How to be a Scrum Master if you are not a Scrum Master

Agile Days and others.
For example, when we just started changing retrospectives and it was not clear how to introduce changes, my friend, Scrum Master Sasha, advised us to carry out the technique Spotify Health Check. It is unlikely that I would have known about it in any other way.

  1. Sprint goal (aka sprint focus).

In canonical scrum, it is assumed that the scrum team (owner + developers) formulate the goal of the sprint based on the set business task, after which the development team independently selects tasks that will achieve this goal, and (here carefully!) jointly “attacks” on her for all 1-2-N weeks.

Needless to say, such a canonical situation is not always possible in modern realities? Some companies cannot afford to take one sprint goal and dedicate 100% of their resources to it. There are many customers and needs. Thus, one team during the sprint can be occupied with thematically different tasks. In this case, you can use the “sprint goal” as the “focus of the sprint”. As they say, “everyone is equal, but I am more equal” – in case of difficulties, it is on the focus task that you should concentrate, all other things being equal.

Specifically, in our case, the sprint focus helped the team a lot when team leads (who are active developers) needed to take a break from the task in order to help their colleagues, for example, in pair programming or just consulting. At the daily scrum (aka stand-up), I tried to gently bring the team back into focus, which is appropriate, even if out-of-focus tasks are not closed on time.

Isn’t the concept of “sprint focus” an excuse to do one big task instead of closing the entire sprint? I’ll be the captain: it’s up to you. The sprint focus is a tool for prioritization in case of difficult situations and lack of resources (tasks were underestimated, new inputs appeared, someone got sick, etc.).

  1. Retrospective.

When I first came to Courson, the retrospective lasted 15-30 minutes and began with the words “Well, who has any problems?”. In my experience, this is not the most efficient way to run retrospectives. It is difficult to jump out of an intense sprint (which ended 5 minutes ago), turn in all the tasks, switch and remember the past time.

It’s not for nothing that there are so many interesting ideas about holding a retro on the net, and even a thematic book has been written that is popular among Scrum Masters – fun retrospectives (Tainã Caetano Coimbra, Paulo Caroli).

What exactly should not be a retrospective?

  • boring ceremony “what did I do last summer”, “how can we fix our processes”

  • a place of execution for reprisals against people who made a mistake

  • an event that makes you want to go on a gloomy binge instead of enthusiastically waiting for the opening of a new sprint after the weekend

In my practice, I adhere to the concept of a few steps for a retro that will appeal to everyone:

  • Visualization. Now many employees work remotely, but thank heavens, we have a tool like Miro at our disposal, which helps remote workers around the world to unite (pun). This tool has everything you need – the ability to share, stickers and boards, the ability to insert pictures and diagrams.

  • Introductory part. When we start the retrospective, I invite the guys to digress a little and talk about the last sprint “in general” – how did you feel, were you satisfied, was there any difficulty that spoiled the mood. You can use a weather pattern (“sun” and “cloud”), in a live presence, you can use scrum cubes or picture cards. This allows you to tune in to the mood of the discussion and relax a bit before discussing changes.

  • Collection of information. Quite possibly, the direct and unambiguous question “Well, what changes will we introduce?” will not bring you the effect you expect. The Scrum Workshop offers us a lot of techniques to gather information for the further dynamics of the meeting. Let me give you one of them as an example.
    The picture shows a boat with a sail in the sea and its anchor 🙂 We are a boat that goes to the goal. What helps this boat? What anchor is holding it back? What can help a boat go faster? What is the condition of this boat now? You can learn a lot of new things once you start metaphorical thinking in people.

  • Discussion cards and parking. Nothing new here. We vote for those cards/postulates that we want to discuss first and discuss them. In this case, the ScrumMaster should monitor group dynamics and facilitate discussion BUT not make decisions for the team. Don’t forget to assign accountability and set deadlines for every decision you make, and at the start of your next retrospective, come back to what needs to be done!

  1. Don’t become a parent.

A ScrumMaster friend of mine once told me that the best thing a ScrumMaster can do is coach his team so they don’t need him anymore. With such an amount of responsibility, the temptation is very great to start saving everyone and everything, to take on too much, to move processes on your own, to solve other people’s problems.

Scrum masters are called “servant leader” in thematic communities. Notice, not just a “leader” and not just a “servant”, but at the same time. Don’t parent your team like you would a small child. Help colleagues grow so that they can be left without you at any time (hello, holidays!) And not lose quality. Be a little aloof.

If there is a need to directly participate in the process and discussion in your main role (analyst, developer, etc.), first take off the “hat” of the Scrum Master.

  1. Gently to yourself.

An unrealistic number of articles and papers have been written about burnout in the last couple of years, and I hope that we all learned something from this. Scrum mastery is not a whim or entertainment, it is an additional burden on your main job. Even if it does not take you much time, it requires quite a lot of resources. No wonder one of my acquaintances Scrum Masters was asked at an interview if he was undergoing personal psychotherapy.

I am writing this article at a time when I left my team as a Scrum Master for one two-week sprint and transferred this role to one of the developers. Rest was required. Do not forget about this option for yourself too. If it is likely that such a load will affect your main job, talk about the situation with your manager and take action.

Once again: Scrum mastery is not entertainment, it is coaching, monitoring and process management. In addition, I will say that your bad mood can affect these very processes. You are the leader-servant 🙂 Be careful and attentive to yourself.


So, the answer to the question, is it possible to combine the main job with Scrum mastery? Can. Is it possible to do this effectively if you are not a professional Scrum Master? Can. But this is a long-term process, you should not expect a perfect result from yourself from the very beginning. Be mindful of yourself, the team, and group dynamics. Everything will work out.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply