This is the second in a series of posts walking through my approach to the performance review process for Scrum Masters.
4. Observe, Observe, Observe
- Be present. In my role as a Methodology Leader, I am able to bounce between many of the Scrum sessions for different teams throughout the day. I set the expectations with the teams early on that I am there as an observer only so they have become comfortable with me hanging around. It’s a fascinating experience watching as each team establishes their own rhythm, environment, and social norms. Be careful not to look at the deviations of approach between teams and treat them as a negative. Embrace and appreciate the diversity each team represents.
- Watch. The primary thing I look for is body language, movement, and position. Are team members physically engaged during planning sessions? Are they huddled around story cards with multiple hands moving things around? You will often see some team members start slowing pushing their chairs away from the table if they are feeling uncomfortable. View the daily stand-up meetings from afar. Are they standing? Are there sub-groups having their own dialog? Much can be learned by just watching.
- Listen. What language does the team use in planning sessions and retrospectives? Is it uplifting or degrading? Is it focused on blame vs. a “live together, die alone” attitude? Is everything alway perfect? Is everything always failing? Does it foster self-healing and progress? Is the daily stand-up focused on the typical 3 questions or sporadic and prone to lengthy discussion? Along with the “watch” bullet point, there are plenty more questions that can be asked here.
- Identify those who would be able to provide the best feedback. Look for the quiet ones. In one-on-one meetings they consistently provide the best feedback and are an amazing source of what is really happening on the team. If you have remote employees, find a few to chat with about their level of inclusion with the team. And the people who were pushing away from the table…definitely on the list of people to talk to for feedback on team dynamics and inclusion.
5. Meet with the Product Owner for specific feedback on their happiness with the progress of their product vision and team performance.
- Periodically check in with the Product Owner. At least twice a year seems appropriate but stress to the product owner that you have an open door for any feedback or concerns that need quick attention.
- Use your noble cause and expectation diagram as the center of discussion. By pulling in your noble cause and expectations diagram, this conversation becomes crisp and focused. The Scrum Master is a unique role and your product owners may be more familiar with what a typical project manager would do. Your expectations diagram should help alleviate any confusion and guide your conversation appropriately.
- Ask specific and probing questions. I have created a list of starter questions around each expectation. Typically, the questions sound like, “Does your team have a sense of self-healing and is resolving internal team issues themselves?” for the Foster Team Health expectation or “Does your team need to consistently perform “heroic” efforts to live into sprint commitments?” for the Maintain Flow expectation. Having these questions keeps the conversation on track to ensure you get feedback that is focused on the expectations and is fair and unbiased for each Scrum Master.
6. Get specific feedback from team members.
- Build a set of team member questions. For team members, I would use similar questions to the ones used with the product owner with just some slight deviations. Something like, “Does your Scrum Master relentlessly remove team impediments in a timely manner?” for the Remove Impediments expectation or “Are your team retrospectives highlighting meaningful things for the team to work on?” for the Change Your Community expectation.
- Request feedback from the team members identified during the observation period. A couple of weeks before a review, pull out the list of people you have identified to receive feedback from and setup 1/2 hour sessions with them. An hour is too long and having your questions ready should make this move along.
- Build triads. Based on the Tribal Leadership principle of building triads, I try to end each session by asking them to share some of their feedback with their Scrum Master personally. Most people don’t like sharing anything negative about their peers so this gentle nudging goes a long way in building trust and community.