Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Part 1 of this mini-series was intended to illustrate you how significant the impact can be that a good Scrum Master can have on the overall team's effectiveness as determined by the overall and sustainable product success.
I promised you there'd be even more to come proving that a good Scrum Master can pay back his daily rates at lightning speed.
Beyond helping the team discover the right things to do a good Scrum Master can provide further, priceless value to the team by helping them do these right things in the right way.
So how can the Scrum Masters increase the Scrum Team's efficiency?
Efficiency in my terms means reaching your goal with less or least efforts. In other words, to increase efficiency maximize the work not done. A good Scrum Master has a variety of different levers to help the team become more efficient. Let's have a look just at some them to make you sense what invaluable potential lies in the role of the Scrum Master.
Naming just a few, a good Scrum Master can do the following:
Teach, coach & mentor individuals and the team in its entirety: The Scrum Master can teach the team proven practices that can be applied to particular situations. E.g. help the product owner find suitable ways to prioritize the product backlog, introduce an empirical product planning for an environment with a high level of uncertainty, help the team apply new development practices and develop a suitable definition of done, etc.
Facilitate meetings: Most of you might have experienced at least one or two meetings that did not really go well. Some of them might have even gotten off track that far that you temporarily might have wondered what the initial meeting was about. A Scrum Master can facilitate the Scrum events ensuring that the time box is kept, at viable solution for the objective is found and the way there is defined and documented in comprehensible and actionable steps.
Run effective retrospectives: Continuous improvement is one of the clues to increasing efficiency, thus productivity. The sprint retrospective is the Scrum event specifically made to serve this purpose. Many of us, though, might have experienced retrospectives becoming a bit boring after a time. Maybe because we consider ourselves high-performing already and potential improvements are not that obvious anymore. Maybe because there is no variety in the way the retros are held. A good Scrum Master can make a difference here by relentlessly insisting on the retros to be thoroughly done and by facilitating them in a way that the team actually enjoys them. The retrospective is the inspect & adapt event on the Scrum team's way of working and is equally important for the team's sustainable success as inspection & adaptation of the product increments.
Promote self-organisation: By promoting self-organisation of the team, within the team itself as well in the wider organisation the Scrum Master helps avoid unnecessary interfaces and waiting times in the working process which are a genuine driver of waste according to the lean principles. Furthermore, I have seen teams increasing their level of self-organization equally increase the team's satisfaction at the same time which in turn sparks higher productivity.
Save the team from distraction: It's empirically proven that task switching has an unambiguously negative impact on productivity. In his studies psychologist Gerald Weinberg states that switching between two tasks at a time leaves 40% of your productive time for each task while consuming 20% for context switching. If you increase the number of tasks you have to switch between the lost productivity increases even further. The Scrum Master can help the team stay focused on their tasks at a time avoiding disctraction that could for example be caused by product backlog items squeezed into a running sprint, unplanned switching of topics in meetings, etc.
Remove impediments: Last but not least in my anything but exhaustive list one the key responsibilities of the Scrum Master is to save the team from unplanned work caused by impediments that keep the team from doing what they had planned for. A good Scrum Master leverages the wider organisation to remove obstacles as quickly as possible to reduce the loss of efficiency to a minimum and to bring the team back to full speed, hence productivity as soon as possible without consuming too much of the team's valuable time itself.
By far this list is not exhaustive and could be continued on many further pages. The goal of convincing you of the great value contribution a Scrum Master can have has probably already been achieved, though. So in accordance with my time box for this article and the target to maximise the work not done I will leave you in peace now.
If there's one thing you take away from this mini-series on the Scrum Master role then please consider the following:
Do not save in the wrong place! The investment for a good Scrum Master will almost inevitably pay off very soon in terms of increased effectiveness and improved efficiency resulting in better products at lower risk and lower costs.
Any cheap rates for hardly educated, unexperienced or not dedicated Scrum Masters will most probably be very soon way overcompensated by a longer time-to-market (due to bad efficiency) even worsened by an inferior product-market fit (due to lack of effectiveness).