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A ScrumMaster’s Checklist for Problem-Solving

In my blog post, “Growing and Improving as a ScrumMaster,” I wrote: So, how do I know if my ScrumMaster is effective? Consider these three questions: Are we making the same mistakes time and time again?– A good ScrumMaster will work with the team to ensure that once a mistake is made, that the team […]

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October 14, 2020

In my blog post, “Growing and Improving as a ScrumMaster,” I wrote:

So, how do I know if my ScrumMaster is effective? Consider these three questions:

  1. Are we making the same mistakes time and time again?– A good ScrumMaster will work with the team to ensure that once a mistake is made, that the team develops practices to ensure they do not continue repeating the same error. Mistakes are things the team does that does not have the outcomes or consequences they intended.
  2. Are we encountering the same issues time and time again?– A good ScrumMaster works with the team so that when issues arise, the teams can recognize issues as they arise and will put in practices to ensure that those issues are effectively dealt with going forward. Issues are problems that arise that the teams did not directly create.
  3. Are we getting better over time or are we stuck where we are? – The concept of having highly effective teams versus ineffective teams is relative. What we really want is that our team is getting better over time.

If we see that our teams are not repeating the same mistakes, that our teams recognize issues as they arise and are able to effectively deal with those issues, and that our teams are constantly improving, then that’s a signal that we have an effective ScrumMaster. If these things are not true, that’s a sign that your ScrumMaster needs to improve their abilities to work through these issues with their team.

To expand on this concept, one of the key goals of the ScrumMaster is to ensure their team is continuously working through problems and improving. To aid with this, I have created a checklist for ScrumMasters that are potentially stuck on one issue and unsure how to proceed.

ScrumMaster Checklist for Solving Problems

  1. Did the Scrum team discuss the problem at the retrospective? – The retrospective is the Scrum event where the team is focused on addressing problems and paving the way to continuous improvement.
  2. Did the Scrum team discuss the impact? – If the problem is very impactful, it’s essential to discuss it as soon as possible. If it’s not particularly impactful, the team could potentially wait to address the problem.
  3. Did the Scrum team identify the root causes? – A critical part of understanding a problem is understanding what’s causing the problem. Using techniques such as 5 Whys, Fishbone Diagrams, Pareto Charts, and Systems Modelling can help teams with root cause analysis.
  4. Did the Scrum team come up with a solution? – At this point, the team comes up with potential solutions and identifies how to address this problem. Note that steps 1-4 are done in the initial retrospective meeting where the problem is first discussed.
  5. Has the Scrum team tried the solution? – In the subsequent retrospective, the team will discuss if they implemented the solutions they developed last retrospective.
  6. What were the initial results? – The team identifies the results of their initial solution. Did the solution address the issue? Did the solution cause any unexpected results or additional action items?
  1. What are next steps from here? – If the problem is solved, then great! If not, what are the team’s next steps from here? This usually results going back to step one.

Note the first four items above are part of the team’s retrospectives to address the problem. Items 5, 6, and 7 are discussed in the subsequent retrospectives to see if the problem is addressed.

If we have a Scrum team that is continuously experiencing the same problem, I would pose these seven questions to the ScrumMaster. Any ScrumMaster that’s fumbles and bumbles in answering these questions is probably a ScrumMaster who’s still a bit green and working through their ability to help the team work through their issues.

For information on how to improve as a ScrumMaster, see Growing and Improving as a ScrumMaster.

To learn more about retrospectives and continuous improvement, join our Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Advanced-Certified ScrumMaster courses (A-CSM).

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