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A Scrum Master’s Toolbox

Being Scrum Master is already a challenge in today’s world. From being undesired to becoming the core of the team, I believe a Scrum Master should be decently equipped. I have listed below some tools that I found essential to complete my tasks and that may help you too.

1. A bunch of Sharpies

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Good material to a Scrum Master has the same effect as a good rifle in the hands of a soldier. Unless well equipped, a Scrum Master will have less impact on his team. I usually recommend Scrum Masters to accompany their workshops with a bunch of post-its of different sizes and colors. Post-it makes it easy to facilitate user story mapping workshops to show the different levels of requirements. Sharpies are more adapted to use on post-its as they are better readable. Other material such as flip charts, stickers and paper scissors can be also handy. Apart from these, for some specific workshops, we will need extra material such as marshmallow, rope, Lego or coins.

2. A warrior mindset

All good Scrum Masters have probably come across difficult situations where people outside of the team disturb or bully scrum team members. Faced with such situations, a Scrum Master should be able keep a strong attitude and rebuff the bullies or tacitly tackle them. Strategy and strength are two aspects of the Scrum Master’s attitude that can help him get his team across difficult organizational adventures.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

3. Visualization Techniques

Visualization is creating pictures in your mind as you read. You can think of it as making a motion picture of the writing. Visualization is important because it can help with our comprehension and aids in understanding the little nuances of the theme in the light. Apart from the common ones such as a scrum board and release planning, the list below focuses on some lesser known techniques that I have come across and have been useful.

a. Confidence smileys: A good alternative to the sprint burndown chart. At the end of the daily meeting, the Scrum Master can ask the team how confident they are about completing their user stories for the day and display the confidence level via smileys next to the story on the scrum board. It certainly does not quantify the progress of the team; however, it gives that little edge to the Scrum Master to understand the impediments and how to resolve them.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

b. Dependency spiders: Though in theory, it is recommended that agile teams are as independent as possible to the rest of the organisation and be cross-functional. Most organizations are still struggling with the years of workforce segregation implemented in their enterprises. Hence, while undergoing an agile transformation, organizations put in place agile teams that have some level of dependencies among them. In these situations, it can be interesting to be able to see the complexities via a dependency spider chart.

This diagram is drawn with the agile team in the centre and the dependencies are shown around the team with the impacted stories along the spider legs. When the dependency is resolved, it can be put in the resolved column. Therefore, those that remain on the spider legs are usually stories that will not be completed in the sprint and need extra attention.

c. Hourglass scrum wall: This is a unique way of showcasing your scrum board, where it naturally limits the number of tasks or stories in progress by the team since this part of the hourglass is smaller than the other part of the diagram. Limiting the number of items in progress supports the team to focus on getting them done as quickly as possible. The focus is not diverted, and less time is spent in switching from one task to another.

Tasks or stories flow downwards in this diagram.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

4. Pedagogical approach

One often forgotten aspect of the Scrum Master’s job is to educate the organisation and promote the scrum way of working within the enterprise. In order to do so, a pedagogical approach is needed in order to make a smooth transition while still creating a little stir in the way of working. Some, such techniques that I have used in the past are:

a. Problem-based learning: where a burning issue within the organization is taken and addressed with the scrum methodology. This technique needs the buy-in of your stakeholders and their collaboration.

b. Event-driven learning: The Scrum Master can make use of the right timing of events to push certain agile concepts to the enterprise. Such as in the case where there are many dependencies among teams, and it is becoming confusing to manage those. A dependency chart can be drawn so that it is clear which dependency blocks which team. Moreover, if we push the reasoning a bit further, it might also be time to redesign the teams such as there is less dependency amongst them.

This list is not complete, however, these items above are the ones I used a lot in my career.

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