Problems of the Scrum Master role with the Sprint Review and Scrum Sprint Retrospective meetings

The Sprint Review meeting is one of several standard Scrum events from the popular Agile framework. The Scrum Master has a leading acting role in this event. The Product Owner, Development Team, and other stakeholders also participated in this meeting.

The dynamics of this Scrum event often lead to negative situations that impair the productivity of the meeting and the results may not be satisfactory.

The article describes classic problem situations and the potential reactions of the Scrum Master role to each of them. Most situations are borrowed from the detailed description of the Sprint Review event by BVOP.org in their BVOP Agile Guide. References: Sprint Review, BVOP.org, 2019

Your Development Team is very eager to go on vacation and asks you to postpone the retrospective of your sprint to the beginning or end of the other sprint.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I will politely ask the Scrum developers not to postpone the retrospective, but to do it at the same time after the end of the sprint, so that we can be sure that we will offer our project to the client. Separately, such a delay would “wash away” some specific obstacles we encountered during this one, and I would like to discuss them while they are fresh. These obstacles would most likely arise in the next one as well, so it is good that they are spoken in time and cleared up. A Scrum developer should perfectly understand this issue. Reference: Professional Scrum Master vs Professional Scrum Developer, stc-montreal.org, 2019

The client informs you that he is initiating repairs in his office and asks you to send him a summary by email from your meeting with the team and your opinions about the Sprint Review meeting. He trusts you completely for your analyzes.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: Please see below some of the key points we have touched on over the past two days, as well as their progress:
The program code for the platform is 90% complete – in progress, we have no major obstacles and delays from the pre-predicted completion time.
Graphic designers have managed to complete the 5th of 7 pages and at the meeting with the Product Owner, as a responsible Product stakeholder, will present it to you for approval. Source: What makes a good Product Owner and what do they do? scrumtime.org, 2020

Here we go according to plan again, I think it even turned out very well, considering that I am aware of what expectations you had.
We encountered a slight delay in receiving some of the hardware controls. We have established communication with the responsible 3rd parties on deliveries to minimize these delays so as not to confuse our sprints. This delay should not affect our overall idea of ​​completing the sprint successfully.
In general, our team is very well aware of your expectations and tries to keep the product progress according to plan – we do not expect delays.

Your director has heard that your Sprint is over, but there is unfinished business. He is angry and asks you to remove some large User Stories from the planned ones by the end of the sprint and replace them with smaller ones that you can find in the general list.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role Reference: Atlassian.com: There are definitely some details that we failed to complete in this sprint, which, however, do not affect the overall product and the delivery time to the customer. What we can do is prioritize them at the top of our tasks and take them immediately with the next sprint. I am afraid that removing some of our main tasks will negatively affect a few paragraphs, the customer will be disappointed that his main requests are removed, we will delay, the quality of the product will be in question. Although I am also familiar with the details of the unfinished work, our main practice is for our Product Owner to deal with these issues and together with the team to decide how and where to fit them. I am available to hold a general meeting and discuss this issue with him as well. Reference: Product Owner role in Scrum and real problem situations, www.vbprojects.org, 2020

The Development team informs you this morning that they are ready with all their work two days before the end of the sprint and asks you to arrange a meeting with the client to hold the Sprint Review meeting with him and start the new sprint tomorrow. While you are at the Sprint Review meeting, they will attend an interesting company training, but promise to take revenge by asking the HR department to give you an extra day off this year.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: Thank you for your concern for me and my leave, but there are some details that clarify our work, which you know very well. First of all, you know that during the Sprint Review, the whole team is involved. In order to be able to present professionally done work. I can do it too, but I will need some “jokers”. Another step in the process you know is Scrum Sprint Review we will use these two days for just that, as we encountered many difficulties with smoothing bugs in the program code. Kanban method allows a constant flow of the work but in Scrum, we need iterations ar the end of the sprint. Reference: Kanban methodology vs Scrum framework, www.libraryofmu.org 2020. I definitely want to give them some time so that they don’t slow us down in the next sprint. Thank you for your understanding and thank you for the timely work.

The Development team informs you that they prefer not to work with a fixed time for sprints, but prefer each sprint to have a duration according to their work and judgment. They have already discussed this proposal with the Product Owner role and he said he has no claims.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I am definitely in favor of the freedom of action in our team, but I would rather express some reservations about the unlimited sprint and I will try to outline why:

  • It is good that our Scrum sprints are of the same duration.
  • We will be able to easily follow our results from past ones.
  • You will be able to plan your time more easily.
  • You will continue to follow your already well-established and working habits.

For me, as a Scrum Master, it will be easier to monitor and maintain compliance with these time frames. Reference: Real Scrum problems of the Scrum Master role during the Daily Scrum meeting, mpmu.org, 2020
Assuming we remove the fixed time, this would provide our team with 9 different time frames, how will Product Owner then be able to answer the simple customer question – When will our product be ready? For me, too, the answer would be difficult, for you too. Let’s follow the good practice so far and set 3 weeks as the framework for our sprint. However, our product is quite complex and this term seems reasonable to me. What do you think?

Your assigned Product Owner on the project goes on a business trip to the client and sent you this morning Sprint Goal for the next sprint. He has also made a collection with all the user stories that the team will work on.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: Here I would like a little more detailed information about what exactly the client wants. There are many unknowns as to what the Email from Product Owner contains, but let’s assume that everything is necessary to start working on the specific task. We will prioritize the main goal and try to make the team well-executed and understandable. Reference: The Product Owner is king, CIO.com

The Product Owner of the project has sent you an email stating that he will collect detailed information on many details and plans to communicate continuously with the client so that he can describe as many details as possible about the work for a long time to come.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: We will be happy to provide you with the necessary information will not be a problem, as we have it available in previous sprints. However, let me point out that a lot of changes were made even on the go with some sprints. I’m not sure how relevant the current details would be in the future. It is good to share after that the future views of the client so that we can make brief predictions with the team and be more prepared for what is expected, such as workload and focus.

You are returning from vacation. The project team and Product Owner tell you that there is no time and the sprint should start without planning, as the team will work independently and choose User Stories, ranked at the top of the Product Backlog collection.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: We will try to meet these short deadlines and adapt to this urgent delivery. However, I think we have all the necessary information in the Product Backlog and we will be able to focus our efforts on the go. Just please explain to me what you mean by yourself?

The Product Owner role has told your team that some functionality is expected in a few months. Your team plans to do technology research from now on to save yourself any problems and lack of competencies over time.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I would discuss with the team how many people and how long it will take them to do such a study. In general, however, a few months is quite a long period of time and I would not recommend such an approach if it would engage and distract them from the current monthly sprint. Rather, I would suggest that if we deal with the current sprint at an earlier date, we use some of the days to analyze this new functionality. Reference: Scrum questions, answers, and explanations from the point of view of Scrum Master, ossalumni.org 2020

A member of the Development Team who is planning to go on vacation soon has just started working on User Story, which is expected to be planned for the next sprint.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I would recommend starting in collaboration with the person on the team who will take over the job afterward when he is on leave. So that there is no need for a long and heavy handover, as well as uncertainties about what has been done so far. It would be good if these first steps of the project were written and visible to all of us, if next week we have some ambiguities to look at them. Another approach would be to divide the specific task into several smaller ones and to distribute the tasks in the team. Then the colleague who will go on leave will take the first smaller services and then hand over the next ones to the colleagues who are on shift. This way we will plan them and finish them a little easier.

A member of the Development Team expresses dissatisfaction with the idea that everyone knows what the other is doing. He is used to solitude. He prefers to work without explaining exactly what or his work to be seen in software systems. It guarantees that it will deliver very good results and just in time.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I am definitely very happy to be part of our team, as you have a large set of knowledge that brings us a lot of value for this new project. I am aware of your preferences at work, namely privacy. However, our Scrum team has young and inexperienced boys and girls who need someone to mentor them. In their eyes, you are already like that in terms of your skills. Allow them to gain at least some of your knowledge, share with them (us) how you came to this unique result. If we improve this, it will be useful for the knowledge of the project, which we will have in our database of this sprint, we could use them in case of urgent tasks from the client, when you are on vacation, for example. I strongly believe that you will give the importance to follow this good practice and you will show even greater professionalism to us and to the company.

Your colleague, another Scrum Master from your organization meets you in the hallway and asks for advice on the length of his team’s sprint. None of the team can offer a duration for their sprint. He asks you to recommend time for their sprint.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: If the product they are working on is familiar to me, I would tell our team how much time they have set in previous sprints, with the condition that I do not have all the details he has and the best option for them is to determine this. term. I would tell him that the principles of Scrum do not provide for longer sprints than 1 month. But if he uses shorter ones faster he will have an end result to offer if his client is impatient. I would definitely advise him to discuss all the details of the project with his whole team and focus on the most reasonable framework that they will be able to cover without delay. And if they are not sure and have many unknowns to communicate with the client and give a small buffer.

The Product Owner role of your team wants to change the duration of the sprint to 6 weeks as you start integrating very complex systems and does not want to discredit yourself, your team and the organization in front of the client with sprints where you risk not being able to deliver real work done.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I will suggest that we fit in 4 weeks, as we set in the Sprint plan at the very beginning of the project. We will consider how to distribute this integration to a larger number of people, whether it is possible to reduce the time of integration. It is good for the client to be aware of what he assigns us in advance and also of our ability to fulfill it within the deadlines we have already set. I will keep the focus of the team to stay in the current story, and in the meantime to think about the integration of systems. Such a change in the sprint will definitely lead to product slowdown, loss of team motivation and concentration.

You receive an email from your client’s Project Manager. He asks you if there is a problem if your sprint is 6 working days. He expects a quick response so he knows what to pass on to his superiors.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I will ask why they expect the sprint to be shortened from 3 weeks to 6 days. I will politely explain that the sprint is a formal framework that we have already planned at the very beginning of product development and it is not good to change it. In all likelihood, they have an idea to supplement the product, which they want to be ready faster and they need it. I would recommend him to include the Product Owner in our communication and give us information about what they need and what is urgent. We will be able to easily include it in the increment as a new priority story, which can be completed within 6 working days (if possible).

Your director tells you that he has read a lot of information on the Internet about Scrum and asks you to set a time for your sprints to be one working week to reduce any risk.

The reaction of the Scrum Master role: I will be happy to give you some more information that is directly related to our team and project. You know that we are currently developing an entirely new platform which is divided into several different and large user stories (tasks), in the initial conversations with the client and the team together we accepted as the best option 3 weeks to complete this platform. We try during these weeks to keep the customer constantly informed about the progress of our product and so far I think they are very happy with the approach and deadlines. Shortening by 2 weeks in my opinion would definitely increase the risk for the product and its timely completion. Many of our products herald a one-week sprint, but they are not as complex and time-consuming as the one for the bank. In general, the deadlines are determined by many factors and are agreed with our customers. Product Owner and I are at your disposal if more clarification is needed on this topic.

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