with powerful questions – However, SM/TCs do not have all the answers. Instead, they can ask powerful questions to uncover what’s essential, then guide others to tap into their knowledge and expertise. Some examples of powerful questions include:
- What brings us to this inquiry?
- What other possibilities or options exist?
- What is it we’re not seeing?
- What do we need to do to reach a deeper level of understanding?
- If success was guaranteed, what actions would you take?
By asking powerful questions, SM/TCs help teams improve their performance, solve problems more independently, make better decisions, learn new skills, and better reach their goals.
- Resolve team conflicts – Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage. However, many teams are dysfunctional, according to Patrick Lencioni, consultant and author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team . In his book, Lencioni suggests that an absence of trust leads to the other four dysfunctions.  SM/TCs helps address these five dysfunctions with the SAFe practices, as illustrated in Figure 5.
- Develop team skillsets – SM/TCs work with team members and their functional managers to help them acquire T-shaped skills. A T-shaped individual has broad, general expertise in many areas and is an expert in one of these disciplines. SM/TCs encourage team members to pair with others to expand their skills, take on tasks in another discipline and business domain, and participate in training courses and reading books to become continuous learners.
Improving ART Performance
SM/TCs help Agile Teams improve the overall ART performance through the following activities:
- Facilitate cross-team collaboration – Cross-team collaboration is a hallmark of high-performing teams. Agile Teams cooperate across departments to bring whole product solutions to market. SAFe SM/TCs nurture an environment where cross-team collaboration thrives and is supported by practices that offer opportunities for teams to work together, for example:
- Alignment to ART PI objectives, Vision, and Strategic Themes during PI planning and addressing dependencies using the ART board
- Representing the team in the Coach Sync, PO Sync, and ART Syncs
- Attending other team’s events and demos with relevant team members
- Participating in the ART’s System Demos and Inspect & Adapt events
One of the significant benefits of working on and across teams is that colleagues learn from one another. On an Agile Team, learning new skills makes everyone more valuable to the organization and better equipped to support each other’s work. It also guards against specialty skills becoming a bottleneck, which increases delays and reduces quality.
- Build trust with stakeholders – The SM/TC helps the team build trust. SAFe relies on a rolling wave of short-term commitments from Agile Teams and ARTs to assist with business planning and outcomes, resulting in improved alignment and trust between development and business stakeholders. While solution development is uncertain by its very nature, the business depends on teams for some amount of reliable, predictable forecasting. Too little predictability and the company can’t plan. Too much, and the organization has committed to longer-term plans, which are unreliable and limit agility. Business and technology stakeholders need something in between, which is the primary purpose of PI objectives.
- Coach the IP Iteration – SM/TCs help ensure the team does not schedule any work for the IP Iteration during PI planning. Instead, they coach teams to use this iteration as an estimating buffer for meeting PI objectives and providing dedicated time for innovation, continuing education, PI planning, and the Inspect and Adapt (I&A) events.
- Help the team inspect & adapt – Ensures the team is prepared for the Inspect & Adapt event, including the PI System Demo, quantitative and qualitative measurement, and the retrospective and problem-solving workshop. They help guide the team in the I&A activities and stay within the allotted timeboxes.
- Facilitate the problem-solving workshop – SM/TCs coach teams in root cause analysis, the ‘five whys,’  and Pareto analysis . They ensure that the relevant work needed to deliver the identified improvements is planned and added to the Team Backlog.
Full or Part-Time Role?
The SM/TC can be a part-time or full-time role, depending on the size of the team, the context, and other responsibilities. However, it can be challenging for an Enterprise to justify the need for a full-time SM/TC for each Agile Team. SAFe takes a pragmatic approach, where sometimes a team member assumes the role along with other duties, or an accomplished SM/TC can support more than one team. However, during initial SAFe adoption, the job can be more intensive. It’s often beneficial to hire external SM/TC consultants to mentor the teams and help them become experienced in their roles and SAFe. These consultants will work with multiple teams and new SM/TCs. And, of course, adequate training and experience are required to be effective.
Gurteen, David. Designing powerful questions. Conversational Leadership. Retrieved October 12, 2023, from https://conversational-leadership.net/powerful-questions/
Last Update: 12 October 2023
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Workshop Problem Solving with Agile Thinking and Practices
Learn how to deal effectively and faster with impediments and improve your problem-solving skills in the workshop Problems-Solving with Agile Thinking and Practices.
Impediments can be something in the way of working, be it processes, tools, or organizational rules or structures. They slow down teams or block the delivery of products or services. Agile can help to identify problems, it tends to bring problems to the surface and provides solutions for addressing them.
Problem-Solving with Agile Thinking and Practices
Teams will face problems in their daily work. Agile calls these problems impediments. Teams need to be able to deal with impediments as they have an impact on the flow of work, they are problems that reduce outputs and results.
In the workshop Problems Solving with Agile Thinking and Practices, you will learn how to recognize, analyze, and solve problems effectively and faster using agile thinking and practices.
You will practice:
- Recognizing signals of problems, and creating safety in teams (and beyond) for people to bring up problems
- Analyzing problems, for example by using causal analysis, Cynefin, serious games, blameless post-mortems, retrospectives, swarming, or blocker analysis
- Managing impediments using techniques from Lean & Kanban; decide how to solve them and who should be involved
- Preventing problems using quality techniques like code walkthrough/reviews, pairing, CI/CD
- Using coaching and games to improve collaboration and develop problem-solving skills
Handling impediments is a key value for all teams and organizations to increase their agility. Regardless of the methods or frameworks used or how it’s called, problem-solving is an essential skill for all employees.
This workshop is intended for:
- Agile Teams.
- Technical (team) leaders and Scrum masters
- Product Owners and Project/Line Managers
- Stakeholders working with agile teams
- Agile and Lean Coaches
- Anybody who is supporting teams in agile transformations
The practices in this workshop will help you to get problems out of the way quickly and effectively.
What will you get out of this workshop:
- Become able to create a blameless culture where signals are spotted more easily and problems are brought up sooner
- Develop your skills for analyzing problems to get a deep understanding and decide to take action
- Learn how to collaboratively deal with impediments in your team and organization and find ways to prevent problems from happening
This workshop can be tailored to the specific situation and needs of your organization. Contact me !
Duration: 1 day.
This what people say after playing one of my Impediment games or reading my book Problem? What Problem? Dealing Effectively with Impediments using Agile Thinking and Practices :
I have attended Ben’s workshop about Impediments at Agile Middle East 2019 in Dubai. Ben has an amazing style of explaining and convincing the people through his workshop’s board game. The Impediment board Game is a great source of realizing for self organizing teams that actual way of dealing with impediment is to face it as a team. The team learns how to deal with their work related impediments and avoids waiting for someone outside the team to resolve for them, which actually is never going to happen. Wajih Aslam, Scrum Master, Agile Leader, Agile Coach Ben Linders steps into the gap between finding a problem and living happily ever after with his new book, Problem? What Problem? This book directly addresses problem-solving at a level that agile teams can use, right now! Thomas Cagley, Transformation Coach This book is a very useful resource for figuring out how to navigate [impediments and problems]. Ben has collected a wide range of experience-based advice that you will find helpful. Scott Duncan, Lead Coach & Trainer at Agile Software Qualities Ben Linders provides a go-to resource in Problem? What Problem? that is full of practical advice for individuals, teams and organisations seeking strategies to deal with their problems. David Spinks, Agile Adventurer, PST, AKT
This is what people say who attend my workshops:
Upcoming public events
Past events, problem solving with agile thinking and practices – full-day tutorial at agile testing days 2022, workshop problem solving with agile thinking and practices – live online, workshop problem solving with agile thinking and practices – live online, devopscon munich 2019, agile management congress 2019, workshops by ben linders.
Doing it yourself and reflecting, that is the way people learn new practices and develop skills in my workshops. They work in teams to try out things and experiment with practices to learn how agile can really look and feel.
I coach people, answer questions, share my experience, and provide lots of ideas. They learn from me, and also from each other
If you want to know more about this workshop or any other workshops or training sessions, feel free to contact me.
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Tips for New Scrum Masters Part I: Assessing Teams & Crafting Problem Statements
During your first year as a Scrum Master , you will be busy honing facilitation skills of the Scrum events and learning how Scrum applies to your unique agile organization and team. However, building your coaching competencies, while an integral part of your journey as a Scrum Master, is uniquely complicated and often gets overlooked. In this three-part series, take a deep dive into some core coaching and Scrum Master skills your organization needs from you.
Related: Comparative Agility — Scrum Master Personal Improvement Tool
Assessing Teams & Diagnosing Dysfunction
Leverage your own openness to help teams get to the root of their problems..
In an ideal world, you would never see the clearest sign of dysfunction — when a team cannot deliver on its commitments — because your Scrum Master skills put you ahead of that problem. So, what are the signs your team is at risk of failing to deliver results?
Individualism. Though a strong product owner can provide a clear vision and help with tangible goals, it is common (especially on teams that are inexperienced with self-organization) for some or all of the members to develop an individualistic mindset. Look for sentiments like, “If my tasks are done and of unquestionable quality, I’m not the problem,” or “That’s not my job.” As a Scrum Master, you must demonstrate the curiosity and openness your teams need to create a safe space to discover and diagnose these mindsets as a dysfunction. Observe who likes or does not like whom, the tone of and who participates in casual conversations, and who speaks or who does not, especially when conflict arises. In retrospective meetings, pay attention to whether or not your team is trying to solve interpersonal and communication challenges by implementing processes that never seem to work. Is anyone hoarding information or tasks? Ask them questions like:
- When do you feel our team demonstrates its best work together?
- How do we feel about the impediments we faced and how quickly we handled them?
- Does everyone on the team feel they had the information they needed to do their job well this sprint?
If you diagnose challenges through this line of observation and questioning, you may find pairing people up to co-work to be an effective method for rebuilding relationships and shortening the shelf life of your team’s impediments. Not all personalities will take to such a solution, but when it is framed as an opportunity to cross train, even many reluctant team members will step up for a chance to develop and demonstrate an improved skill set. Another option centers around coaching and developing your “star” team members to be team players. Though it’s often tempting to focus on strengthening your teams’ weakest links by coaching or directing them to do better, effective Scrum Masters know that often is not the most effective way to strengthen teams. Your retrospectives are designed to help your team solve weaknesses, but those meetings often let high-performers slip through the cracks with a harmful-to-the-team mentality. Encourage those individualists to identify their own growth areas, ask them to train others, and enlist their intellect in collaborative impediment removal opportunities. Help them become the helpers. A self-organized team understands and focuses on the team and the organization’s vision and goals, so always keep those at the forefront of difficult conversations as a guidepost for collaborative success.
Related: 4 Signs Your Scrum Team Is Struggling
Indecisiveness. High-performing agile teams decide how work gets done, and it’s crucial for them to be empowered to make continuous decisions as often as questions and problems arise. Do team members struggle to provide updates and next steps for what’s in the backlog? With a clear vision and goals, teams tend to make better and more customer-oriented decisions than individuals, especially those individuals who are farther removed from the team, the problem, and the customer. Agile teams should refine all of their work using a product backlog, or at least a sprint backlog. That way, work is prioritized for the customer’s needs, the sprint plan, the product owner’s vision, and the organization’s goals, based on team capacity, skills, and competing priorities. Teams struggle to meet their commitments or pursue goals without a product owner who has the time, skills and focus needed to groom the product backlog regularly or without a dedicated time for and approach to sprint planning.
Related: Scrum Anti-Patterns — Large Product Backlog Often, agile teams also struggle if company leaders ask them to operate outside of their agile or Scrum-guided working agreements. Observe how much non-backlog work your team members pull in each sprint. Diagnosis (and ideally problem solving) in this area can dramatically improve your team member retention by reducing stress and confusion and, ideally, increasing clarity and autonomy.
- Can they walk you through all of the ways work comes to them?
- How does the team handle mid-sprint change requests? Where do those come from?
- Can they accurately describe how the team makes decisions, especially for prioritizing tasks and solving problems? Do they believe their decision-making process is effective?
- What decisions does the team and each of its members feel confident making?
- Which decisions require team buy-in? Which decisions require approval outside of the team?
Related: 10 Tips for Creating an Agile Product Roadmap
Become a Catalyst for Crafting Strong Problem Statements
Help them see the core of the problem, understand the context, and rationalize solving it..
Your teams will typically face two types of problems: Those of your customers and those that are impediments to serving your customers. Fortunately, you can use these techniques to analyze the root cause of just about any problem.
Value Stream Maps Value stream maps in Scrum help your team view and socialize an entire process with a focus on efficiency in developing a product or delivering a service. With the flow of information, key players, and materials fully visualized, your team may discover waste, identify ways to reduce cycle times, and implement process improvements. If you’re wondering when to use a value stream map, remember it is designed to help you diagnose and reduce inefficiencies. Before you create value stream maps to show ideal workflows:
Talk to leaders and get clear on your stakeholders’ goals.
Familiarize yourself with the process and performance indicators. Important data points include capacity (employees and their working hours dedicated to this), the size of your deliverables, uptime, and downtime.
Accurately capture the current state of the process by creating a current value stream map. A value stream map includes: a process map, its timeline, and the flow of information.
5 Whys Exercise When an unexpected event or impediment occurs, the five whys offer an effective means of diagnosing the root cause of a problem. Here’s how it works:
Invite everyone involved.
Put on your ScrumMaster hat.
Have the team roughly define what happened.
Ask “why” and have the team answer the “because” five times, each time questioning the previous answer. Your last “because” should have you pretty close to a solution.
Get buy-in and assign a solution owner.
Share it out. Storytelling does more than increase transparency, it helps increase trust and collaborative, team-driven problem solving across the organization.
Ishikawa, the “Fishbone” Diagram Often, individuals struggle with focusing only on their perception of the problem or on how they believe that problem is best solved. Unfortunately, that leaves many stones unturned. Ishikawa breaks the cycle of our thinking patterns and opens the door for authentic and effective communication. Though the categories you use may be adapted to your needs, these are the basic guidelines:
Explain what you’re about to do and why.
Draw a simple fishbone diagram.
Clarify and solidify the problem statement.
Choose categories that best suit your team, problem, and organization.
Brainstorm possible causes of the problem, as those fit into the categories.
Identify sub-causes (root causes) for those problems you’ve identified.
Have the team choose where to focus by reviewing the diagram together.
Vote to prioritize what root cause gets solved or worked on first.
Agree on the priority order of the causes that received the most votes.
Save/document the exercise to use as a tool later if your team finds itself facing the same problems again.
Read Part Two: Tips for New Scrum Masters Part II: Coaching, Consulting, & Catalyzing Change
About the Author
Brandy Emesal is a Scrum Alliance Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) with certifications in Agile Leadership Essentials (CAL-E) and Agile Leadership for Teams (CAL-T). With a bachelor's of science in news-editorial journalism and a background as a marketer and military public affairs sergeant, she works on the Leaders Team at Scrum Alliance, creating content to help agile leaders and aspiring agilists advance their careers and empower their teams.
Learn more: Complete the Learning Journey’s Advice for New Scrum Masters . You’ll learn more about the role in this members-only content and earn an SEU for completing it! If you’re not a member, please see the article collection on scrum mastery:
Collection - Scrum Mastery: Building Blocks for Success
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Solving Impediments as a Scrum Team
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TL; DR: Solving Impediments as a Scrum Team
The main message of the retrospective was clear: there are too many interruptions by stakeholders and senior management. The interruptions impeded the flow of work through the team. Consequently, achieving the Sprint Goal had been at risk several times in the past. Moreover, the team missed the Sprint Goal twice recently. Solving impediments as a team has become a necessity.
Learn more on how to tackle impediments as a team by running experiments, iterating and visualizing on the solution.
Types of Impediments
According to the Scrum Guide , the Scrum Master should be the right team member to deal with this kind of impediment:
“The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.”
However, there are various reasons why stakeholders — and particularly the senior management — are ignorant of basic agile concepts that are essential for the productivity of a Scrum Team:
- They have never had an introduction to agile and lean practices in the first place. (This is undoubtedly is a rookie mistake; becoming agile requires that everyone in the organization at least receives a basic introduction into how ‘agile’ works.)
- Even if they received such a basic introduction to agile practices, they have never been introduced in flow theory and productivity. The effect of their interruptions is unknown to them. Probably, none of the Scrum Masters or agile coaches of the organization felt competent enough to teach the concept of flow. (This might also be partly attributed to the reputation of the standard textbook on this issue, Reinertsen‘s “ Principles of Product Development Flow, ” which is considered ‘difficult’ to read.)
- There also is an attitude among some senior managers that the ‘agile rules’ do not apply to them, no matter how often the Scrum Master points at their misguided behavior. Weak leadership will always find plausible reasons — by their standards — why their information requirements need to be handled in a privileged way. (Question: who do you escalate the issue to if the culprit is the Chief Product Manager, the CTO, or the CEO?)
The mere fact that stakeholders and managers interrupt the team is hence no reason to point at the Scrum Master but an excellent opportunity to tackle the issue as a team.
Solving Impediments like the Interruption Problem as a Team
In this case, the Scrum Team decided to approach the impediment at two levels:
- The Scrum Master reached out to the stakeholders and the management to offer a short training class at a convenient time slot late in the evening to educate them on the productivity issues of agile teams.
- The Product Owner created on the half of the Scrum Team an interruption bucket poster on a wall in the team space. (Learn more about interruption buckets from Jimmy Janlén’s book “ Toolbox for the Agile Coach - Visualization Examples, How great teams visualize their work .”)
At the next retrospective, two weeks into the experiment, the Scrum Team analyzed the situation:
- The response of the stakeholders and the senior management to the workshop on team productivity was lower than expected. The offer did not reach the most ignorant culprits in particular.
- However, the interruption bucket managed to trigger discussions in the team area. It proved useful to add a sticky at the beginning of the interruption and pointing at the same time at the issues of interrupting the flow. Some stakeholders and managers were surprised to learn about the problems. At the end of the Sprint, there even were reactions like “I will send you an email, I do not want another sticky in my column.” On the other side, the most notorious wrongdoer could not care less about the visualization.
Hence the team decided to iterate on the problem-solving approach:
- The Scrum Master was now seeking 1-on-1s with those who did not attend the workshop and piled up several stickies on the interruption bucket board.
- The interruption bucket received a make-over, now distinguishing between helpful and non-helpful interruptions. (Among all disruptions there were also useful interruptions that were just misdirected communication-wise.)
- The team decided to introduce do-not-disturb-hours and visualize this schedule.
A Sprint later, the impediment could be practically contained to a single person while the others appreciated coaching them on how to better interact with the Scrum Team.
Conclusion — Solving Impediments as a Team
As so often, collaboration proves to be ground from which to grow a successful Scrum Team. Tackling the impediment as a team by running experiments and iterating on the solution improved in this case the team’s productivity as well as its standing with stakeholders and the senior management. (Except for one, but that is another story.)
What lessons have you learned when collaborating as a Scrum Team to solve an impediment? Please share with us in the comments.
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What Is a Scrum Master (and How Do I Become One)?
A Scrum Master is a professional who leads a team using Agile project management through the course of a project.
A Scrum Master facilitates all the communication and collaboration between leadership and team players to ensure a successful outcome.
What does a Scrum Master do?
Scrum is an Agile framework for developing complex projects, most often software. The Agile project management methodology uses short development cycles, called sprints, that result in the continuous improvement of a product or service. There are many Agile frameworks, and Scrum is a popular option for fast-moving projects. The methodology is highly collaborative and requires efficient processes, and the results of the process depend upon the expertise of the Scrum Master.
Agile methodologies may have started in tech companies, but Scrum Master jobs can be found in all kinds of industries and for all kinds of companies around the globe.
Scrum Master vs. project manager
The fundamental difference between a Scrum Master and a project manager is in their focus. Project managers focus primarily on project outcome, including budget, timeline, resources, and communication between teams. Where a project manager focuses on the project, a Scrum Master focuses on the team, taking steps to ensure the team and individual team members achieve success.
Tasks and responsibilities of a Scrum Master
The role of a Scrum Master is to use Agile project management to champion a project, teams, and team members. Since Scrum Masters can work in many settings, your tasks and responsibilities may vary. Depending on where you work, you may find yourself taking on the role of a facilitator, coach, or project manager. Your duties will often vary from day to day but might include:
Leading daily stand-up meetings, reviews, demos, and other project-related meetings
Supporting team members in their tasks
Coaching the team on Scrum principles and best practices
Facilitating open discussion and conflict resolution
Proactively identify and resolve issues
Updating activities in a project management tracking tool
Scrum Master skills
Effective Scrum Masters often have a set of workplace skills in common. Whether you’re just getting started or advancing within your career, building these skills will empower you to lead your team to the best of your ability.
Problem-solving skills help you navigate complex projects.
Adaptability enables you to make changes as necessary to achieve the best possible outcome.
Motivational skills empower you to bring out the best in your team to improve productivity.
Communication skills allow you to collaborate effectively with team members and stakeholders.
Organization skills help you manage multiple tasks, meetings, resources, and priorities.
As a Scrum Master, it’s also important to be proficient in specific technical skills related to Agile management and software development.
With the Agile project management methodology , you can ensure that your teams follow specific processes to complete and release projects and products in stages for customer input at every step.
Software development and management skills are necessary when working on software projects and products. You’ll need to know the goals, structure, and expectations, processes, requirements, planning, and monitoring that goes into producing better software.
Business analysis skills help you focus on how to continuously improve a product to meet customer, stakeholder, and company needs.
Why pursue a career as a Scrum Master?
As a Scrum Master, you can play an integral role in a company’s success. You may also have the opportunity to develop products that positively impact the world around you by making people’s lives better. On a more granular level, you’ll have the opportunity to foster a positive working environment for team members in a company and ensure the most successful outcome of a product or project.
Scrum Master salary and job outlook
As of October 2022, Glassdoor reports that Scrum Masters in the US make an average of $118,964 a year, and LinkedIn has over 97,508 US Scrum Master job listings [ 1 , 2 ]. LinkedIn’s Most Promising Jobs of 2019 report showed that there is ample opportunity for career advancement in this field. New job openings have seen substantial year-over-year growth [ 3 ].
How to become a Scrum Master
Most companies prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in IT, business administration , or a related field. According to Zippia, 66 percent of Scrum Masters have a bachelor's degree, and 26 percent have a master's [ 4 ]. Earning a college degree can also open up opportunities to gain on-the-job experience, another requirement that often shows up on Scrum Master job listings.
Earning an industry credential is another excellent way to validate your knowledge of the Scrum framework to potential employers. Among the most popular options for Scrum Masters is the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) from the Scrum Alliance. As you prepare for the certification exam, you can begin to build practical skills to help you successfully lead teams.
Read more: 7 In-Demand Scrum Master Certifications
Scrum Master career path
Becoming a Scrum Master will open up doors to numerous careers, companies, and industries. Many people who start as Scrum masters advance to become Scrum coaches, product owners, or project managers.
Get started in project management
Choosing a career as a Scrum Master puts you on a path toward using your communication, business, and product development skills to help companies get their products successfully to market. Build a foundation in Agile project management, and learn how to implement Scrum events and build Scrum artifacts with IBM IT Project Manager Professional Certificate . This program covers topics like Scrum master essentials, foundations of project management, and more.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Do scrum masters need to be technical .
You don’t need to have technical skills to become a Scrum Master. Generally, the product owner will be the one with expert knowledge of the application or software being developed. The main role of the Scrum Master is to be well-versed in all things Scrum: rules, practices, and values. On the other hand, understanding the technical side of the product in development may help you communicate more effectively with engineers and developers.
What are the roles in the Scrum framework?
Most Scrum teams have three specific roles: product owner, Scrum Master, and developers.
The product owner manages the product backlog, prioritizes product features, and incorporates stakeholder feedback into the development process. The development team is responsible for finishing the work set by the product owner. This team typically has three to nine members. The Scrum Master helps drive Scrum team performance through coaching and facilitating open communication.
What’s the difference between a Scrum Master and an Agile coach?
The Scrum Master has a more focused role, ensuring that a single team (or a small number of teams) follows the scrum process. An Agile coach has a broader role, working with all teams involved with a project.
What’s the typical Scrum Master career path?
There are many paths toward becoming a Scrum master. Some Scrum Masters start out as developers, business analysts, quality assurance testers, or team leads. As you progress in your career, you may take on multiple or more complex projects, transition to Product Owner, or advance to become a manager, mentor, trainer, or coach.
Is it possible to be a Scrum Master without a degree?
While there are no formal education requirements for Scrum Master positions, you may find more job opportunities if you have a bachelor’s degree. If you’re thinking about earning a degree, consider coursework in management, psychology, business, computer science, or a specific industry to help build a foundation for your career.
What is an effective Scrum Master?
An effective Scrum Master is a servant leader who exhibits Lean-Agile leadership where they support and help the team progress toward their goals and highest potential. They're also facilitators in team events to ensure members are productive and meet timelines.
Glassdoor. " Scrum Master Overview , https://www.glassdoor.com/Career/scrum-master-career_KO0,12.htm." Accessed October 20, 2022.
LinkedIn. " Scrum Master Jobs , https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/scrum-master-jobs." Accessed October 20, 2022.
LinkedIn. " Most Promising Jobs of 2019 , https://blog.linkedin.com/2019/january/10/linkedins-most-promising-jobs-of-2019." Accessed May 5, 2022.
Zippia. " Scrum master education requirements , https://www.zippia.com/scrum-master-jobs/education/." Accessed October 20, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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How Can A Scrum Master Support A Problem-solving Workshop
September 9, 2023 By Kammie @ Sensual Appeal
The Scrum Master: A key figure in every Agile team; a facilitator of problem-solving. Beyond ensuring adherence to Scrum principles, they excel in unblocking impediments and enhancing team’s performance. How can a Scrum Master support a problem-solving workshop? Let’s delve into the specifics.
Understanding the Scrum Framework
Embarking on this exploration, it is important to first understand the Scrum framework and Agile principles. The latter advocates for adaptivity and flexibility whereas the former provides an approach to manage complex projects. A Scrum team is a compact, diverse group with three key roles – Product Owner, Development Team, and importantly, the Scrum Master. Each of these roles intermingle synergistically to deliver maximum value in least time.
Role of a Scrum Master in Problem-Solving
Diving deeper into our core discussion – the role of a Scrum Master in problem-solving. Herein lies the skills of observation, communication, and decision-making alongside technical expertise. A Scrum Master identifies problems that hinder the team’s progress and actively involves them in evolving fitting solutions. Most certainly, they form the backbone of problem resolution; ensuring each issue is acknowledged, voiced, and strategize to address systematically.
Organizing a Problem-Solving Workshop
Next up – organizing and conducting successful problem-solving workshops. The roadmap includes precise planning, inviting relevant participants, preparing an inclusive agenda topped with appropriate materials. During the workshop itself, emphasis rests on facilitating healthy discussions while resolving any brewing conflicts smoothly. A typical brainstorming session or root cause analysis often partake in constructing a line of action.
Sprinkling in some problem-solving techniques specific to Agile Scrum can accentuate workshop’s effectiveness. Methods like root cause analysis commonly termed as the “5 Whys” technique, the Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa Diagram), and the SWOT Analysis adds precision while tackling intricate problems. A Scrum Master’s proficiency in interpreting and applying these approaches is hence crucial.
The Scrum Master Post Workshop
Post workshops, a Scrum Master’s task intensifies. Supervision over action items, constant progress monitoring, and extending needful assistance are top priorities. They ensure the team remains committed to devised strategies and adjusts as necessary for the implementation of solutions.
Case Study: Real-life Application
Imbibing learnings from successful real-life applications of problem-solving workshops overseen by Scrum Masters can provide valued insights. Analyzing these case studies helps understand the various intricacies and establish useful patterns to learn lessons from their success stories.
Facilitator’s Approach to Problem Solving
Diving deeper into the concept of problem-solving as a Scrum Master, it’s worth noting that the agile environment is ripe with challenges. Specialists that wear the hat of the Scrum Master are known for their strategic acumen and analytics. They foster an atmosphere of collaboration and integrity that allows each team member to shine while collectively addressing impediments.
Creating an Environment for Open Dialogue
At the heart of every successful problem-solving workshop run by a Scrum Master is open dialogue. This requires skillful crafting of a safe, inclusive space that encourages everyone to freely express ideas without fear of judgement. It is where divergent thinking burgeons, enabling the exploration of multiple solutions before converging on the most viable one.
Conflict Resolution and Emotional Intelligence
Equally important in the Scrum Master’s toolbox are conflict resolution skills. Conflicting views can lead to tension within the team. A Scrum Master, equipped with emotional intelligence, recognizes these dynamics, intervenes, and guides towards a resolution without inflaming disagreements. Their impartiality and mediation skill can help transform such disputes into fruitful discussions eventually contributing to effective problem solving.
Team Engagement and Motivation
A key factor in the effectiveness of a problem-solving workshop is active engagement. Here again, the Scrum Master plays a significant role. They strive to maintain motivation and keep energy levels high. Whether it’s through well-time breaks or uplifting talks, they are in charge to ensure team morale remains high throughout the process, fueling creativity and productivity.
Iterative Improvement through Feedback
Post-workshop also sees intensive activity from the Scrum Master’s end. A crucial element among these is gathering feedback. It is not just about addressing current problems but also refining processes for future workshops based on given inputs. By promoting a culture of iterative improvement, they ensure that growth and learning are continuous.
Resilience and Adaptability
Resilience and adaptability, intrinsic to Agile principles, are traits equally crucial for a Scrum Master. Regardless of how meticulously planned a workshop is, unforeseen issues can surface. Here, a Scrum Master takes charge by swiftly navigating the team towards alternate processes or strategies. Their ability to remain composed in the face of setbacks and model adaptability inspires the team as well.
Influence without Authority
It’s worth noting that Scrum Masters, in most setups, do not have formal authority over their teams. Influence, therefore, becomes a vital tool in their arsenal. By building trust and demonstrating commitment to the team’s success, they are able to influence decisions and actions effectively. This often translates into more productive workshops and better problem solving.
Expanding Skill Set
Being a Scrum Master is not just about the present skills one possesses but about consistent growth and skill enhancement, too. They embrace learning new tools and techniques that could improve their efficacy during problem-solving workshops. They could also take up certifications like Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) or Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) to further hone their abilities.
Crucial Drive for Continuous Improvement
Finally, the heartbeat of “How Can a Scrum Master Support A Problem-solving Workshop?” lies in the continuous striving for improvement. In every retrospection or feedback session, in every newly discovered tool or technique, the vision remains to better align with Agile principles and more rapidly advance towards project goals.
In essence, the role of a Scrum Master in problem-solving extends beyond organizing workshops to becoming an intrinsic part of an organization’s journey towards excellence.
In conclusion, a Scrum Master’s role is extensive and multifaceted. When asking “How can a scrum master support a problem-solving workshop?” Our attention tilts towards planning, facilitation, coaching, and follow-ups that are inherent in every stage. As Scrum Masters weave through the complexities of problem-solving, their expertise lights up the path to successful project delivery.
About Kammie @ Sensual Appeal
Kamila (Kammie) Gornia is the Founder of Sensual Appeal, where everything is delicious, mindful, and happy. She believes that a healthy happy life should be rooted in real foods and self-love. She is an entrepreneur, as a Business Coach for passion-driven solopreneurs and focuses on marketing + mindset. She's also been a freelance photographer for 6 years.
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How Can A Scrum Master Support A Problem Solving Workshop
SAFe Scrum Masters are servant leaders and coaches for an Agile Team. They help educate the team in Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban, and SAFe, ensuring that the agreed Agile process is followed. They also help remove impediments and foster an environment for high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and relentless improvement. How can a scrum master support a problem solving workshop .
How can a Scrum Master support a problem-solving workshop quizlet?
How can a Scrum Master support a problem solving workshop? By providing facilitation to breakout groups focused on specific problems.
Table of Contents
How do you facilitate a problem-solving workshop?
- Get the right people together
- Identify the right problem
- Come up with ideas to solve the problem
- Evaluate the ideas to ensure they’re robust
- Make a plan to test or implement the solution. Read on to find out how to do all that, and more
What does Scrum Master support in order to help the team improve and take responsibility for their actions?
The Scrum Master supports the overall adoption of SAFe across the enterprise by coaching stakeholders and non-agile teams on effective interactions with Agile Teams, participating in the Scrum Master Community of Practice, and supporting the organization’s SAFe Program Consultants (SPC).
What is one of the six steps in the problem-solving workshop SAFe?
- Agree on the problem to solve
- Apply root cause analysis (5 Whys)
- Identify the biggest root cause using Pareto analysis
- Restate the problem for the biggest root-cause
- Brainstorm solutions
- Identify improvement backlog items
How can a Scrum Master support problem-solving workshop?
In many ways, the Scrum master takes a facilitator role in problem-solving workshops. They encourage and moderate discussions. They help the team find routes to solutions without dictating what those routes are. The Scrum master makes sure that there is adequate space and time for testing and experimenting.
How does an effective Scrum Master help the team on their journey towards technical excellence?
They help educate the team in Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban, and SAFe, ensuring that the agreed Agile process is followed. They also help remove impediments and foster an environment for high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and relentless improvement.
How can a scrum master support a problem solving workshop , Note: For more on applying ScrumXP in SAFe, please read the additional Framework articles in the Scrum series, including SAFe ScrumXP In SAFe, Scrum Masters assist their teams in meeting delivery goals. They coach teams in self-organization and self-management and help them coordinate and participate in Agile Release Trains (ARTs) events, increasing the effectiveness of SAFe across the organization.
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What is a Scrum master and what do they do?
A Scrum master leads the Scrum team and keeps them focused on Scrum principles. Scrum masters also serve product owners and their organizations by sharing Scrum and Agile practices with others beyond the team. In this guide, we’ll outline what a Scrum master is and what they do.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what a Scrum master is and what their responsibilities are. If you’re a Scrum master, are looking to bring one on, or interested in becoming one, you can use this guide as a resource to better understand how a professional Scrum master works.
What is a Scrum master?
A Scrum master is the leader of the Scrum team. They’re in charge of establishing the Scrum methodology and keeping team members focused on Scrum principles and practices. Scrum masters are often people-oriented and enjoy helping team members grow and improve.
Scrum masters act as servant leaders. Instead of telling your team what to do, your job is to help the team become self-reliant through techniques like self-organizing and conflict resolution . Unlike a traditional project manager whose goal is to keep the team and project on track, your goal also includes keeping the team aligned with the Scrum model.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an Agile methodology based on Agile principles to help highly-collaborative workflows where you’re focused on building. Scrum is built with values, goals, and guidelines to help your team with this rapid iteration. Which is really all a way of saying that Scrum is a type of Agile project management framework , which—like other projects—needs a team or project lead. This is the Scrum master, who follows the fundamentals of the Agile framework to ensure that projects are a success.
Scrum master vs. product manager
The Scrum master and product manager fill unique roles on the Scrum team. Below are a few key differences between the two roles.
As a product manager , your involvement with the team should be similar to the product owner in that your focus is on product creation and customer needs. As a product manager, you’ll focus on the “why” and the “what” of the product. They may offer input or change the order of the product backlog based on priorities.
As a Scrum master , you’ll focus on guiding and improving the team with Scrum methodologies. The Scrum master focuses on the “how,” helping the product manager understand the product backlog. They coach the team on Scrum to keep the backlog running smoothly.
Both the Scrum master and the product manager serve the team in unique ways, but it’s important to know how the two roles relate and overlap.
Scrum master vs. project manager
The project manager is the non-technical counterpart to the Scrum master. While both roles are problem solvers, the project manager is less involved in the team’s work, while the scrum master may actively participate in Scrum events and coach the team to success.
As a project manager , you oversee the success of a project. You manage the project timeline , define project scope , and assign tasks and dependencies as needed. Then, you check in on progress, identify roadblocks, and adjust timelines as needed.
As a Scrum master , you’ll coach the Scrum team as an Agile team member and a facilitator. Scrum masters lead a smaller Scrum team, but they also help identify and remove roadblocks similar to what a project manager does.
The primary difference between project management and being a Scrum master is that a project manager focuses on the project itself, while the Scrum master focuses on the team (and their success).
What does a Scrum master do?
Scrum masters help keep projects organized and on track through a series of processes and steps. Here are the five Scrum master responsibilities that help the team.
1. Facilitates sprint planning meetings
Sprint planning meetings help your Scrum team decide which items from the product backlog to prioritize for the next sprint. These meetings are collaborative —they typically involve the Scrum master, product manager, and the team of developers, who are all encouraged to speak up.
During a typical sprint planning meeting agenda, the Scrum team:
Comes prepared with data and estimates to support your next sprint project.
Confirms estimates for items on the sprint product backlog.
Agrees on the product backlog items for the next sprint.
Assesses the team’s capacity for the next sprint.
Ends the meeting with a Q&A session.
These meetings emphasize collaboration, giving developers a chance to address what tasks they think deserve the most attention.
2. Holds daily stand ups
Daily Scrum stand-up meetings are an essential part of the Scrum framework and will be your responsibility as Scrum master. As the Scrum master, you’ll facilitate these meetings and use them to assess progress toward the sprint goal.
The main questions asked in daily stand ups include:
What did you do yesterday?
What will you do today?
Is anything blocking your progress?
3. Removes roadblocks
Problem-solving is a key quality of any good Scrum master. As the leader of your Agile team, you’ll want to move the project along as quickly as possible and make it easier for your team members to get their work done. If you notice impediments that are blocking the work, your job is to solve the issue or find someone who can.
A potential roadblock, for example, may include a lack of understanding between Agile teams and stakeholders. The Scrum master can solve this issue by inviting stakeholders to a few planning sessions so they’re more aware of how to be Agile.
4. Assists with product backlog
Scrum masters are leaders and team members. When there’s time to spare, you can roll up your sleeves and help your developer team work through the product backlog.
The product backlog may involve features, tasks, bug fixes, technical debt , or knowledge acquisition. Because you have ample knowledge of Scrum and product development, you can jump in to help your fellow team members.
5. Conducts retrospectives
Retrospectives are sprint review meetings held after each sprint to evaluate what went well and what didn’t. These meetings give Scrum team members a chance to identify areas for improvement during future sprints.
Some questions to ask during the a retrospective include:
How did you do this sprint?
Where and when did it go wrong in this sprint?
Which tools or techniques proved to be useful?
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
Scrum master roles
As Scrum master, you may have many roles. You’ll relay information from upper management, meet the needs of external stakeholders, and monitor your Scrum team’s progress.
Below are just a few of the many hats Scrum masters wear:
Act as an Agile coach: As Scrum master, your primary job is to serve your team by being an Agile coach. In Agile, team members work in focused blocks of time to complete tasks. During these sprints, developers build, refine, and improve products as needed. As the Scrum master, you must remain flexible and open to ideas when coaching your team through this iterative process .
Collaborate with the product owner: Scrum masters support the product owner , who is mainly responsible for managing the product backlog. The product backlog is often composed of user stories , which can be complex and ever changing. As the Scrum master, you should help the team understand how to read user stories so they can effectively sift through product backlog items during the sprint planning process.
Share knowledge with the organization: You’ll serve the organization as Scrum master by leading and training others on the Scrum methodology. Your expertise may be seen as a valuable resource, so you can offer to hold Scrum training sessions for other departments that plan to implement Scrum. When you help both internal team members and external stakeholders understand the Scrum guide, you can remove barriers between already established Scrum teams and other employees.
Common pitfalls of the Scrum master
The Scrum master must work hard to focus their attention on various areas of the organization, and that’s not always easy to accomplish. Below are some common mistakes Scrum masters make when implementing Scrum framework in a leadership role.
Playing Scrum police instead of coach : As Scrum master, there’s an emphasis on keeping your team aligned with the Scrum methodology. However, a common mistake Scrum masters make is focusing too much on enforcing the methodology and not enough on coaching their team. A Scrum master must find balance between being a good leader and keeping their team in line with the Scrum practices.
Acting as team assistant: If you assist your team with the product backlog and take on other tasks unrelated to the Scrum process, you may not be focusing enough on the leadership side of the Scrum master role. While a Scrum master should assist team members, the Scrum master’s main goals are to improve workflows , coach Scrum team members, and facilitate sprints.
Focusing only on the team and not on the wider organization: The Scrum team is your priority as a Scrum master, but if you’re only focusing on your team members’ needs, then something is missing. Make sure you’re collaborating with your team, the product owner, and the wider company. As a Scrum master, you have the power to spread your knowledge of Scrum outward. With your help, your entire organization can become Agile.
Managing instead of facilitating: Although Scrum masters are in leadership roles, they are facilitators, not project managers. When holding daily stand ups and other Scrum meetings, encourage team members to discuss topics openly.
These challenges are best avoided when a Scrum master understands their role and how it relates to other roles in the organization. Sometimes, the Scrum master roles can get confused with product manager or project manager, but there are distinct differences in these roles.
Scrum master certification: do you need one?
You can take professional Scrum master courses from places like scrum.org or the Project Management Institute (PMI) to become a certified Scrum master (CSM) —but do you need to? The answer is personal, and will vary. Courses on Agile Scrum methodologies are certainly helpful in giving you background knowledge, including the language and how to use them, but you don’t need to be a CSM for all Scrum master jobs. If you decide you want to become a CSM, you’ll follow a series of courses (levels) taught by a Scrum trainer, where you will need to pass a certification exam to move from one to the next.
Do you need a Scrum master?
Your team can determine whether you need a Scrum master by assessing the problems they face.
Does your dev team struggle to prioritize items in the product backlog? Development teams struggling to work through and prioritize items in their product backlog would benefit from a Scrum master who has in-depth knowledge of Scrum principles.
Does your team thrive under a coach instead of structured leadership? Some team members don’t do well under highly-disciplined leaders. With a Scrum master, the leadership style feels more like coaching and less like micromanagement.
Does your team need someone to facilitate check-in meetings? If you’re in need of someone to guide the Scrum team, identify problems, and facilitate regular meetings, you may need a Scrum master.
A Scrum master will improve workflow and team member involvement while keeping Scrum values top of mind.
Facilitate team success with a Scrum master
Scrum masters help facilitate team success and encourage other members of the organization to adopt an Agile mindset as well.
Running a Scrum team is easier when you have the right tools to assist you. With Agile management software, you can plan sprints, track product launches, and collaborate with your team.