7 Tips for Scrum Masters to be Successful

Project failure can cost organizations money, time, resources and more. According to the 9th Global Project Management Survey released by the Project Management Institute, for every $1 billion invested, an average of $97 million is wasted due to “poor project performance.”

Failure happens for a number of reasons, including poor communication, unclear goals, low prioritization or lack of an effective project manager. For teams implementing Agile project management, that person is known as the scrum master.

The goals of a scrum master are to overcome team challenges and pitfalls, increase efficiency and meet sprint goals.

The need for effective scrum masters who can execute the Agile method is growing. According to annual PMI report, more than 70% of organizations are using Agile more frequently than in the past, implementing it within one in five projects in the past year alone.

Scrum Master: Facilitator for Agile Teams

There are three roles within an Agile project development team: product owner, scrum master and the team. The scrum master facilitates the team’s goals and ensures all members are adhering to Agile principles.

The scrum master leads the sprint planning meetings, in which the team selects the work to tackle during the next sprint. He or she also leads daily stand-up meetings: 15-minute meetings that call for each member to answer three simple questions showing their progress.

  1. What did you accomplish since the last meeting?
  2. What are you working on until the next meeting?
  3. What is getting in your way or keeping you from doing your job?

7 Best Practices for Scrum Masters

  1. Define clear sprint goals during sprint planning meetings to summarize what the team should accomplish by the end of the sprint. The goals can also help team members stay focused and prioritize projects when conflicts appear during a sprint.
  2. Focus on quality by implementing three techniques: continuous integration, automated testing (which supports continuous integration) and self-sufficient test data for unit testing.
  3. Define quantitative product quality metrics to ensure product quality is not measured subjectively.
  4. Prioritize which bugs to fix during your team’s triage meeting to focus on the severity of each bug as compared to other project risks.
  5. Conduct in-depth discussions outside of daily stand-ups. Teams can delay discussions by creating a virtual parking lot in which people write out the topic they want to discuss – either on a flipchart or post-it notes, and add it to the boxes. At the end of the meeting, people can choose what topics to discuss.
  6. Be aware of changing business needs which may affect what user stories and projects will be entered in the backlog and what will be added in the next sprint.
  7. Focus retrospective meetings on what went right, what went wrong and how the team can improve. Essentially, the team should aim to improve one failed project from a previous sprint in a future sprint.
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