Optimising scrum work environments
How scrum masters can enhance the success of co-located and remote teams
Working together as a team in one location
Close proximity is key
Integrated cross functional scrum teams need to work closely together through the daily grind of the sprint. Promoting team collaboration builds trust and enhances team work. It is not an easy thing to achieve — it is a process.
So what about the process? Let’s take a look at Tuckman’s stages of group development — Forming > Storming > Norming > Performing.
Individuals start to form into a team. To begin, your team will be uncertain of their team goals. During the Forming stage, you will need to clearly define team goals and provide the team support and guidance. It is typical during this stage to get some resistance from the team; it can be a very challenging time. So as the team’s scrum master, servant leader and defender of the process, be prepared to answer their questions, guide them along the way and in time you will earn their respect.
In this stage, teams typically get worse, rather than better. This is because as team members start to work out their relationships with each other, power struggles can often happen. Because of these struggles and disagreements, the Storming phase is very challenging. However, in time, these disagreements can lead to better communication, which helps members grow as a team. As a scrum master, during the storming phase you can help the team keep focus on their goals to help them make better decisions.
After the storm is over, you finally have a team. Your team will know what they’re supposed to do, and who does what (roles and responsibilities). Teams often get things done very quickly. During the Norming stage, as a scrum master you will help your team develop as a team. In turn, this will help your project run more smoothly and deliver better quality results. This stage involves team members bonding and developing their group identity. A successful outcome typically is members realise that they can accomplish more together than they could on their own.
This stage is where you team is reaching high-performance levels as a bench-mark. During the Performing stage, hard work leads without conflict. The lessons learned means that the structures and processes set in place earlier are now captured, implemented and your team is running like clockwork. The scrum master can help delegate work. It feels easy to be part of the team at this stage, and people who join or leave won’t disrupt performance because shared knowledge is captured and followed.
Staying together is a good way to keep things lean and reduce organised meetings.
Now, let’s take a look at team communication. Firstly, we recommend all scrum teams need to be in close proximity of each other. This is where osmotic communication can help.
It is all about osmotic communication
Say what? Osmotic communication is the spontaneous chatter in workspace. This happens when dev teams work together outside of the scrum events.
Osmotic communication enables your team to remain lightweight.
As Scrum Master, it is important for you to prioritise co-location.
Working together is key to successful outcomes.
Easy to use metrics
Next up, as a scrum master it is important that you encourage easy to use, look-at-first glance reporting. These easy to read reports called Information radiators.
Information Radiators are used as a graphical representation of project information typically displayed in plain site of a shared area. These typically include useful information such as team notes, definitions of done, task boards, sprint burn downs, and other dashboards.
Information radiators are designed to communicate progress and provide big picture analysis of how the project is going. They can be displayed on large boards or electronic displays.
However, the former provides a tactile experience that your team may find more personable, as it adds a finer touch to the crafting and creating ethos many teams like.
Driving these metrics at consistent intervals
As a team you are all responsible. However, reporting as a whole should be driven by the scrum master.
The scrum master is like a switchboard operator, updating the reports and reconnecting the lines each time something changes. Ensuring the team and stakeholders stay connected.
Working with remote workers
If some of your scrum team are working remotely as part of your sprint team, you will need to make sure they are able to call via an online video link to all the daily stand ups, attend all the planning, refinement meetings, reviews and retrospectives.
It is a lot harder to read body language or facial expressions — so if technology tools can help, you will be far better off. As it is hard to understand each other and very easy to misinterpret meaning when you cannot have face to face meetings.
Virtual challenges are real!
Communicating with remote workers in scrum teams
To help grow meaningful relationships that are long distance, you need to communicate clearly. To do this, ensure you confirm your understanding by constantly checking in via each sprint ceremony.
Other tips include:
Removing impediments for your team
As a scrum master, ensure you are always finding ways to help the team overcome obstacles, whether it is a new headset or a gift sent for doing such a great job.
Always make your team feel welcome and part of the family. This is simply finding ways to show appreciation. This is especially important when some of your team are working remotely. It can be lonesome working away from your team.
Address conflict swiftly
To ensure conflict is addressed, always manage conflict on video or over the phone. It is advisable to always do it face to face, even if it is on a video call.
Patience is a scrum master’s virtue
Like storming, norming everything is a process.
Alignment is key
Adapting is one of the three important pillars in sprint (other two is transparency and inspection). Remember to keep your team goals in line with the business goals. For remote workers, communicate this often in daily stand-ups, sprint planning reviews and retrospectives.
Agree on next steps
Think about workshopping ways of working agreement before the project beings. Many may know this as a team norms, or a team charter. This might also be an opportunity to cover team roles and responsibilities during this time.
Alway challenge the status quo
Things can always be better. The most important thing is you have an agile mindset. Think lean, continuous improvement techniques.
Ensure ongoing success
Finally, it is really important that you as a scrum master and servant leader that you help with a plan for ongoing success — part of that is embracing a learning culture.
Supporting the ongoing development of your team. Whether it is online tutorials, to a one off workshops and conferences. It is ideal if the organisation you work for embraces professional development.
Having your team to cross train each other’s skills to cover for leave is part of the agile mindset.
Planning is key, and as your team form, storm and then perform they will become better at what they do and will naturally be ready ahead of time. This is part of the value add where you professionalism is key.
Another part of your team’s professional development is after they have mastered their technical skills, focusing on soft skills is also helpful. This could include a communication course, and having turns present at the review show and tell meetings or taking turns facilitating a retrospective. It is all experience and of value
By: Luke Pivac