Scrum Master — How to Avoid Personal Issues

Getting the preparation right and keeping a close watch on the mechanics is a great start but the biggest risk of derailment is from people problems. Planning is all about the interaction between the participants, so there’s plenty that can and will go wrong:

  • Not Interested. Planning should be quick, engaging and motivating. Generally, if a team finds planning boring and tunes out it means they’re either not finding it relevant or don’t feel involved. There are several possible causes including simply a lack of clarity about what’s required from them to telling the team what to do instead of letting them apply their own expertise and intelligence.
  • Arguments. Healthy debate is to be encouraged but arguments are counterproductive and hugely distracting. The product owner is the key decision maker and the best person to make a decision to help move the team forwards.
  • Frustration. Let the team be heard as it’s mind frustrating and counterproductive to be ignored! They do the work, they’re the key problem solvers and integral to delivering a working product — without them nothing will be delivered. So if anyone makes a point, sit up and listen.
  • Concentrate “How” Instead of “What”. If a development team starts to drill down in too much detail in a planning session, chances are they’re probably trying to figure out the solution. A planning session is there to agree what the team can deliver at the end of the sprint. The detail of how the tasks are done can be left until later on.
  • Pressure. The team must never be pressured into taking on more work than they feel capable of doing. It never ends well. They decide for themselves how much work they need to take on to work at a sustainable pace. This is sacred and needs to be protected; the team will fail to deliver if it’s a one-off or just burn out over time if it happens regularly.

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