What exactly do Scrum Masters do in a typical day?

Many theoretical descriptions explain the role of the Scrum Master as a vital member of the Scrum Team. However, these descriptions do not give an honest answer to the fundamental question. “What are the daily activities of a Scrum Master?”

In one of my recent workshops, in front of about 30 Scrum Masters from some of the industry’s leading companies, I asked the participants this question, which sparked a productive discussion about their day-to-day activities around Scrum milestones. .
Here are some key highlights.

Scrum Master activities related to the daily Scrum meeting

  • Ensures that external stakeholders who attend do not hijack the meeting, nor does any team member who does not come prepared.
  • Ensures that the meeting is held daily on a specific schedule (At least when the team is new to Scrum).
  • Ensures product backlog is updated during/after meeting.
  • Ensures each team member is focused on the sprint goal.
  • Ensures that the sprint burndown chart reflects the actual progress of the work.
  • Ensures that the team conducts the meeting without actively pushing any authority.
  • Ensures that team members do not use the meeting to resolve technical issues (these should be discussed separately).
  • Ensures that there are no “reporter” symptoms to one body.
  • Ensures that any issues not fully addressed/resolved during the meeting are followed up.
  • Make sure the team answers any open questions from the previous day’s meeting.
  • Ensures that each team member provides complete and accurate information about their progress.

Scrum Master activities related to the planning meeting

  • Works with the Product Owner to ensure all sprint candidate stories contain relevant information, including clear acceptance criteria, Definition of Done, and specific technical information.
  • Ensures that all stories are explained by the Product Owner and understood by all team members before committing to their commitments.
  • Works with the team to implement a risk management process to identify any significant risks affecting their commitments.
  • Works with the development team and the Product Owner to define a clear goal for the upcoming sprint.
  • Ensures the team has absolute confidence before making a final commitment.
  • Uses their technical skills to assist the team with any issues raised during task allocation.
  • Ensures there is a balance in team commitments to avoid over/under-achievement situations.
  • Works with the team in the task allocation and task estimation process (their job is to ensure that the estimation process can predict the actual workload).

Scrum Master actions related to the review meeting

  • Ensures the team is ready to present their work.
  • Works with Product Owner to update backlog based on feedback generated by participants.
  • Ensures the team has information (metrics, KPIs, bottlenecks, etc.) that they can share to increase transparency between the team and stakeholders.
  • Ensures the team has answers to any questions related to unfinished stories.

Scrum Master actions related to the retrospective meeting

  • Ensures team members feel safe to share their honest thoughts.
  • Ensures that the meeting does not become an “accusation” meeting.
  • Ensures that every team member has an opportunity to speak.
  • Ensures that all barriers are documented, prioritized and have a mitigation plan managed by a dedicated owner.
  • Searches for new methods to make reporting more effective.
  • Suggests cases/events from the last sprint to contribute to the discussion.
  • Ensures that any external stakeholders who may contribute to the meeting are invited.

Scrum Master checklists related to the team

In addition to the first question related to Scrum events, I asked participants to provide their own checklists for working with the Scrum development team and the Product Owner.

Below you will find the main points from those checklists.

Scrum Master checklist associated with the Product Owner

  • Does the Product Owner receive information from the team about newly added stories?
  • Can the Product Owner explain the product roadmap and vision?
  • Is there an agreed format the team can use to add “technical” stories?
  • Is the Product Owner really committed and available to the team?
  • Is there a clear DoD/R for key elements (features, sprints and stories)?
  • Does the Product Owner have clear and direct access to the team?
  • Is there a specific factor used for the prioritization process?
  • Are product backlogs visible to all stakeholders?
  • Does the product backlog contain “technical” stories requested by the development team?

Scrum Master Checklist related to the Scrum Development Team

  • Is the team’s technical debt managed and transparent to all stakeholders?
  • Are the team’s task board, visual board, and sprint backlog consistently updated?
  • Do team members know their speed and are they improving it every sprint?
  • Does speed reflect the team’s true capabilities?
  • Are there personal issues affecting team members?
  • Did the team start each sprint with a clear sprint goal? Did they focus on it throughout the sprint?
  • Is the team on the right track to self-organization? If not, what is holding them back?
  • Do team members collaborate, like each other, and celebrate each other’s successes?
  • Do team members actively volunteer to take on tasks and help other team members?
  • Does the team feel comfortable with the definition of Done that they should follow?

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