Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The ScrumMaster checklist and focus


Agile Checklist
In 2007 Michael James wrote the first version of his ScrumMaster Checklist. It is still a very valuable resource for any ScrumMaster. The checklist identifies four areas of focus for a ScrumMaster.

- Team
- Product Owner
- Organization
- Development practices

These focus areas also expose a common ScrumMaster problem: too much focus on the team. The initial focus of a ScrumMaster towards the team(s) is high, but it should decline over time. When the teams are formed, the ScrumMaster spends a lot of effort on educating and coaching the team(s) in self-management and taking on a shared responsibility. Over time, the team(s) rely less on their ScrumMaster as they take on all responsibility by themselves.

The guys from LeSS wrote a great article about the role and focus of a ScrumMaster in a LeSS environment, and how the focus should change over time. I am the opinion it is not any different for a ScrumMaster in any other environment.


Initially, the ScrumMaster focus towards the Product Owner is coaching him in the role. This includes education on how he can best use the Product Backlog, facilitation of his interaction with the team(s), and being there to help him reflect.

The ScrumMaster should also help the Product Owner getting closer to real users and customers. The Product Owner needs feedback from them to validate the direction of the product. It also happens that the Product Owner is the ‘wrong’ Product Owner; then the ScrumMaster should help the organization to find the ‘right’ Product Owner who is close to users and customers.

The focus of the ScrumMaster towards the Product Owner should decrease over time as the Product Owner gets more comfortable with his role within the organization.

The focus on organization is a little counter intuive. Agile adoption require an initial structural change, thus initial organizational focus is high. For example the setup of feature teams. The focus on improving the organization drops once the basic structure is in place. Then it’s the teams’ turn to produce results. The best way to change an organization is by producing results. Why would the organization trust you and your teams if you didn’t show them results and benefit? After this is established the ScrumMaster should take a leading role in further developing the organization as a whole, not just the ScrumMaster's team(s).

As a ScrumMaster, you need to be aware of modern development practices are and help introduce these to the team. In order to deliver quality software every sprint practices like Unit Tests, Test Automation, and Continuous Integration are essential. Agile adoptions often involve large codebases with lots of messy legacy code; applying modern practices on them is challenging. The focus on development practices stays high as it will only become harder and harder to improve the teams even further.

Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 by Henrico Dolfing

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