The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster has the bandwidth and capacity to respond within minutes to the team’s questions

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The ScrumMaster is a full Team Member of the Scrum Team and is required to be focused on helping the team achieve its goals. However, he does not do the work of the Sprint Backlog. Instead he focuses his energies on removing obstacles and helping use Scrum as best as possible. One way to achieve these goals is to be able to respond to questions by the team within minutes. If the ScrumMaster is able to do, the team will move faster, solve problems easier, and cut through obstacles much sooner. If the ScrumMaster is not able to do this, the team will become stalled, frustrated and likely lose trust in the ScrumMaster and the Scrum process.

To learn more about your ScrumMaster, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster is expected to work diligently to remove organizational obstacles

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One of the valuable and important responsibilities of the ScrumMaster is to remove obstacles that impede the team’s work. This is necessary so that the team can become more and more productive in their work which gives greater value to the company. If the ScrumMaster does not work diligently on removing these organizations obstacles, the team will get bogged down by challenges and become demotivated to progress, and their morale will drop and become apathetic to the work and to Scrum. The benefit of removing these large obstacles is that it speeds up the cycle time of the work by the team. This is essential so the Team Members can focus their energies on delivering working software.

To learn more about organizational obstacles, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster is empowered to immediately remove in-team obstacles

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One of the primary ways that the ScrumMaster serves the team is by removing impediments to the progress of the team. If the team does not have what it needs to progress in its work, whether it be technology, tools, the right space, etc., the ScrumMaster must have the authority to immediately fill those gaps for the team. The ScrumMaster should not need permission from management in order to get the team what it needs. There should be request procedure that the ScrumMaster needs to go through in order to get sign-off from acquisition departments and what not. At the same time, if there are interpersonal issues between team members, the ScrumMaster must be empowered to intervene and help individuals overcome their differences without the involvement or permission from their direct line managers. Any process or procedure that the ScrumMaster is forced to follow prolongs the impediment for the team as well as the consequential waste and unrealized delivery of value.

To learn more about in-team obstacles, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: All people outside the team know that it is the ScrumMaster’s job to shield the team from interruptions

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A ScrumMaster is an individual who both guides and protects the Scrum Team. One of the ways that the ScrumMaster protects the Scrum Team is by shielding it from interruptions. The interruptions that the ScrumMaster cares about stopping are those that are from outside the team when they are in a Sprint. Most interruptions are not related to the team’s current work and need to be blocked by the ScrumMaster so that the team will be able to focus on its current goal: the Sprint and its Product Backlog Items. All of the stakeholders of the team need to be aware that the ScrumMaster is responsible for blocking these interruptions. This awareness creates a freedom for the ScrumMaster to do this very difficult part of the job in a way that is transparent and effective. If the stakeholders are not aware of this part of the job, then they may become upset when interruptions are blocked or find ways around the ScrumMaster to get interruptions to specific team members. If the team is not aware that this is the ScrumMaster’s job, they may feel trapped, may lose hope in the Scrum process, may take on the work themselves (which will be too much for them since they are responsible for the execution of the Sprint goal), feel unsafe which could lead to hiding obstacles (which causes waste and delays), and it may even cause Team Members to accept interruptions as normal which will create an environment where interruptions and unrelated requests become widespread. All of these negatives effects and many more can be solved by the organization knowing that the ScrumMaster’s job is to shield the team from interruptions.

To learn more about a ScrumMasters duties, visit the Scrum team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster is allowed to communicate directly with any stakeholder of the team

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It is the ScrumMaster’s job to remove the Scrum Team’s obstacles that occur through all levels of the organization. To do this properly the ScrumMaster must be able to connect directly with all stakeholders of the team including those outside the organization. This direct communication aids in addressing identified obstacles with the appropriate individual or group. Without the ScrumMaster being allowed this direct communication, he will have to deal with a third party which may distort the information and/or be unable to convey the importance of removing an obstacle or addressing a need. The ScrumMaster is like a catalyst that should be able to set ablaze those individuals that are interacting or connecting with the team either directly or indirectly.

To learn more about ScrumMasters, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster can enforce timeboxes within the team (e.g. meetings)

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The responsibility of time boxing (or limiting the amount of time spent) in a Scrum meeting is given to the ScrumMaster. He maintains a time-box so that the Scrum Team will become more and more effective in how they use the time to its full purpose. We, as human beings, thrive in situations where we have simple constraints and focused goals – time-boxing of Scrum meetings fits this perfectly. If a Scrum Planning meeting, for example, is not time-boxed it can become disconnected from the goal of the Scrum Team. Time-boxing also helps Team Members to be engaged, since they have a limited amount of time to achieve the goal of the meeting – such as a Sprint Goal that is generated from the Sprint Planning meeting.

To learn more about how you can improve your Scrum meetings, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster has final authority within the team on the correct way to use the Scrum Process

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The ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring the correct use of the Scrum process. Because the ScrumMaster is usually the most well read on Scrum, always trying to improve the team’s understanding of Scrum, facilitating the Scrum meetings, and developing new ways to develop relationships and structures that allow Scrum to thrive, he is the most able to guide the team in its use of Scrum. This authority holds within the Scrum Team where the ScrumMaster is a member and overrides any external authority as applied to that team. However, this does not mean that the ScrumMaster becomes a guru that withholds learning and understanding and guards it as if it is a treasured jewel. Instead, it is also the responsibility of the ScrumMaster to enable understanding, learning, and action so that the team advances together. Having this authority allows the ScrumMaster to stop any argument about the Scrum process, and ensure that the team is focused on action. If the ScrumMaster does not have final authority on the correct way to use the Scrum process, it is very likely that the Scrum Team will flounder, argue, and limit the progress of the team by not continually improving how they use and interact with the elements of Scrum.

To learn more about the correct way to use the Scrum process, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster knows Scrum well and can explain it both quickly and in detail to others

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It is crucial for the ScrumMaster to be fluent in all things Scrum. The ScrumMaster is a servant-leader of the team and needs to be able to provide that leadership in words as well as in deeds. The ScrumMaster also needs to be able to help those outside the team understand which of their interactions with the team are helpful and which aren’t. Being able to communicate Scrum with brevity and clarity is essential for this work. Furthermore, it is important for the management and leadership of the organization to perceive the ScrumMaster as possessing a level of expertise and authority with Scrum and again being able to explain Scrum well in addition to be understanding it and believing in it is required for the ScrumMaster to build and maintain confidence in Scrum as a framework throughout the organization. In short, The ScrumMaster is the representative or ambassador of Scrum in the organization and an ability to communicate all aspects of the framework is an essential aspect of representation.

To learn more about scrum, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster has no duties outside of the ScrumMaster duties

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The ScrumMaster duties make up a full-time job on a Scrum Team. The ScrumMaster should not be a manager, a developer or have any other partial duties outside the role of ScrumMaster. This focus allows a ScrumMaster to complete their duties with complete focus and commitment to the success of the Scrum Team. In many ways, the ScrumMaster is like a firefighter. Firefighters should have no distractions from being ready to fight fires. If the ScrumMaster has other duties outside of ScrumMaster duties, then one or more of the ScrumMaster duties are compromised, the ScrumMaster job is not being done and the team suffers. An individual who feels unable to serve as a full-time ScrumMaster should not accept this position or should work with their management to enable it to become a full-time position.

To learn more about a ScrumMaster’s duties, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster works with only one Scrum Team

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The Scrum Team needs a great deal of help from their ScrumMaster. This help includes: removal of obstacles, advancement and reminders of the Scrum principles and practices, ongoing facilitation of effective Scrum meetings, accompaniment of the Team Members to develop new skills, building of relationships with those outside the team, and ongoing advancement of the use of Scrum by the team. With all of this, the ScrumMaster responsibilities are quite difficult to master. The ScrumMaster must prioritize the most important work to be done, possibly using a list much like the Product backlog. If the ScrumMaster is working with two teams, for example, at some point in time he will have to decide which team to work with for a given problem. Which team is more important? If he choses another team, won’t the other team feel left out and un-protected? One of the most important duties of a ScrumMaster is to remove obstacles as the team identifies them in a timely manner. This responsibility is extremely difficult in some ways since many obstacles have cultural or organizational issues at their root. For a Scrum team to be effective, it needs a ScrumMaster who is full-time. One way to imagine this question is by comparison to a sports team. If the team is a bunch of kids doing the sport for recreational reasons, then its perfectly legitimate to have the coach also working with other kids teams. Not much is on the line. On the other hand, if the team is a professional, world-class team, you would never accept a coach who also wanted to work with another world-class team. The time, the conflict of interest would not allow such an arrangement. Do you want world-class, high performance Scrum Teams? The ScrumMaster should only work with one Scrum Team.

To learn more about working with only one scrum team, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster uses the Retrospective to help your team improve its processes and teamwork

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The Sprint Retrospective is a key meeting where the team discusses how to improve. Like the other meetings in Scrum, the ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring it occurs and that it is well-facilitated. There are three main purposes of the Sprint Retrospective: honestly review how the last Sprint was conducted in all aspects including skills, relationships, processes, environment, culture and tools; discover the key aspects of the previous Sprint that need to be carried forward or improved; and, plan how the Scrum Team will improve the way it does work. This meeting aids the team in inspecting and adapting the entire use of Scrum and how the team is progressing as a team. The Sprint Retrospective is a check point that helps the team to know its current state, compare to its desired state, identify gaps, and take the needed steps to improve. This meeting is also where the ScrumMaster challenges the team to look deeply at itself and its process without fear. When a Scrum Team fails to hold and participate in this essential meeting, the team is likely to become a Scrum Team in name only without the spirit of Scrum – and therefore lose many of the far reaching benefits that many other Scrum Teams have experienced.

To learn more about using retrospective to help your team improve its processes and teamwork, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster believes that Scrum will help the team improve

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The primary job of the ScrumMaster is to remove impediments for the productivity of the team. If the ScrumMaster truly believes that Scrum is not helping the team, for whatever reason, it is antithetical to Scrum for the ScrumMaster to continue serving in this capacity. If the ScrumMaster is in doubt of the applicability of Scrum as a whole at any given time, this concern needs to be shared with the team and an assessment of whether or not to continue with Scrum may need to be considered. It may be that the ScrumMaster is struggling with understanding how to implement a specific aspect of Scrum in a particular situation and with the help of the team is able to overcome this obstacle. Another possible outcome may be that the ScrumMaster is unable to overcome personal issues with Scrum at which point the team may decide to continue the Scrum implementation without that person’s involvement. Whatever the process for getting there, it is imperative that the ScrumMaster holds this firm belief. Scrum is extremely difficult to do well. Being a ScrumMaster is a very difficult job. If the ScrumMaster does not believe that Scrum will help the team, then the ScrumMaster will not be able to sustain the work of removing obstacles for the team. Instead, shortcuts will be taken, the benefits will not be realized and much effort will be wasted.

To learn more about helping your team improve visit the Scrum Team Assessment.


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The Rules of Scrum: Your ScrumMaster is truthful about the condition of the team and the Scrum process

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Scrum relies on the ScrumMaster to be truthful and transparent about the reality of the team and how it is progressing in the use of Scrum. The condition of the team includes the ability of the team to discuss ideas, become united in their focus and build true bonds of friendship. It is valuable for the Scrum team to regularly identify the condition of its team informally through conversations and formally through the Scrum process. The ability of the ScrumMaster to help the team to reflect on its own team development helps them advance and overcome conflicts and challenges. It is also valuable to inspect and adapt on its use of Scrum so that it is aware and taking ownership of its own progress. A ScrumMaster that isn’t truthful about the condition of the team will be unable to help the team to advance and become a high-performance team. Reviewing the use of Scrum will help move the team to take on a posture of learning which will lead to the development of continuous improvement which is a tenant of Scrum. Those teams that don’t do this may fall into the trap of becoming “insane” – doing the same things each and every Sprint and expecting a different result. Regular and deep review of the team’s current state is essential for the team to become more productive, effective, and creative.

Find out more about how your team follows the rules by using the Scrum Team Assessment.


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