14 May 2019   •   Саша Могир   •   8 min read

Scrum Master: The right way to hold a Scrum meeting with the team

Scrum as one of Agile methodologies emphasizes high-quality monitoring of the development
process. That is why Scrum meetings which are supervised by the Scrum master play a very
important role. The main task of such meeting (or Scrum) is to synchronize the project team’s
activities.

Who is the Scrum master?

Such English definition as ‘servant leader’ is the most suitable one to describe the Scrum
master’s role.

The Scrum master’s objective is to assist the team in improving efficiency by means of:

  • problem solving — problems are discussed during Scrum meetings;
  • training — the Scrum master plays an important role in adaptation of new team membersto the project and to the rest of its participants;
  • motivation — after a Scrum meeting conducted by a good Scrum master, all teammembers feel engaged in something valuable, they outline an idea of their personal rolein the team, which is the best factor for motivation.
  • questioning — «How to do better what we are already doing well?», «What processes addno value to the product?» etc.

Together with the team, the Scrum master is responsible for the pace of work and for the speed of project completion.


Additionally, at the first Scrum meeting the Scrum master jointly with the project participants
and the product owner schedule a sprint for which the team will get scores. So it is not for
nothing that Jeff Sutherland, the author of the book «Scrum. The Revolutionary Method of
Project Management», denominates the Scrum master a leader in the team.



What features should the Scrum master possess?

Some project teams experiment and introduce the model of Scrum masters’ monthly rotation.
According to this model, any project participant can become the Scrum master. If we look at the
list of practical skills and situations the Scrum master has to encounter every day, we will see
that such selection format is inefficient.

A perfect Scrum master must possess such features as:

  1. Encouraging discussions — scrums, retrospectives and sprint planning will be uselessunless discussed openly by all project team members. The Scrum master’s task is to encourage such cooperation by using all tools for team work and communication (corporate Wiki, documents exchange systems, etc.).
  2. Removing obstacles on the way towards successful project completion — creating and upgrading means of communication (for instance, compiling the team’s library), carrying out routine work to promote the team (updating process schedules etc.), and solving the members’ problems after meeting-based discussions.
  3. Acting as a Scrum preacher — the Scrum master knows and understands Scrum, he trains the team for Scrum thus getting the most out of the methodology.
  4. Representing an overall vision of the project — this feature is combined with the role of a motivator and is especially relevant in projects with large numbers of sprints involving various participants of the same project team.
  5. Resolving conflicts — truth springs from discussion, disputes beget insult and aggression. The Scrum master suppresses any primary signs of ‘toxic community’ and assists in establishing a constructive criticism.

What is Scrum meeting?

Scrum meetings are important aids in the Scrum methodology. Such sessions are organized on a daily basis (mostly in the morning). The Scrum master moderates the meetings with his role adjoining the project manager or teamlead functions.

During the meeting, team members involved in the current sprint either discuss answers to 3 questions or write them on the Scrum board:

  1. What did I do yesterday to complete the sprint?
  2. What will I be doing today?
  3. What problems did I encounter?
Along with team work synchronization, Scrum helps:

  1. to elaborate an overall vision of the project — everyone realizes where the project is advancing, and the number of adverse surprises impeding the work will be reduced to zero;
  2. to set feasible tasks and to be accountable for their implementation status;
  3. to rally the team — employees learn to listen and understand others, to express their thoughts clearly;
  4. to elaborate the best way to solve a task.



Scrum meeting in contrast to Meetup

«Meetup» and «Meeting» are basically similar words, but their meanings are different.

Specifically, mainly random people united by the meetup subject become meetup participants. In Scrum meetings, participants are predetermined, and they know each other.
You will also find other differences between Scrum meetings and meetups in our table:


Scrum meeting Meetup
Participants Scrum master, project team members involved in the current sprint, product owner. Other persons may attend the meeting as auditors Discussion leaders, persons concerned who do not work at the same company on a specific project. Attendance of partners and sponsors is optional.
Time limit About 15 minutes 1-2 hours
Venue Conference hall, work-room — any venue as close as possible to the location where the sprint is implemented Any venue where participants are able to move freely and communicate with everyone
Discussion leader Scrum master Anyone via such platforms as meetup.com, meetup.by etc.
Format Fixed «three question» structure Flexible structure: presentations, «open mike», networking meeting, etc.
Number of participants Preferably up to 6 persons No limits

«Open mike» is an event format at which participants share their ideas, thoughts and concepts freely and openly. Their speeches are usually time-limited by an agenda.

6 wide-spread Scrum mistakes

  1. Scrum meetings held for the record — nobody will read detailed meeting reports except for the Scrum master who may overlook some areas of concern. It is a waste of time. Moreover, the team will be demotivated with a sensation that every word is recorded.
  2. Scrum meetings held only for the Scrum master — since the Scrum master supervises the meeting, participants often make the following mistakes: they only look into the Scrum master’s eyes, they wait for his approval while the rest of team members are doing their own affairs. This indicates a counterproductive environment. In such case, the Scrum master’s task is to establish the connection «speaking participant — other participants».
  3. Scrum meetings held for planning — a new task may emerge during the meeting. There is a strong temptation to distribute tasks at once and to discuss them, thus the Scrum master often alters the Scrum meeting format. The solution is simple — after the Scrum meeting, hold another 15-minute meeting to resolve new problems.
  4. Scrum meetings held for technical discussions — one of team members may be aware of a technical aspect in a project more than another one. The emphasis on such details in a discussion puts the participants in unequal conditions and prevents Scrum from achieving its goals.
  5. Scrum meetings remote from the workplace — a perfect variant is to hold a Scrum meeting in front of a Scrum board (an open Gantt chart). It facilitates the team’s orientation within a task progress.
  6. Scrum meetings consisting of 2 questions — «What did I do yesterday?» and «What will I be doing today?» Talking about risks and problems has little appeal to anyone. Moreover, it is a full public view, not an individual talk. However, the meeting will be ineffective without discussing impediments on the way to sprint completion.

What is Scrum meeting procedure?

Every day during the sprint, the team holds daily meetings — Scrum meetings or daily Scrum as they are entitled alternatively. Such meetings are usually held at the same venue, and their time limit is 15 minutes. With such time limit, any secondary and inessential subjects are put aside, the discussion is alert and alive.

During the daily Scrum, each team member working on the sprint should answer three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I be doing today?
  • What has been impeding my work?

By focusing on what each participant achieved yesterday and intends to achieve today, the team will realize the scope of work performed, as well as how much remains to complete the sprint. If a programmer says: «Today I will complete a database module!», it will be clear for the participants that tomorrow he will say whether or not he has completed it.

Problems immediately pass into the Scrum master’s area of responsibility. He can solve them during the daily Scrum (if the problem is not difficult) or record them in his work schedule.

There may be such common problems:

  • My workplace tool (for instance, PC) is out of order.
  • I have not received the software which is need for work yet
  • One of the departments has asked me to work on another task «on day one».
  • Program debugging has to be assisted, etc.

What is the right way to hold Scrum meetings?

  1. limit the number of daily Scrum’s participants to 6 persons — if the number of project team members exceeds 6 persons, you may divide them into groups having a Scrum master each. The groups are usually formed according to tasks (for instance, testers and developers). After that, Scrum masters discuss problems that have emerged with each other and by involving persons concerned.
  2. Solve urgent problems — some impediments are critical, and you should solve them immediately. Do not let the formal 15-minute limit break down all the work. It is the Scrum master who decides whether the problem is worth protracting the meeting.
  3. Prescribe rules for daily Scrums — they should be distinct, clear for all team members and available at any time (for instance, written on a flipchart at the venue where meetings are held).
  4. Preclude personal conversations — discussions of yesterday’s football match, parking problems or supermarket prices take away precious time out of the 15-minute time unit by distracting attention. The Scum master has to notice a subject drift and to resume the natural course of the Scrum meeting.
  5. Elaborate an effective format — for instance, if meetings are protracted, offer them to be held with participants standing upright. According to the research of the Texas University, A&M activities carried out in an upright position almost double the performance. And if participants do not express initiative, gamificate the daily Scrum — suggest that the team member who has answered 3 questions throw a ball to a random participant to hand over a turn further.
  6. Ask additional questions if necessary — if the team members do not mention their problems in their answers, it is useful to ask them a question: «To what extent are you sure that you will complete this task today?» Such approach will make participants review task statuses, change tags, and it will reveal possible obstacles.
  7. Start and end meetings on a timely basis — even if half of participants are absent, it does not prevent daily Scrum from starting. Thus, you will get the project team used to discipline and demonstrate that such meetings are held not just for a show. For the same reason, the Scrum master must not be late.
  8. Thank the participants at the end of the Scrum meeting — high spirits on opening the day are guaranteed, as well as the efficiency in task completion. The main thing is that this rule should not turn into formality.

Gamification is the use of game mechanics (gaining experience, fighting against monsters, moving around the playing ground etc.) in non-gaming processes, such as work, education and personal life.


Verdict

The Scrum master is necessary for team coordination
Scrum fundamentals are not the only thing that matters. Someone has to advocate project goals at Scrum meetings. Adherence to the common product architecture in all tasks, team morale and sound atmosphere in the team, as well as stable pace of development — all these constitute the Scrum master’s prerogative.

Scrum meetings are a powerful tool to monitor project statuses and to advance towards project completion.
Scrum meetings not only synchronize team activities, they also assist in solving problems, they rally employees, teach them to set feasible tasks and to be publicly accountable for the outcome.

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