This is an excerpt from the book Scrum Your Jira: Your Waterfall Organization Transformed into Multidisciplinary Teams. You can get a copy here.


The daily operation of Scrum is where the more personal qualities of a Scrum Master shine: Humans, not machines, working together to create a product. Here, I want to discuss a number of small unrelated points that can easily be implemented. Each of them has only a minuscule effect, yet if you implement them one by one over the course of several weeks, you might improve the efficiency by a few percent.

Small steps!

First, when using Jira—or any other computerized tool—encourage people to use a profile photo and, ideally, their real photo. In an organization, people come and go all the time. It saves a few minutes to quickly identify who the person behind the ticket or email is. It encourages people to approach a person “IRL” (in real life). Not everyone is outgoing; some people are shy and might prefer not to discuss something (or to use email instead of direct face-to-face contact) rather than investing energy in finding out who that person is in reality.

Second, attitude. There are two kinds of people: in “socionics” (a personality type theory), there are “democrats” and “aristocrats.” The latter type prefers to be asked, the former prefers to ask. No matter who you are as a Scrum Master, you have to be on the asking side. Don’t say “If you have a problem, just come to me.” Instead, try to find out about problems proactively. If this is not your area of specialty, perhaps someone from the team has a knack for picking up what problems are currently going on. Talk to him or her!

SOCIONICS ·  Socionics is an advanced personality theory that examines and explains relationships between people. It can be used to explain communication problems and conflicts of interest within a project.

Third: A job well done? Some companies try to bribe team members to perform according to certain goals. But I think money is the last and probably most ineffective way to motivate people. What people want is recognition. Give small (!) bonuses for good performance! Sometimes, a meal, snacks, or simply an honestly meant “Good work!” is much more effective than a monetary bribe.

Fourth, a point from stakeholder management: Allow everyone’s opinion to be heard. Even if they disagree, they will more likely cooperate if they were given the chance to provide some input. For some decisions, this can be crucial. Maybe refrain from being too proactive, and instead learn to listen. Someone whose voice is not heard might find ways to be heard by causing problems or acting as an obstacle, consciously or unconsciously.

Fifth, some (or all) of your team members might work remotely. This can make especially the daily Scrum meetings take longer than necessary. Have them prepare their update in advance in written form for everyone to see. Also, if remote work is a frequent or even permanent situation, consciously use the first five minutes of the daily Scrum for smalltalk. Have the team exchange what they are doing privately, just like they would if they were on site. This is a crucial component for open communication and team building.

Sixth, for longer meetings, use breaks. If you, as a Scrum Master, are an active part of the discussion, it is recommended to use a clock to remind yourself to take a break. One proven method is the Pomodoro technique, which advocates 25 minutes of meeting followed by five-minute breaks. Get a “buy in” from the team to not use their smartphones during those 25 minutes. Some go even as far as collecting them before the meeting and handing them out during the breaks. That sounds silly, but we all know how dependent we are on them.

POMODORO TECHNIQUE ·  The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management technique that allows focus on one task, followed by a break, then moving on to the next task [Cirillo, 2017].

Seventh, in the daily Scrum, try to NOT use Jira. If your Scrum board is clean, use stickers, even if this is information-doubling. Nobody notices when you move a story in Jira, so have people physically move tasks from one column to the next to demonstrate what they did. And don’t forget to discuss the progress of working off the impediment log! It might not be on the board, but these are details that will motivate people as they see that the process is improving.