ArticleAugust 8, 2019 · 3 min read time
Teamwork often refers to different types of group work consisting of diverse activities. Autonomy was initially foundational to teamwork, but it has been forgotten rather than strengthened in past years.
Autonomy refers to a team's ability to decide independently how it works. However, over time, a whole profession of team leaders has been born, which goes against the basic idea of teamwork: self-management.
The phrase "We work as a team; therefore, we are agile" can mean different things in different organisations. In the best case, everything goes great: Skilled scrum masters help teams avoid pitfalls, ensure a calm and respectful atmosphere, and ensure a continuous development culture.
On the other hand, this same statement can mean that people work on different projects in a matrix organisation where managers tell people what to do. Work days are full of multiple requests from different parts of the organisation, and each team member has their own interest in mind.
What are the benefits of the original idea of teamwork?
Over the years, work has become more and more specialised, meaning that expertise is deep but narrow around specific topics. We seldom work with something so simple that our expertise is broad enough to understand all sides of what we are trying to achieve.
Together we see things more clearly and can make wiser decisions as a team. Understanding complex issues and the resilience that comes with them are some of the undebatable strengths of working as a team.
How do we best harness a team's diverse expertise?
Is a manager needed to mandate how each member can use their expertise? Or, would it be more beneficial if someone coached the team, helping them to achieve more together? In the agile way of working, a scrum master is this kind of team coach. Let's dive more into a scrum master's role.
1. Planning starts with the vision: why are we working on this? Let's take the example of planning a new training. To achieve this, we need to make a prioritised list of all the tasks that need to be done based on the training vision. The team gets help from the topic's owner, a business representative. A scrum master, in turn, assists the team in understanding the whole and dividing the vision into smaller parts.
2. Next, the team plans its work for the next sprint. It makes sense to create a frame for the training and then think about what kinds of workshops or lectures it could include. The team is responsible for dividing their work without the scrum master participating.
3. During the sprint, scrum master facilitates 15-minute-long daily meetings, where each team member shares what they have achieved the previous day and what they will be working on next. They also share any possible issues preventing the training from progressing. Such issues could be other work assignments or challenges in time management, among other things. A scrum master's role is to remove any obstacles the team may face, ensuring they have enough time and space to focus on the tasks.
4. When a sprint is coming to an end, a review takes place. The person who is the owner of the topic, in this case, someone responsible for organising trainings, hears directly from the team how they have proceeded with the plan. Based on what they hear, the business representative will decide whether the training is ready or if the team will continue planning it further during the next sprint. The scrum master facilitates the review, which is open to anyone interested.
5. After the review, the scrum master facilitates a retrospective for the team. In this event, each team member gives feedback on the sprint, what went well, and what could be improved. When everyone has shared their views, the team decides what they will work on during the next sprint.
A scrum master is the team's coach
In addition to the scrum master guiding the team's events, they make sure that the sprint happens according to agile values. They maintain openness in the team by facilitating daily meetings, sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives. They also solve internal challenges in the team, should they arise. A scrum master has the ability to create a safe and respectful atmosphere in the team, where mistakes are allowed and learned from daily.