Analyze this! A Scrum Master’s evolution assessment

Are your Scrum Masters evolving in the practice of their Agile activities? Are they stagnant or worse, regressing!? To answer these questions, a colleague and I came up with the following activity that provides an observable starting point.

The objective is to obtain an individual and collective assessment of the Scrum Masters comfort and interest levels regarding different Scrum activities. Since the manner in which activities are practiced and used may vary between teams and organizations, it is important that the group of Scrum Masters share a common definition of each activity. You will need to prepare in advance for this activity to make sure you complete the steps below before getting your Scrum Masters together.

The first step in establishing a common definition of the activities is to select the ones you want to asses and write them down on separate pieces of cardboard (big enough so anyone can read from a distance). Make sure the selected activities are practiced by all participating Scrum Masters. You will then need to find and print pictures that have corresponding attributes for each activity. For example, the following picture depicts U.N. soldiers looking at a document or map. Some observations that may come from looking at this picture are: “Standing up”, “Meeting”, “Soldiers saying what they are going to do next”, “Brief meeting”. The associated activity in the picture below would likely correspond to the daily scrum meeting, considering the above observations and attributes as well.

The selection of the pictures is somewhat critical to the success of the activity. It may be a good idea to run them through with a colleague or two to see if they observe and assign similar attributes to what you were looking for.

Once you’re ready to host the exercise, have the group sit around a table with a pad of sticky notes and pen available for each participant. The activity titles should be placed in a pile face down at the center of the table. Then, pin the pictures to the wall in any order you choose making sure all participants can clearly see the pictures. Next, using the sticky notes, ask the Scrum Masters to write down any attributes or observations they come up with for each image(s) and stick them below the corresponding picture. Expect to get many different observations, but for the most part they will correspond to the attributes you should expect. The wall should look somewhat like the following:

Then, when every participant has finished their associations, review the attributes and observations of every picture with the group. At each review, have the group vote, by show of hands, for any outstanding attribute or observation for each picture. The next step is to have a Scrum Master pick an activity cardboard from the pile and read it out loud. Have the group help associate the activity with a specific picture all the while considering the outstanding attributes and observations. Take the time to debrief at every activity-picture association and let the participants share on their experiences with each activity. At this point, the stage is set for each Scrum Master to self-assess a score (%) for both their comfort and interest levels for each activity.

The initial scores will provide a basis, or starting point, so you can then run through the self-assessment part of the exercise as often as needed to determine if your Scrum Masters are evolving or regressing.

† Some of the Scrum activities used in this example are: demonstration, retrospective, planning session, tasking session, and daily scrum.