Scrum Master role is as essential as Product Owner’s or Developers’. However, your organization might not be able to hire a full-time Scrum Master right now, either due to low budgets, difficulty of finding the right candidate, or maybe even internal politics. What can you do to manage this situation effectively and support the implementation of Scrum?
In this article, I’d like to discuss a few practical tips that can help your team be more successful with Scrum in the absence of a Scrum Master.
Interim Scrum Master’s Todos
The most obvious tasks that are often put on a Scrum Master (especially, when there is lack of understanding of the role) are organizing meetings, leading and hosting meetings, taking notes, collecting status, etc.
However, none of these tasks are what a Scrum Master (interim or not) should be focusing on!
Instead, the interim Scrum Master should focus on two improtant and complex tasks: establishing Scrum in the organization and helping the team become more effective.
The best way to spend interim Scrum Master’s time is by doing some research and learning on Scrum and Agile subjects: looking up some useful practices and tools that have potential.
For example, finding new retrospective techniques will help the Scrum Master to make team Sprint Retrospectives more productive and focused. Same goes for Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and even Daily Scrum.
If the team is often hindered by external dependencies, the Scrum Master might want to analyze the worksflow and organizational processes. This will require working with other teams to agree on processes that are more effective on the bigger scale. Tracking and visualizing dependencies can be another way a Scrum Master can help the team.
Another way to create more success is for the Product Owner and the Scrum Master to pair up. Together they can find better ways to manage the Product Backlog, communicate with stakeholders, and show progress towards goals.
Since this is an interim position, it would be best if the whole Scrum Team comes together to collaborate to find the best ways to work together.
As you might have guessed, all the tasks that are usually assigned to a Scrum Master, are the tasks that should be delegated back to the team.
Tasks like taking and distributing notes, organizing meetings, etc. can be easily set on rotation.
One of the teams I worked with would dedicate one person per Sprint to do those admin tasks. So everyone on the team would take on these tasks, but would never be the only one taking care of everything.
Another team had a rotation of who shares the screen and leads meeting day after day. Every person on the team knew when “their day” is, so it eliminated confusion and made it easy to manage.
The best interim Scrum Master candidate
Being a Scrum Master requires distinct skills and knowledge. If you are primarily a Developer, you might not have everything you need to fulfill the role with ease.
Overall, it is much better to have one dedicated person who will play the role of the Scrum Master, rather than rotate it.
First, it will make planning so much easier. That one person playing two roles would have a much better understanding of how much time each role requires. It will be easier to understand capacity available for development tasks.
Second, it will allow that person build new skills and be able to provide better support to the team over time. Otherwise, each new person will have to start from scratch on every rotation.
Third, Scrum Master often represents the voice of the team in front of management, stakeholders, and other teams. It’s best if there is one point of contact in these cases as it will be easier to build strong relationships for collaboration.
In the end, the right person to take on the interim Scrum Master role is
If your team is in the unfortunate situation of not having a Scrum Master, find the right person to fulfill the role interim and work with your leadership to work out a plan for bringing a full time Scrum Master to support your success.