A few challenges that I have experienced recently as a Scrum Master on my Agile scrum teams is encouraging engagement and input during team retrospectives. With the help of our new Release Train Engineer (RTE), we have begun to focus on driving teams toward connectedness on a personal level ahead of discussing any specific areas of improvement.
That said, I am sharing a few improvements that I feel are significant and valuable where all Scrum Masters (servant leaders) can effectively focus their time and energy to produce improved outcomes of the team’s overall performance. These 3 focus areas, when tended to, could dynamically shift the way scrum teams work and improve product delivery.
1. Change It Up!
The idea behind this is to intentionally change up the way that we plan out our retrospective activities that give teams something new to see, feel and experience when they join their retrospective sessions. I learned that by creating a safe space where teams feel open and comfortable enough to share amongst each other, when the retrospective conversation begins, they are more inclined to engage willingly in the team’s conversation.
A few activities we have tried so far include using connect cards by “We and Me” to answer mindful questions about our lives or mindsets and then moving toward a fun activity like playing a few rounds of trivia to get the team enjoying the opportunity to work together by talking and sharing their thoughts. This also generates lots of laughter, smiles, and connection that otherwise may not occur in a typical retrospective session.
Since experimenting with this I have observed a significant improvement in each team’s involvement during retros which has generated excitement during our sessions. Because of this I have begun compiling these effective sessions each sprint, so that teams are set up to continuously improve the quality and productivity in the conversation and engagement occurring during retrospectives.
2. Encourage Teams to Self-Organize
Driving teams towards being self-organized will always be a challenge with the presence of constant turnover of team members. However, consistently providing teams with opportunities to independently conduct their own ceremonies can potentially foster an environment where they are driven to take ownership and intentionally engage with their team members in a different way.
I believe that this will inevitably lead to teams not only becoming self-organized, but self-driven and high-performing as it inadvertently empowers them to embrace true ownership of and leadership within the team. Intentionally carving out a space for sprint teams to drive ceremonies and even resolve their own impediments without the scrum master or RTE will eventually lead to long term success.
Coaching teams rotate who is facilitating these ceremonies keeps things interesting and should also help improve teams’ involvement across all other ceremonies. After all, the Scrum Master of every team is coaching them toward this level of self-organization so this is now becoming a norm that we witness across all teams in our Agile Release Train.
3. Valuable Note Taking
Something the scrum masters have become accustomed to is taking notes during the daily stand ups for our teams. In the past I have spent time feverishly dictating the most accurate details of what the team has shared during the stand up while sharing and, in tandem, keeping up with facilitating, who’s speaking, and so on. Note taking is not typically something that is required however, it is something that the team values being able to reference once a stand up has ended so I support the team by following through on this.
However, being a Scrum Master with very limited capacity, due to supporting multiple teams, I have now begun placing my energy and focus more on any potential culprits and bottlenecks that could deter the progression on the work that teams have committed to deliver in each sprint. Doing this has allowed me still be present as well as clean up and tailor my notes about items that should be followed up on later in the day or throughout the sprint. This alone has positively impacted the value placed on the notes taken during daily stand ups and now it does not seem like such a cumbersome chore to keep up with.
I hope that these tips were helpful for all who took the time to read. It is my goal to continue nurturing and guiding teams in the most efficient way but also to grow and improve the way in which I Scrum my teams.
So, cheers to all of the likeminded Scrum Masters with the passion to support teams effectively on this Agile journey. Let’s keep learning and growing from each other’s shared and new experiences.