How Scrum Masters Can Keep Their Teams Focused on Goals

As a Scrum Master, your role is vital to the success of the team, but it certainly comes with a number of requirements. Your list of duties includes implementing the Scrum rules and framework throughout a project, as well as keeping the peace and resolving issues along the way. Even though you are not exclusively a project manager, it is still your responsibility to ensure the team stays on the right track.

So how do you keep a team focused and unified without micro-managing or overstepping your authority? Here are the five ways that can help you become a better Scrum Master and lead your team to success.

Create a Vision

Getting a team to work together without a defined vision is like trying to put a puzzle together without seeing the picture on the box. It can be done, but it’s probably going to take much longer and create lots of unnecessary frustration along the way.

97% of employees agree that if a team’s vision and goals are not aligned, then the project outcome will not live up to expectations. As a Scrum Master, be sure to go over project objectives with the Product Owner to avoid any confusion or mixed signals. A Scrum team relies on the Product Owner to explain expectations and communicate the goals of the project, so the Scrum Master and the Product Owner must work together to create a unified vision for the entire team.

Emphasize the importance of face-to-face meetings with your team members to help build a stronger work mentality. As a Scrum team, you must value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, so put this into practice by holding team meetings as often as necessary. Not only will it help to cut down on miscommunication, it will form a stronger bond between those involved.

Of course, a good Scrum Master knows they must be a competent facilitator for the entire team. Make sure that every face-to-face meeting has a purpose so that it is not interrupting important work. Instead, be sure to involve every member in the set-up process and come up with a meeting schedule that is convenient for everyone involved.

scrum master

Use Visual Tools

As you work to create a shared vision for your team, be sure to implement visual tools that will communicate these goals in a very literal and understandable way. Many people are able to comprehend the concepts better with a visual representation. Plus, it’s a great way to keep the team on track when it comes to progression targets and deadlines.

Scrum teams utilize a task board to organize jobs that need to be completed during sprint sessions. Teams are able to assess what needs to be done next at a glance, but it is the Scrum Master’s duty to make sure that this process is followed correctly.

board lists

Nutcache’s scrum board provides a virtual representation of the tasks at hand to ensure everyone is up to speed on the steps involved. Scrum Masters can also see how long each step is taking, helping to avoid any potential delays with estimated completion times.

Nutcache scrum board

Lead by Example

Being assigned as The Scrum Master for a team project is quite an honor, and it is not a privilege that is given out on a whim. Not only should you have a deep understanding of Agile and Scrum, but you also need to exemplify the characteristics of a good leader.

The Agile Alliance describes a Scrum Master as a coach, who guides a team to victory with their knowledge of proper tactics and practices. It places an emphasis on leadership, over management, so Scrum Masters should make it a point to set a proper example for team members to follow.

Scrum values commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect among its members, and therefore, a Scrum Master is responsible for implementing these principles into every aspect and action of the team. The Scrum framework is intended to create an environment where teams work together towards a common goal and are self-sufficient to improve productivity levels.

scrum master role

Studies have found that when a team leader sets an example of proper conduct, employees are 53% more focused and efficient in the workplace. Be a role model for your team by accomplishing assignments with efficiency, and always be willing to jump in and help others who need support. Your members should have confidence in your capabilities as a leader, so be sure to build this trust throughout your actions and approaches. Listen to your team members’ suggestions and questions, and always be willing to change things to improve the situation for everyone.

Hold Members Accountable

While a Scrum Master is not a project manager, they are still responsible for resolving conflicts within a team. According to a study conducted by the Scrum Alliance, 26% of teams believe it is up to the Scrum Master to remove any obstacles that slow down or impede a team projects.

This is not always an easy task, but in order for a scrum team to finish a project properly, both Masters and Members must work together to accomplish the common goal.

Using Nutcache’s project tracking tools can help you see when projects are taking more time to complete than needed. From here, you can see if there are any team members who seem to be falling behind on their tasks.

burn-down chart

We all have fallen victim to the occasional daydream at the office and have been taken off task by random interruptions. However, even a small distraction can totally wreck productivity, and it can take up to 25 minutes to regain full focus. Keeping your team members accountable may require you to gently confront them when they are not performing up to standards. Be sure to give your members the benefit of the doubt before accusing them of slacking on the job. Always ask if they need any clarification or assistance on their tasks. Then, ask why there is a delay and try to come up with a solution to eliminate any distractions that are resulting in reduced productivity.

Incorporate Motivations

As the Scrum Master, it is up to you to keep the team focused and motivated to complete projects on time, within budget, and according to quality standards. But, sometimes the pressure of measuring up to these requirements can cause stress and tension, and they certainly can suck the fun out of the process.

While it’s important to balance work and play, adding positive incentives into your Scrum strategy is a great way to boost engagement. In Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report, they found that when workers are engaged and their goals are aligned with those of the company, productivity and profitably saw a substantial increase, and quality issues decreased by 40%.

Boosting engagement levels within the team can be as simple as offering incentives for performance improvements and jobs well done. Take the time to get to know your team members personally by having friendly conversations with them. Whether you take a team member out to lunch or congratulate them publicly during a team meeting, a little gesture can go a long way in terms of employee engagement. What really matters here is authenticity. People can sense when you are being “fake” with your intentions.

Sometimes work and Scrum projects can get a little tedious (shocker, right?), so there’s no harm in adding a little excitement when you can. Create a positive environment that pushes members to do their best, and provide opportunities for growth and acknowledgement.

Conclusion

Without proper leadership, it is highly unlikely that a team can accomplish all that they need to do. Although Scrum teams are required to be as self-reliant as possible, it is the duty of the Scrum Master to guide everyone and ensure that Scrum tactics are implemented and carried correctly.

Without an effective Scrum Master, a team will not survive. Being the best coach you can be sometimes requires you to go above and beyond the call of duty, but your team members will certainly thank you for it in the end.

 

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Image source: Main photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash, In post image: 1, 2

2018-06-06T13:59:43+00:00

About the Author:

As Chief operations officer, Chief product officer and Scrum Product Owner, Sébastien is the mastermind behind Nutcache, spending most of his time transforming ideas into features. He is a certified Professional Scrum Product Owner, certified Scaled Professional and Kanban Management Professional 1 with over 20 years experience in project management in the software industry. His project related articles have been published on several major websites and blogs such as tech.co, smallbiztrends.com, business.com and many others.