The Life of a Scrum Master in a Sprint

As a Scrum Master, you need to remember one thing, your team’s happiness matters A LOT. 

I know this may sound silly to say, but sometimes in the very virtual world that we live in, this may get forgotten, looked over, or put on the back burner. I’m certainly not saying any Scrum Master does this on purpose. 


You as a Scrum Master have specific important responsibilities you are held accountable for – evaluating and tracking team velocity, facilitating the Scrum events, and protecting the team. Creating a psychologically safe environment to measure, analyze, and learn from measuring team happiness is a BIG additional responsibility.


So what does a Sprint look like as a Scrum Master?


First, you want to establish with your team the length of the Sprint (event); 1 – 4 weeks. Take into account what length of time it will take you to regularly release a minimum viable product (MVP) of a product. The “product” can be a blog post, iteration of a grant, flier, etc. Once your Sprint length is set, that is your fixed anchor of time – it serves as your team’s heart beat moving forward.


Then, you will establish a time for your Daily Scrums (event). This is no longer than 15 minutes and is ideally placed on everyone’s calendar at a regular time that is convenient for them as a team. Depending on the locations of members on your team, time zones will have to be paid attention to. 

At the Daily Scrum, you check in with your team; what did they do yesterday towards the Sprint goal, what will they do today towards that goal, and are there any impediments. The impediment is where you (Scrum Master) come in. If that impediment cannot be solved quickly during Daily Scrum or the 16th minute (time following Daily Scrum for any team member that wants to stay and talk about the impediment) then you see what you can do to solve the impediment, feel free to utilize the Product Owner. 


Next comes Backlog Refinement (required activity), this fits in the Sprint where the team members can come together and work on discussing upcoming stories and estimating. You, as the Scrum Master, facilitate this event as well. Depending on your team size and understanding of the work, you can either use planning poker or affinity estimation. 


At Sprint Planning (event), as the Scrum Master, you want to make sure you are tracking yesterday’s weather (the average of the last three COMPLETED Sprint story points) to serve as a guide for how much work the team commits to in the upcoming Sprint. You never want a team member doing heroic things (which we know in the nonprofit sector is, unfortunately, all to common). You also check your team’s upcoming Sprint capacity (planned time off, time at a conference, etc), and help the team commit to the ready work that is geared towards the Sprint goal. 


In the Sprint Review, as the Scrum Master you are supporting your team as the come together with the stakeholders, peers, and/or internal reviews and present the product increment they completed. This product could be a blog post, event plan, new program logic model, etc. – anything that the team has created that is of valuable that can be tested, used, or reviewed as a way to have the team receive feedback on these “products.”


In the Sprint Retrospective,your team happiness really shows, this is your chance to check in with your team morale. This event happens at the end of your Sprint, your team will come together and share – what went well this Sprint, what didn’t go well this Sprint, what can WE do to make you happier and faster (the Kaizen), and rate your happiness. You can download our fun templates that our team uses here. There are many ways to do this but you want to make sure your team feels comfortable sharing, whether it be on a white board with post its, an anonymous survey, or simply sharing in a chat. However, you are your team find works best to work together and get the most out of the Retrospective. 


Regardless of the event, always remember your time boxes. As a Scrum Master you need to facilitate with the time boxes in mind and be transparent to members of the team to make sure you aren’t going over the suggested time. For example, the time box for the Daily Scrum is 15 minutes – you start at the agreed-upon time and end 15 minutes after and the same for each Event or activity. Snag our Event Checklist with timeboxes and WHO should attend here.