Scrum Master Diary

A lot of people don’t have a very clear idea on what it is a Scrum Master does. If asked the answer will be most of the time something like

“He organizes the meetings, solves impediments and makes sure Jira is up to date, right?”

Well, not really… The first and last should be done by the team anyway and the second thing is awfully broad if stated like this. What I want to do in this story is describing what it is that I do during a Sprint. Not in a theoretical sense, which is done much better by Barry Overeem, but from a more practical point of view. So here are some Scrum Master diary fragments.

Day 1

It’s Monday morning but it won’t be a slow start. The new Sprint starts today, so we kick off this morning with a Sprint Planning meeting. Fortunately the top of the Backlog is refined pretty well and even a lot of the sub tasks are already written so it should be a fairly smooth session. As a service to the team I print out the User Stories as cards so they fit nicely on the Scrum board. At 10:00 AM we start with the session. The team velocity is pretty stable for some time so pretty soon we are done with discussing which User Stories we should pick for the Sprint Backlog. Before we finish up the meeting we do look at the availability of the team members: one person has two days leave and another is asked spent some days helping out another team for his knowledge on a specific subject. Is ask the team if they are still confident they can make the Sprint Goal with this in mind. There is some discussion but the team decides there should be some adjustments to the Sprint Backlog. That’s it for the meeting and the teams starts working on their first User Stories.

After lunch I start working on the End-of-Sprint Report. We have a template for this, but is still needed to collect the statistics from Jira, the Scrum board and some other sources. It’s not the most interesting work, but our stakeholders really appreciate the report. It gives them (and the team for what that matters) a good overview of the work done in the Sprint. Hmm, one User story wasn’t finished, why was that again? Oh yes, after a change in the code our automated tests failed and it took a little bit longer then expected to find out why and to solve the issue.

Day 2

As every morning we start with the Daily. Two team members are working remote today so we use Google Hangouts to let them join the meeting. I really prefer face-to-face and co-located meetings, but video conferencing is the next best thing I guess. It is still early in the Sprint so no impediments have arisen as of yet. I make sure I’m a little bit in the background to prevent that the Daily will end up as a status update to the Scrum Master. This is a meeting for the team itself, not for the Scrum Master.

Directly following the Daily we have a Refinement session. The Product Owner already sent the User Stories she wants to discuss, so most of the team members are well prepared for the session. At some point during the meeting the discussing is getting a bit off-topic so I ask the team if the discussion is still relevant for the User Story or if we should take this offline. Asking the question is already enough to get the focus back so we can vote the User Story

In the afternoon together with the manager, team leads and other Scrum Masters we have a meeting to discuss operational issues. This can be (big) impediments, opportunities or challenges we see for our teams but also the team members: are there any outliers, both positive or negative? Is the team fit still optimal or should we shuffle? What is the status of possible vacancies? Etc.

Day 4

When opening my email in the morning I find an invitation from a Scrum Master from another company for the next ‘company safari’. Every once in a while with a small group we go and visit other companies or have some visitors over for exchanging experiences and knowledge. This is very informative and it is always very interesting to see how other companies work with Scrum or other Agile frameworks. Let’s talk to the other Scrum Masters in the department and plan a meeting soon!

Also today is the Scrum Master guild meeting. Together with the Scrum Masters from other departments we sit down for about an hour a week and discuss actual issues, see if there are any cross team impediments and in general get each other informed of current affairs. It is a nice mix of Scrum Masters with a varying degree of experience so that makes the meeting very interesting. Today we exchange some good Retrospective ideas and I get some good inspiration for the next Retrospective of my team!

Day 5

All our teams are cross functional. This works really well within a Sprint because a team has all the expertise needed to finish a User Story. On the other hand this means that not all front- and back-end developers work together on a daily basis. To make sure that they keep each informed on issues related to their expertise, they asked the Scrum Masters to help them facilitate alignment sessions. You could compare those to the Guilds within the Spotify model. These session helps them to exchange knowledge and make working agreements. Of course we helped them and is very satisfying to see that they picked up the facilitating themselves by now! As Scrum Masters we hardly have to do anything anymore for these session.

Today I have also a couple one-on-one meetings with some of the team members. I try to sit down with every team member on a regular basis to hear what’s going on. Although the team is very open and transparent to each other, there are every now en then issues they don’t necessarily want to directly discuss within the group. In one of the sessions a team member explains that he finds the communication style of one of his colleagues a bit difficult to deal with. I provide some tips to start a conversation and use a positive and constructive approach. And make a mental note for myself to follow-up on this next week to see how it went.

Day 8

Important visitors today! The CIO (to whom our department reports directly) comes by with the Board of Directors to show how we approach the Agile way of working. Working Agile is a hot topic in the company and we, Scrum Masters, are asked to give a short introduction. Very exciting! I think it went pretty well, the Board members even asked some questions. I think we were good ambassadors both for the department and for Scrum and working Agile!

Back in the team room I see that the Burn-down has not been updated for a couple of days. For now I update it, but this is definitely an issue I like to talk about in the Retrospective. We made an agreement that the team would update this themselves. Maybe the team feels the Burn-down is not very useful for them, but then shouldn’t we decide to stop using it altogether?

Day 11

Tomorrow is our Sprint Review. We always do this by setting up a sort of marketplace with stalls for every team. The big benefit is that all Stakeholders are gathered in one place. This gathering is very convenient for them so they don’t have to attend multiple Reviews and for the teams it is easier to gather feedback from all departments. The Scrum Masters do the overall organization of the event, things like the floor plan and facility related issues. The teams themselves are responsible for the decoration of the stands and the teaser presentations we start with.

Day 12

Last day of the Sprint! That means in the Daily we have a look where we stand in making the Sprint Goal and to discuss the final details on the Review that afternoon. I saw yesterday that all User stories would be finished so I brought some ‘stroopwafels’, which are gone very quickly. Always celebrate your successes, not matter how small they may be.

This afternoon the Sprint Review will take place of course and I’m finishing up some last things such as creating one slide deck from all the teaser presentations from the teams. As always I will be the host of the gathering so people ask me if I brought my showmaster costume. No guys, I’m sorry, maybe next time… ;)

Immediately after the Review we do the Retrospective. Last night I prepared a nice exercise, but after a day like this you know there is not that much energy left in the team. So we keep it simple and luckily everyone has some spirit left. We manage to define some nice improvements to work on in the next Sprint. After that it is time for some drinks! It was a good Sprint, next Monday we’ll start all over again…

This blog also appeared in a shortened (and Dutch) version on the website of my employer, Brunel Netherlands.

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