SCRUM - how and where to escalate

Last post 05:18 pm May 1, 2020
by Daniel Wilhite
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02:08 pm April 27, 2020

Dear All, 

I am SCRUM master for two teams in big organization. I read one topic about escalation and interesting answer from Ian Mitchell 'any corrective action should be taken as close as possible to the time and place of inspection'. I gathered couple of situations from my real experience, where I am not sure what would be the best action I should take from SCRUM perspectiv

- if some of development team members are often few minutes late for SCRUM ceremonies (including daily!) and being few minutes late is part of the organization DNA (this is acceptable), should I rather escalate the problem to management or to find the suitable solution within the team (reschedule the meetings, coach the team etc.)

- if distributed teams + freshly introduced SCRUM do not work well together, should I rather help the team to find solution (IT tools, working rules etc.) or should I escalate problem to management (maybe to organize co-located teams, this is very big organization)?

The solutions implemented within teams seem to be 'as close as possible' but the other solutions may be even more effective. I guess I should stay within the team trying to solve team related and small problem not to touch company organizational aspects?

03:28 pm April 27, 2020

This comes from the Scrum Guide section that explains the responsibilities the Scrum Master has to various entities. 

Scrum Master Service to the Development Team

The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Development Team to create high-value products;
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,
  • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.

Scrum Master Service to the Organization

The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:

  • Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
  • Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,
  • Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

You should NOT ESCALATE, you should EDUCATE.  It is your job to help the Development Team understand how to self-organize and how to appreciate the benefits that the Scrum framework can provide.  

The organization and Development Teams have made decisions on how they want to operate.  As Scrum Master it is up to you to help them make the right decisions.. And those decisions need to be right for the individual teams as much as for the organization.  You are not the Scrum Police and if you escalate things to management, you will become just that.  The effectiveness of Scrum is best realized when the teams make their own decisions and are self-aware of how the Scrum framework is beneficial to their ability to deliver continuous value to the stakeholders. 

10:00 am April 30, 2020

Thank you for your response. I understand and I agree: educate first. But Scrum Master is also a person who help to resolve impediments. Some of impediments can be solved on team level, some of them can't. Sometimes 'quick fix' is possible on team level, but better solution is somewhere above, in organization. So my question is rather about these the situations, when:

- there is an impediment

- quick fix is possible on the team level, better solution requires SM to act on the higher level (I called it escalation)

example?

new and distributed team was set to work on new product; SM may help them to find the way how to work (tools/rules), however this is big organization, SM may also suggest management to reorganize team to co-locate team members. Is the second option still within SM suite? 

07:30 pm April 30, 2020

My advice is not to think of management as being at a higher level. Rather, the Scrum Master owes a service to the wider organization, and this is the language used in the Scrum Guide. When you review what the Guide has to say on the matter, do you think a Scrum Master might reasonably take the action you indicate?

05:18 pm May 1, 2020

Removing impediments does not mean that you have to do all the work.  In reality, if you do all the work to remove an impediment you are doing a disservice to the team as they are not learning how to be more self-organizing and self-managing.  Instead they are going to rely on you to fix all their problems.  For your questions:

- there is an impediment

- quick fix is possible on the team level, better solution requires SM to act on the higher level (I called it escalation)

Why can't the team implement a quick fix and then anyone on the team escalates.  It doesn't have to be the Scrum Master.  In my opinion the individuals closet to the impediment should escalate since they are the ones affected and can communicate the situation with relevant information and express the pain it is causing firsthand. 

new and distributed team was set to work on new product; SM may help them to find the way how to work (tools/rules), however this is big organization, SM may also suggest management to reorganize team to co-locate team members. Is the second option still within SM suite? 

Yes the SM could help but wouldn't it be more effective if the entire Scrum Team worked together to identify the tools/rules that will make them the most efficient and effective since everyone is involved in the work?  Yes, the Scrum Master could suggest co-location but, whether we like it or not, there are often organizational reasons for doing certain things and the Scrum Teams need to learn to work within those boundaries if possible.