Client Case Study – Scrum Master Coaching:

Case study synopsis 

This project is a testimonial of how having an agile consultant onsite to help grow your Scrum Masters can make a big difference on how agile survives in an organisation.
We have skilled up and grown this Scrum Master successfully on this project through our Scrum Master Coaching and have been applying the learnings on all projects going forward.

Take a sneak peak as to what we did here…

Who was involved

A Project Administrator in a financial software development company and an Infoware Studios Agile consultant.

Problem solved or challenge on this project

    • No suitable, available Scrum Masters in the market.
    • The Project administrator had no knowledge of Agile or the agile tool, Jira that was used.
    • They had to start immediately in the Scrum Master role without any background.
    • The company was busy adopting agile so the teams needed a lot of input on running and applying Agile.
    • There weren’t enough Scrum Masters for the teams so the new Scrum Master had to handle multiple teams and thus be Scrum Master Coached.

Project timeline

We started the Agile implementation project toward the end of 2012. We started with Scrum Master Coaching in July 2013 and ended the project in March 2014. Initially there were 3 Infoware Agile Consultants and 3 new Scrum Masters from the organisation. It later changed to only having 1 Infoware Agile Consultant onsite.

Approach to this project

Skilling up the Scrum Masters ran in hand with the whole organisation also moving over to the Agile approach. The appointed Scrum Masters arrived 4 months late so learning at a rapid pace was critical and we were under pressure.

The best way to learn is through practical experience. The Scrum Master received her own teams and the Infoware Agile Consultants took turns to shadow the Scrum Master in order to give her advice and show her the softer skills of becoming a Scrum Master. Of course there is always the theory that needed to be understood as well. For that we had separate Scrum skill-up sessions in order to go through the tool (Jira) as well as Agile questions. The Scrum Master from the organisation selected an Agile book that she worked through on her own.

Outcomes, impacts & benefits received

Lack of people & skills in SA

Because of the lack of available Scrum Masters in the South African market, the right people can be skilled up under the right guidance and mentoring.

Additional Outcomes & Impacts

The rationale behind this project was to provide the level of support that will allow new scrum masters to learn in a practical manner from an experienced Scrum Master. The feedback we received was that the Scrum Master grew very quickly into a Scrum Master that was valued by her teams and that made a big impact in the successful delivery of a variety of projects.

Key Learning Points

Knowing the Product Owner Role

One of the main duties of a Scrum Master is to efficiently coach the Product Owner to understand agile and their own role within an agile team. Because the organisation was new to agile, both roles were unknown and new to the people in the organisation. The challenge was to coach the scrum master in coaching a Product Owner. For that the Scrum Master had to also understand the Product Owner role.

Using the Jira tool for agile projects

The Jira tool was implemented alongside Agile into this organisation. The expectation was that the Scrum Masters will take ownership of their own teams Jira configuration. At the beginning there were a few challenges to get Jira settled in but the Scrum Master took it upon herself to upskill to a point where she could meet the expectation.

Scrum Masters with Multiple Teams

Scrum Masters were assigned at the beginning to up to six teams at the same time. The Scrum Master was more away from her desk than actually with the teams. Keep the limit to 2/3 teams when the Scrum Masters are junior.

Knowing the scrum master role boundaries

Because this Scrum Master was moved from a project administration role in the organisation she still received a lot of requests to fulfill those type of duties inside of the teams instead of just being the Scrum Master. People are accepted in a specific role in an organisation and transitioning to a new role and getting others in the organisation to accept it is critical for a person to be effective. This took a lot of coaching inside the teams to rectify that perception and to establish the boundaries of the Scrum Master role. The most important contribution to the shift was the ability of the Scrum Master herself. People can not be forced to accept others in new roles.

Getting the teams to trust the new scrum master

As with any Agile implementation resistance is always prominent. The main thing for the Scrum Master was to win the trust of each team member and to grow into a valuable Scrum Master that doesn’t just drive the agile changes inside her team but also made an impact in the whole organisation. Over a period of time the trust was established and the Scrum Master truly became the process owner.

In Conclusion

Throwing unskilled people into a new role and expecting them to succeed is an unreasonable expectation. The right people can be skilled up in a Scrum Master role without prior Scrum Master or Agile experience. This organisation and Scrum Master benefited through having the type of support and experience onsite for the period of time that was needed. The Scrum Master role is vital in ensuring that agile survives in an organisation.