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I do not understand the product as a Scrum Master.

Last post 04:20 pm February 20, 2022 by Scott Anthony Keatinge
7 replies
04:25 am February 18, 2022

Hello community,

I have come from a past role of being Scrum Master in Organization where the product has been very comprehensive. In my current organization, the product is intensely heavy because its a financial enterprise software. The developers are extremely technical and its very hard for me to grasp what they are talking about. Even the features that they are working on are very intensely heavy. Its very different from other organizations I have worked in. As a scrum master, if I dont understand the product or dependancies or risks clearly, how can I help the team members remove their impediments? I cant even relay messages properly to the correct people because of the intensity of the product. Any suggestions? Thank you!


11:11 pm February 18, 2022

Are you able to manage people's understanding of Scrum, so they can implement it more effectively in their work?


12:05 am February 19, 2022

Ian, I am able to explain the values of scrum to the work that they are doing. But they dont find value in Scrum knowledge. They are extremely involved in the worl they are doing. They think that Scrum is just an added process.


12:41 am February 19, 2022

They think that Scrum is just an added process.

Then that's the problem to solve. It isn't a matter of your own technical knowledge, but rather one of Scrum being perceived as adding rather than changing. What is the organization doing to create a sense of urgency for change?


01:25 am February 19, 2022

They aren't doing much to create that awareness for now. I mean one of the biggest struggles in the company here is that they dont have a proper release planning process. The teams feel very overwhelmed because they sre getting a lot of mixed directions. They are not working through a prioritized list of items. Rather, they have to accomplish all committed features within a release. I am feeling overwhelmed because I am trying to fit in the scrum process and the framework. But because the product management is all over the place, its harder to work with the teams. Also, product does not bring in work concerning the value proposition to the end customer or user. And I am not able help in any of the regards because I am not being able to comprehend the product. Right now, the developers reach out to to other members of the organization directly if something is blocking them.


11:54 am February 19, 2022

I've been in your situation as a Scrum Master, where I joined a Scrum Team that had been working together for a few years. I had little product or related technical expertise. However Scrum exposed and made transparent many impediments that previously existed. There was also a poor understanding and implementation of Scrum, which took a lot of my time to help them improve upon.

There seems to be several ways you can help your Scrum Team and organization without having to get into a deep understanding of the product, dependencies, and risks clearly.

The teams feel very overwhelmed because they are getting a lot of mixed directions. They are not working through a prioritized list of items. 

Also, product does not bring in work concerning the value proposition to the end customer or user. And I am not able help in any of the regards because I am not being able to comprehend the product.

I am wondering, is there a Product Owner accountable for these concerns? The Product Owner is accountable for understanding the product, ordering the Product Backlog, and making the Product Backlog transparent, not the Scrum Master. There could be several teaching opportunities for a Scrum Master. How might a Product Owner help set a vision and create a Product Goal to help with concerns about being overwhelmed? Can you teach a Product Owner different ordering practices?

If there isn't a Product Owner, that might be one of the first impediments to bring focus to. How might you facilitate conversations with the organization to make these types of challenges transparent?

I cant even relay messages properly to the correct people because of the intensity of the product.

There's a Scrum event for that: the Sprint Review. And a Product Owner and Developers can help bring forth these concerns. Can you work with the Product Owner to ensure that the right stakeholders attend the Sprint Review? Can you facilitate these conversations?

they have to accomplish all committed features within a release.

This might be a teaching opportunity to uphold Scrum. Do they know about the Sprint Goal? Can their mindset be changed to commit to the goal rather than features?

Is this an opportunity to coach the team on self-management? Is the team making these commitments or are the commitments being made for them? A self-managing team decides on the what, when and how. And the team will take their commitments more seriously if they make them.

Right now, the developers reach out to to other members of the organization directly if something is blocking them.

That's a great sign! It's not an impediment if the developers can solve the problem without handing off the problem to someone else.

 


03:22 pm February 19, 2022

Chris,

Thank you for all of your amazing ideas. I have the knowledge of backlog management and many other knowledge which you have mentioned. One of the main areas which I need to coach the product owner is not cancelling the sprint review. The product owner believes that if there is nothing to showcase when increments don't meet the DOD, sprint review should be cancelled. I thoroughly do believe it is a time for the team to get any feedback and have a touch point with stakeholders. Another issue is that the backlog is not prioritized based on the prioritized order. They are prioritized based on the priority of the features as a whole. So the team can either deliver all of the feature in a release or the product owner has to discuss with the management. If a team was delivering as per their capacity, it is natural that they may not deliver all of the committed features. The team commits to the features as must have or nice to have for the release. The team makes the sprint goal concerning the feature. for example, their goal is "continue to work on X feature". The product owners themselves at times are very new to these features. Additionally, these features are not small sets of features, they are size of a project implementation. Everyone in the Scrum team would have never seen the feature before they start working on them. The product owner receives guidance from the leadership of the product management to start researching certain features which may be a completely new arena for them. So all of these challenges eventually rubs off on the team who commits to accomplishing the whole feature in any given release. Finally, the release has a fixed time scope for its delivery.


04:20 pm February 20, 2022

If no PBI has met the DoD by the end of the sprint, then there is no increment at the end of the sprint, hence nothing to show at the review; however, the review isn't there as a product demo, it is there to review the work that was done during the sprint, which in this case, is nothing that can be shown as nothing met the DoD. 

This would indicate that one of the biggest problems would be to understand as a team why no PBIs are meeting the DoD, so that during the next sprints sprint planning, a more aligned sprint goal can be created and better selection of PBIs based upon the teams understanding of each PBI against their current capacity.