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Tips - Improving Effectiveness of Scrum Teams

July 9, 2024

One of the accountabilities that a Scrum Master has to fulfill is to make the Scrum Team effective. This includes the Scrum Master, as well. However, in my experience I have come across only a handful of Scrum Masters who understand the concept and who focus on improving and making themselves effective. If as a Scrum Master one does not focus on making themself effective they might not be able to help the team to become effective. 

In order to be an effective Scrum Master, the Scrum Master has to explore, experience and acquire varied skills which include but are not limited to teaching, mentoring, coaching and facilitation. A Scrum Master will need a good amount of time to really master each of these skills. In this blog post I might not be able to dive deep into these skills but I will try to share my practical experience that might help get you started. Here is another blog article that will help you further.

What makes a Scrum Team Effective?

An effective Scrum Team is a team that has a focus on creating a DONE Increment every sprint. To achieve this objective, the Scrum Team will have to work in collaboration, make the right decision, have clarity of business needs and should deliver utmost quality in their increments. Also, to enable quality in the increments it is imperative that the Scrum Team understands what is quality and works on their technical skills and abilities to improve it.

Thus, to make a Scrum Team effective, a Scrum Master has to focus on:

  • Collaboration
  • Self-Management
  • Goals
  • Quality & Technical Excellence


Creating collaboration is an important aspect if we need people to work together. Communication is the key to better collaboration. Although communication is not always as transparent as is expected. It might be due to many reasons, one of which could be absence of trust and courage among team members.

A Scrum Master’s job is to create an environment where trust and courage can be fostered and transparency is created. The easiest way to do this is to facilitate a conversation among team members to create a “Team Agreement” that will induce trust among the team members.

A “Trust Canvas”, created by Alexey Pikulev from Unusual Concepts, could be a good starting point to create your team agreements and arrive at a good understanding of mutual expectations.

Trust canvas


Self-management means allowing autonomy in decision-making. However, autonomy without alignment or boundaries will lead to utter chaos and nothing will get done. The job of the Scrum Master is to create the right set of boundaries within which the empowered team members can self-manage their work.

Here are a couple of ways self-management can be fostered in the team:

  • Time-boxing: Ensure the Scrum Team understands the need of time-boxes and respects them. This will help the team to focus and address risks.
  • Definition of Done: Setting a clear understanding of what DONE means and what the Scrum team will do in order to create an Increment of utmost quality.
  • Purpose of Events and Artifacts: Establish clear purpose of Scrum Events and Artifacts. For example: Daily Scrum is to Inspect progress towards the Sprint Goal and make necessary changes to the plan (if needed) to achieve it. In my experience, a majority of teams do not focus on this purpose but convert the Daily Scrum into a status update meeting.


Goals are essential for creating alignment within the Scrum Team and also establishing alignment with stakeholders and the wider audience. Scrum highlights three key aspects which enable alignment:

  1. Product Goal : A business objective often derived from Product Vision that creates a longer term direction for the Scrum Team to plan against.
  2. Sprint Goal : A tactical business/technical objective that the Scrum Team plans to achieve during a Sprint.
  3. Definition of Done : A quality objective that determines if the Increment meets necessary quality standards and is releasable or not.

For a Scrum Team to be effective, they should have clarity on each of these goals to be achieved. If the Scrum Team does not have clarity then it is up to the Scrum Master to coach, mentor and facilitate the Scrum Team to achieve clarity. 

One common challenge I have often seen with Sprint Goals is that they are often established as a feature or function to be developed which at times may not be a good objective. One tip that I learned from my mentors is to ask the Product Owner - “WHY” are we executing this Sprint? What business problem or customer need will we address by the end of this Sprint or what assumptions will we validate by the end of this Sprint.

You can get more tips on crafting better sprint goals here.

Quality and Technical Excellence

To create value for the business, its stakeholders and customers; a Scrum Team will have to keep creating Done Increments every sprint. DONE means quality, but who owns quality in the Scrum Team? Is it the tester or is it the whole team? At least 70% of the teams that I have worked with always have this common anti-pattern. A waterfallish development within the Scrum Team. There is a coder who would code during the first half of the Sprint and do a handoff to the tester on the team for testing during typically the second half of the sprint. 

For making the Scrum team effective, the Scrum Master will have to identify such residual anti-patterns from yesteryears and address them. One anti-pattern at a time. 

A couple of things that helped me and the teams I worked on to improve on Quality and Technical Excellence aspect include:

  1. Clarity of Definition of Done: Facilitating a discussion about what DONE means and what can help the team create a releasable increment with the skills and expertise that they have is very important. Not clarifying or setting expectations that can’t be met will lead to unforeseen issues within the team. Also, as a team it is good to revisit DoD every two or three Sprint Retrospectives (or more often), to figure out if it needs to be made more stringent to improve quality.
  2. XP Practices: Pair Programming and Test Driven Development helped me grow as a developer and my teammates were excellent at teaching me. This also enabled a great rapport within the team. As a Scrum Master, one should try to find instances where team members can interact with each other and build on each others strengths.
  3. Better understanding of Product Domain: It is not enough for developers to only focus on technology to create an increment. It is also important to understand the business and product domain. That way developers can better understand the needs of customers and can serve them better. If the Scrum Team is lacking on this aspect, as a Scrum Master one should facilitate sessions (knowledge sharing, hackathons etc) to build knowledge on the domain.


To build an effective Scrum Team, the Scrum Master needs to be focused on being effective themselves. And to be an effective Scrum Master, this person will have to tap into all the varied skills and traits that enable them. 

Also, there is no need to focus on all skils or traits at once. One can pick up any one skill and then build on it. Remember the old saying - “Rome was not built in one day”.

Here is something that you can always start with:

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