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How to Be the Best Remote Scrum Master You Can Be?

19 May 2020

The Covid-19 Pandemic is turning established business ideas and concepts on their head. 

In the face of massive disruption, business owners and managers are pushed to rethink the usual ways of doing Agile business. This is no small feat when you’re so used to having your Product Backlog on the office wall. 

Also, we have to remember the role Scrum Masters was meant to be fulfilled in the same space as the team. This is why these servant-leaders can feel out of place in remote settings, not being able to rely on face-to-face communication and physical tools. 

The good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways in which you can make sure your remote Scrum Master experience is not a total disaster. 

A Remote Way of Work 

To operate as a remote Scrum Master is to navigate uncharted waters. 

The good news is we aren’t without compasses and maps. The journey starts with a change of mindset and related attitudes and practices. Namely, you’ll have to fully embrace experimentation and seek creative and unconventional solutions. 

Transparency, inspection, and adaption come in handy here. They help you understand how remote facilitation and coordination play out in new circumstances. 

Moving on, it’s necessary to recognize the heightened importance of digital communication as a means of fostering knowledge and experience sharing throughout the organization. 

Once you grasp the scope and nature of change, assess what practices and tactics of managing/distributing work are still feasible. We would say it’s imperative to keep the Scrum Events going regularly. They hold the key to boosting the self-organizing and cross-functional capabilities of teams. 

That being said, you may have to alter the frequency of Sprints, as well as time-boxes of your events. There are no hard rules here, but it’s probably a good idea to shorten the time frames a bit. 

What is more, it’s advisable for Scrum Master to step up and start facilitating all Scrum events even more directly and forcefully than before. 

Coaching and Mentoring Support

Mentoring and coaching are activities you can’t afford to neglect.  

Remote interaction may feel different than meeting someone in person, but it does the trick in times like these. It certainly beats a complete lack of coaching. The emphasis should be on what we brought up earlier— mindset and behavior requirements. 

One useful technique is highlighting the main Scrum questions every week. They should guide members in discovering new theories and principles. Notice it’s not only important to discuss these questions but also to have a record of everything. 

Feel free to create a quiz as well in order to make things more interesting. Use any visual tools at your disposal to make learning faster and easier. 

Offer individual coaching/mentoring sessions to people who are struggling with the new state of affairs.  Encourage them to contact you with any questions via voice calls, chat rooms, video conferencing, etc. 

Never turn a blind eye to personal issues and anxieties. A bit of empathy and compassion goes a long way in a period of crisis we’re going through. 

Demolishing Impediments 

Furthermore, carefully consider how to handle impediments

We would advise tools such as the “Management in Scrum” card deck. It can improve the transparency of impediments in distributed team environments. You should, for example, tie activity cards to specific roles. That way, you make it clear who is tasked with what. 

Nobody has to do guesswork and waste effort unnecessarily.  

Other channels of communication can make a lot of sense based on your needs and preferences. An email newsletter is effective when you need to shed light on the biggest impediments.  

At one point though, you want to employ scrum software. It’s another way to ensure maximum transparency, as well as to spread awareness in a digital workspace. 

Ideally, teams tackle impediments together and are able to solve them promptly. In cases of impediments persisting you can address them yourself or with other Scrum Masters (if any).

The best method to go about this is to leverage the Liberating Structure called “Wise Crowds”. They enable you to get rid of the toughest impediments that affect multiple teams. 

A Company-Wide Fine-Tuning

There is a set of other steps you can take to account for current issues and future-proof your organization. 

Take every chance to embolden self-organizing teams and give them tools for addressing problems on their own. Take over only when the level of challenge exceeds the team’s skills and capacities.  Get in touch with stakeholders and facilitate their collaboration with the Scrum Team. 

Yes, when done right, virtual meetings can be quite productive. Platforms like Zoom are a must-have here: they allow you to create digital breakout rooms and invite everyone who needs to be there. So, break interactions down in such groups and make them more interactive. 

Finally, explore the possibility of your product being adversely affected by shifting market conditions. Talk to the Product Owner to evaluate your present product strategy. While at it, take a good look at your business objectives and the Product Backlog

All in all, it’s up to you to act as a true change agent and preserve all vital functions of the role, including building relationships and supporting the whole organization. 

Indeed, a lot depends on your ability to be a model of remote agility and adaptability. Empower your organization to get past mere survival and start thriving in the brave new Agile landscape of today! 

Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty 

Having to work away from the office is a new and rough situation for all of us. 

Yet, the same fundamental principles and rules still apply. They may just be applied differently in remote work environments. To come on top, you have to learn to think outside the familiar box. 

And when we say that, we don’t imply you blindly follow what others are doing. You’re better off seeing what works and what doesn’t in your particular case.

Start by adopting the right mindset and facing emerging challenges head-on. Find virtual alternatives to face-to-face meetings and put together a functional digital workspace. Provide coaching and mentoring to bolster the self-organizing capabilities of teams. 

Keep everyone on the same page, ensure business continuity, and tame disruptive forces.  Following these steps, you should be able to release product increments on schedule and within limits of the budget.