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What is the Agile Methodology Sprint Lifecycle and how does each stage impact the Scrum Master? Just as there are no two Projects that are the same, each Sprint is also unique. Even within the very same Project requirements and the same Team, there will be differences. The Framework of the Sprint will be the same, however the content and Team Dynamics will vary. Here is a typical Sprint lifecycle and how the Scrum Master plays a part in it.

The Scrum Master and the Agile Methodology Sprint Lifecycle

Among the Scrum Masters key Roles is the stewardship of Agile and Scrum Principles and Practices. They are not a Project Manager, but they are a facilitator. They ensure that the Scrum Ceremonies are held. The Scrum Master reviews any obstacles, internal and external, and seeks to remove them to ensure that the Road Ahead is Clear for the Scrum team.

The Scrum Framework uses recommended Meetings, or Ceremonies, to Initiate the Sprint. These ceremonies Manage and monitor the sprint progress, and Review the finished Product. The ceremonies finally look to improve the efficiency of the Sprint. These ceremonies are:-.

  • ‘The Sprint Planning’ – when the Scope and material of the Sprint is selected.
  • ‘The Daily Scrum’ (or Daily Standup) – a quick Meeting to communicate what has been Done, what is to be Done and what issues need resolving.
  • ‘The Sprint Review’ – A “show and tell” of the Sprint Deliverables to all Stakeholders. Pending consensus, the Sprint is “Done” (complete and approved).
  • ‘The Retrospective’ – a “Lessons Learnt” analysis of the Sprint process, where learning’s from the Sprint are considered to improve the next Sprint.

The Scrum Master does not “own” any of these Meetings. They Facilitate them and ensure that they are held according to the recommended practices and that the desired outcomes result. This is only part of the Scrum Masters responsibilities. However they form a great basis for describing the “life” of the Scrum Master during the Sprint.

Agile Methodology Sprint Lifecycle: Starting a Sprint.

When the Project has begun and the Scrum team, or Teams, have been arranged, it is time to prepare for the very first Sprint. A Sprint Planning Meeting is convened, which is where Work to be Done is chosen from the Product Backlog. The Product Owner explains the need for the Product and what factors are critical to the success of the Project. The Development Team select Work and assess the time needed to Develop it. They also define a “Goal” for the Sprint, based on their current understanding of the Product.

Meeting Facilitator.

The Scrum Master acts as Facilitator in this Meeting. The Scrum Master:-.

  • convenes and Time-Manages the Meeting, which may take up to a maximum of one day, although it might take less time.
  • makes sure that everybody in the Team understands its function and results.
  • may Gamify the Estimation process by utilizing “Planning Poker”, a strategy where a democratic arrangement on complexity and timing of each Work Item is debated.
  • Ensures that the concurred Work Items are transferred to the Sprint Backlog.
  • Ensures, with the Product Owner, that the Team have a feasible Sprint Goal. They ensure that there is a reasonable understanding of the Effort and Teamwork required to produce the product Increment.

Once the Sprint Planning Meeting is complete, the Scrum Team have an agreed workload to be completed within the Sprint. The Work is added to the Sprint Backlog.

The Daily difficulties.

While the Team is occupied with finishing the Work in the Sprint Backlog, the Scrum Master:-.

  • Rides interference for the Team from outside influence in the Organisation.
  • Ensures that the Daily Scrum or Stand-up Meeting is held, usually at the same time and place each day.
  • It is for Development Team members only, although there is a view that the Product Owner may attend but not take part in the meeting.
  • Limits the Scrum to 15 minutes.

The Daily Scrum

While the Daily Scrum is owned and run by the Development Team, it has 3 very simple precepts:-.

  • ‘What Did I Do Yesterday To Meet Our Goal?’.
  • ‘What Will I Do Today To Meet Our Goal?’.

And

  • ‘What Impediments Have To Be Removed To Reach Our Goal?

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The Scrum Master is an active listener. They will first of all ensure that the views being expressed are realistic and that everything is being revealed that needs to be. All Agile Development is based on trust, openness and honesty. Hiding any bad news can affect the outcome of the Sprint, and even result in a cancellation of the Sprint and the Scrum Project.
Any obstacles that were raised should be tackled by the Scrum Master. It can happen, even during a two-week Sprint, that there will be a request for Changes. The Product Owner (the Voice of the Customer) will assess the request and add it to the Product Backlog if they consider it to be needed to achieve the minimum viable product. It is the Scrum Master’s job to job to stand firm and defer any Changes to the next Sprint, even if they affect the current Increment.

Agile Methodology Sprint Lifecycle: Preparing for “Done”.

When all the Work is nearing its end and the Acceptance Criteria are met, the Scrum Master can alert all Stakeholders that the Sprint Review Meeting is to be held. The Meeting should take no longer than four hours, and once again, the Scrum Master is both Facilitator and timekeeper.

The Product Owner might be said to be the keynote speaker, discussing what has actually been “done” in the Sprint and what stays in the Product Backlog.

The Scrum Team offer a review of the successes and challenges of the Sprint and what was done to overcome the challenges.

Planning on the way forward is done as a group activity.

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Agile Methodology Sprint Lifecycle: Introspection in the Retrospective.

The Retrospective is essentially a Process Improvement Meeting. The Scrum Master is the steward of the Scrum Framework. They have an important function to play in the Retrospective Meeting. The Meeting is Timeboxed by the Scrum Master and ought to not exceed three hours.

It is important that the Meeting does not end up being a “Blame Game”. The emphasis should be on the positives, while determining improvements to be applied in the next Sprint. The focus is on efficiency and Product Quality. Gamification can be used to engage the Team and ensure that everyone voices their opinion.

If this was the last Sprint, the Scrum Master requires the Release Planning Meeting to prepare for the Release.

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Welcome to the Real World.

We have explained above what must happen. We have not taken into account any of the complexities that Team members bring to the mix. To really grasp how the Scrum Master adds to the success of a Sprint, we need to understand Tuckman’s Theory.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman Developed a Four-Stage Theory of how Teams evolve through Four Maturity Levels:-.

  • ‘Forming’ – the new Team gets to meet each other.
  • ‘Storming’ – dissent and conflict occur as Team members test each other.
  • ‘Norming’ – where Team members accept each other and start Working as a Team.
  • ‘Performing’ – the Team has reached a high level of efficiency and Works in harmony.

The Scrum Master and Tuckman’s Stages

The Scrum Master both understands Tuckman’s Stages and what to expect in each of them. They likewise knows that, where a Team has not worked together in the past, they are going to experience at least the first 3 stages and ideally, the fourth stage. The impact this can have on each Sprint is massive.

  • Sprint 1′ will start with “Forming” and transfer to “Storming”. It is quite likely that the Team will not grow past Storming in the first Sprint. The Scrum Master Works at putting out fires and calming bruised egos. They can do this by getting the Team to focus on following the Scrum Principles. The Scrum Master can deflect the disputes.
  • Ideally, by the second Sprint the Team will have begun “Norming”. They are thinking about the common Goal and not their own positions. Moving to the Norming stage can take some time and a number of Sprints. At this stage the Team is really Collaborative and cohesive. The Scrum Master can concentrate on Coaching and guiding the Team on the Scrum Fundamentals, rather than doing damage control. As the Team Dynamics improve, there is less demand for the Scrum Master to play such an active Role.
  • Later Sprints – It is quite possible that the Team does not accomplish the 4th stage. This stage is where they can be considered as a high-performance Team. This does not mean that they are not producing a quality Product, just that there are some ineffectiveness and waste. If however, they do develop into a “Performing” Team, it is suggested that they remain in this grouping for future Work. It has taken much Change Management and Coaching from the Scrum Master to attain this level.
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The Successful Scrum Master.

The very best Scrum Masters Work themselves out of a Job. When the Team is performing optimally and according to Scrum precepts, the Scrum Master has actually attained their objective. They can remain with the Team for the next Project, or can move to a new Team and repeat the cycle.

The ‘Agile Scrum Master Training Course With 59 Seconds Training‘ is now available for free. This free Scrum Master Certified Online Training Course provides an in-depth understanding of the Agile Scrum Master roles and responsibilities, where you find out what a Scrum Master does and how to do it. During this free course you will learn all of the tools needed to succeed as an Agile Scrum Master.

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