Four MORE Questions Scrum Masters Should Be Asking

Last year, I posted the original four questions that every good Scrum Master should be asking. With a few more months under our belt and having the opportunity to observe 12 product teams with 7 Scrum Masters every day, I have been able to glean four more questions for Scrum Masters to be asking themselves. I’m sure there will be more to come…if you have any to contribute, feel free to add yours!

Are there too many things “in progress” on my team?
As teams become more comfortable and confident with the methodology and each other, they may start looking for ways to become even more efficient. One way I have seen this manifest is by attempting to work on many stories at the same time. This approach may appear to work until the first sprint review session happens when the highest priority story is not accepted by the product owner but progress was made on all of the stories. Remind and coach the team to focus on one story at a time, get it done, and keep the product owner happy. Perhaps bring a little Kanban WIP limit into the team…

Are partnerships and relationships improving?
We have all used “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” from the Agile Manifesto to explain a key difference between Agile and other methodologies. So how is your team really doing at interacting together? Always be observing and assessing the current interactions on your team and look for small cracks that may turn into crevices. Hold workshops and exercises with developers and testers, developers and site operations, testers and product owners, architects and product owners. Intentionally work with them to improve how well they work together – don’t leave anything to chance.

Has your team experienced being “in flow” yet?
A couple weeks ago I was able to witness a team that had been struggling for many months with Agile practices turn the corner and start experiencing flow. You know it when you see it – a new level of movement, energy, laughter, togetherness, bonding, productivity. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what triggered this turn of events but I believe a key component to bringing a team into flow is persistence. If a team is making incremental improvements then put the hours and effort in to coach, trust the methodology, and let them be. Leaders will often times want to break a struggling team up too early so if you still have faith in your team, do every thing you can to keep this from happening.

And most importantly, am I keeping myself healthy?
The role of a full-time Scrum Master is not easy. Coach, mentor, psychologist, referee, arts and craft sherpa, team mom, team dad…the typical Scrum Master spends much more time thinking about others than themselves. With so much energy spent on serving others every day it’s very easy to lose focus on our own well-being. So, take some time off if you feel like you need it. Try and achieve balance with work and home, eat a little healthier, get enough sleep, and exercise a little. You are worth it!

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One thought on “Four MORE Questions Scrum Masters Should Be Asking

  1. Len-

    Great blog. You bring up some really important points for SMs to be considering. One that I like to add, to those traditional three questions SMs ask team members, is my 4th: “Does the sprint board still reflect reality to you?” It helps them highlight work item adjustments that need to be made, especially if they are on stories not yet started. It also speaks to your point of bringing a little Kanban WIP limit to the board…if “in progress” is supposed to be focused on the time span from now till tomorrow at this time, and a team member takes more than 8 hours (or 7, or 6) of work into WIP, then that does not reflect reality.