Exploitation of Scrum Master on the name of impediment

Last post 05:55 pm August 19, 2021
by Daniel Wilhite
3 replies
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07:56 am August 19, 2021

We all agree that a major responsibility of Scrum Master is to remove impediments. But sometimes I have seen each and every problem is often mistreated as impediment and is expected that scrum master should be solving it on priority. Few examples are : 

 

1. Team member is unwell/on unplanned leave

2. Tool licence expired

3. Non availability of PO to resolve doubts of development team

4. Skill set issues to solve a problem

5. Environment went down/Server crashed.

6. Dependency on someone outside the scrum team 

 

Now the question becomes is it really something expected from Scrum master to do or is it someone else's job? How should a scrum master decide that the problem is actually an impediment for him to take care?

 

Rather than jumping directly to all the list of the highlighted problems/probable impediments, my advice is to take pause and carefully analyse first.

Each and every problem may not be scrum master's job and each and every problem cannot be an impediment.

 

In my opinion below workflow may help prioritize/identify impediment which scrum master should take care.

 

Does it impacts Sprint Goal ? ---Yes---> It is something developers can solve on their own? ------No---> Scrum Master's accountability

                  I                                                                                      I

                  No                                                                                 Yes

                  I                                                                                      I

Not a priority at the moment can                               Do not take the lead, facilitate in                                                     

be parked for now.                                                    case needed

 

 

More thoughts and inputs are welcome from all.

 

 

11:38 am August 19, 2021

I'd suggest that a good approach might be to reveal rather than to resolve.

02:18 pm August 19, 2021

We all agree that a major responsibility of Scrum Master is to remove impediments

No. Scrum Master can help by causing the removal of impediments for the team. Not responsible for removing all impediments by oneself and it can't be done. And you are right, it is better the team assess why it is impediment for the current sprint. 

Make it transparent to the team that Impediment resolution is not the backlog for SM. Not even taking care of communications with other teams when there are dependencies. Because that is more a Post Master job.So help the team and organisation to find out the rootcause instead resolving for them. As I mentioned, it cant be done by 1 person.

05:55 pm August 19, 2021

We all agree that a major responsibility of Scrum Master is to remove impediments. 

Actually, we don't all agree to that statement.  The 2020 revision of the Scrum Guide states that a Scrum Master has this duty to the Scrum Team

  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; and,

Notice it says "causing the removal of impediments" and not "removing impediments".  Causing can be done in a lot of ways.  I read that statement to mean that the Scrum Master will not let a Scrum Team work around an impediment or just accept it as a non-changeable situation.  The actual removal of impediments can only be done by the people encountering the impediment.  A Scrum Master can help coordinate activities within different teams or with outside the Scrum Team individuals. That "causes" the removal of the impediment. 

Your list of example impediments does not contain a single thing that a Scrum Master has any ability to solve. 

1. Team member is unwell/on unplanned leave

This is up to the team to deal with as it impacts them and is caused by them.  They need to deal with any issues this causes.

2. Tool licence expired

If the "tool" is required to the do the work and the team has done it's due diligence in refinement, they would have dealt with this issue before it became an impediments.  Scrum Masters are not the license administrators.

3. Non availability of PO to resolve doubts of development team

The Product Owner has to resolve this by openly discussing these "doubts" with the Developers.  This is single situation embodies the Sprint Values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage

4. Skill set issues to solve a problem

The Developers are self managed, self organized individuals that have all the necessary skills to accomplish the work they need to do.  This is up to the Developers to deal with so that it isn't an issue long term.

5. Environment went down/Server crashed.

Who needs the environments or server?  The Developers.  Who is more equipped to communicate the problem and work with who ever needs to resolve the issue?  The Developers.  So what would a Scrum Master do in this case other than be a person in the middle which never helps make things simplier.

6. Dependency on someone outside the scrum team 

This should have been determined during the refinement of the Product Backlog Item and the people who are dependent on those outside the team work out a method for resolving the impediment.  Again, a Scrum Master can do nothing but be a person in the middle. 

Does it impacts Sprint Goal ? ---Yes---> It is something developers can solve on their own? ------No---> Scrum Master's accountability

Your workflow baffles me.  What kind of impediment that would impact the Sprint Goal is not something the Developers can solve?  Who is better to solve those impediments since it is impacting the work that they are doing?  How would a Scrum Master be able to solve any impediment that is endangering the Sprint Goal?  

In my opinion and experience, the Scrum Master has no ability to remove any impediments outside the possible exception of management reporting requirements.  The Scrum Master position is not powerful at all.  The main responsibility of the Scrum Master is to help the organization understand and appreciate the benefits of the Scrum framework, to help the Scrum Team use the framework to their benefit, and to promote the value of empirical decision making to the organization.  In reality this is dependent on a lot of "soft" skills.  The Scrum Master does not have any kind of authority, just influence.