Challenges in the work of a Scrum Master

wyzwania w pracy scrum mastera

In today’s world, where variability is the only constant, the role of the Scrum Master becomes crucial. However, it is not a role without challenges. Have you ever wondered what difficulties Scrum Masters have to face on a daily basis? Or maybe you are one of them and are looking for ways to overcome these obstacles? In the Scrum Master Challenges report, we delve deeper into these issues, offering both insight into the most common difficulties and practical tips to help overcome them. I invite you to read and discover how you can improve your approach to Scrum and everyday teamwork.

Purpose, scope and method of the research

Purpose of the study

Reading posts online and talking to Scrum Master friends, we came to the conclusion that a large part of a Scrum Master’s job is the ability to argue, convince and show the benefits of Scrum. We were wondering what areas are the most difficult? What is the most common and what is the biggest challenge?

The aim of our study was to find answers to the above questions but, above all, to verify our following research hypotheses:

• In their daily work, Scrum Masters need to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements,

• Scrum Masters have the ability/proficiency to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements.

Additionally, the aim of the study was to collect information about the – maybe different – but real challenges of Scrum Masters working in various locations in Poland.

Respondents

The survey was aimed at people with experience as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach working in Poland.
As a result, 53 people took part in the study, 46 of whom formally fulfilled this role. The remaining 7 people played various roles in the organization, formally or informally supporting the Scrum process, as shown in the table below:

Name of the position held Number of people
Agile Coach 2
Formally – data analyst, informally full-time Scrum Master 1
HRBP/SM 1
IT project coordinator 1
Scrum Master 40
Scrum Master/Agile Coach 2
Scrum Master/Agile Lead 1
System Tester 1
Team leader 1
Senior implementation consultant 1
Scrum master, change management practitioner 1
Expert 1

The surveyed people also had different lengths of professional experience, as shown in the table below:

Test method

The study was conducted from 02/10 to 02/11. 2020 using a survey in Google Forms.

The survey was anonymous.

The study involved obtaining answers on a linear scale (from 0 to 10) to the following two questions:

  • In your daily work, to what extent do you need to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements?
  • How do you rate your ability/proficiency in arguing and convincing the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements?

Additionally, the survey included two open questions:

  • What are your biggest challenges when arguing and convincing the team about the advantages of Scrum?
  • Apart from that, what are your biggest challenges while working in Scrum?

and a place for questions and comments.

scrum master podczas pracy

General conclusions from the study

During the study, two hypotheses were positively verified:

  • Scrum Masters need to argue in their daily work
    and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements. 
    77% of respondents to the question “In your daily work, to what extent do you need to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements?” gave an answer above 5 (on a scale of 0-10).
  • Scrum Masters have the ability/proficiency to argue
    and convincing the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements.
     81% of respondents to the question “How do you rate your ability/proficiency in arguing and convincing the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements?” gave an answer above 5 (on a scale of 0-10).

Detailed conclusions of the study – “Challenges in the work of a Scrum Master”

Correlation of answers with work experience

With increasing experience in the role of a Scrum Master, the need to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements decreases:

  • in the group of people with up to two years of experience, 60% of people claim that they have such a need,
  • in the group of people with experience over four years, there are already 47% of such people.

The details are presented in the table below:

Number of respondents to a given answer on a scale of 0-10 (where 0 = Extremely rarely and 10 = Extremely often) Total number of people in a category Average grade ‘5’ and below 5 Average rating above 5
Years of experience in the role 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0-2 years 0 0 2 0 3 3 3 6 1 1 1 20 40% 60%
2-4 years 0 0 1 0 5 1 2 3 4 1 1 18 39% 61%
Over 4 years old 0 0 2 1 3 2 1 2 3 1 0 15 53% 47%
The sum of responses of a given type 0 0 5 1 11 6 6 11 8 3 2 53 23% 77%

As the survey results show, with increasing experience as a Scrum Master, the ability/proficiency in arguing and convincing the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements also increases:

  • in the group of people with up to two years of experience, 65% of people claim that they have this skill,
  • in the group of people with experience over four years, there are already 81% of such people.

The details are presented in the table below:

Number of respondents to a given answer on a scale of 0-10 (where 0 = Extremely rarely and 10 = Extremely often) Total number of people in a category Average grade ‘5’ and below 5 Average rating above 5
Years of experience in the role 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0-2 years 0 0 1 2 0 4 4 5 4 0 0 20 35% 65%
2-4 years 0 0 0 1 1 0 3 5 6 1 1 18 11% 89%
Over 4 years old 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 5 3 2 0 15 7% 93%
The sum of responses of a given type 0 0 1 3 1 5 11 15 13 3 1 53 19% 81%

Correlation of responses with role

When it comes to roles and job positions, 40 out of 53 respondents declared that they held a position called “Scrum Master”.

Of this group of people, half (52%) indicate that they need to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum and its elements.

Number of respondents to a given answer on a scale of 0-10 (where 0 = Extremely rarely and 10 = Extremely often) Total number of people in a category Average grade ‘5’ and below 5 Average rating above 5
Role/position name 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Agile Coach 1 1 2
Formally – data analyst, informally full-time Scrum Master 1 1
HRBP/SM 1 1
IT project coordinator 1 1
Scrum Master 4 1 8 6 4 6 7 2 2 40 48% 52%
Scrum Master/Agile Coach 2 2
Scrum Master/Agile Lead 1 1
System Tester 1 1
Team leader 1 1
Senior implementation consultant 1 1
Scrum Master, Change Management Practitioner 1 1
Expert 1 1
The sum of responses of a given type 5 1 11 6 6 11 8 3 2 53

Among the group of respondents holding the position of “Scrum Master”, 87% of people claim that they have the ability to argue and convince the team about the advantages of Scrum, as shown in the table below:

Number of respondents to a given answer on a scale of 0-10 (where 0 = Extremely rarely and 10 = Extremely often) Total number of people in a category Average grade ‘5’ and below 5 Average rating above 5
Role/position name 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10      
Agile Coach             1     1   2    
Formally – data analyst, informally full-time Scrum Master             1         1    
HRBP/SM       1               1    
IT project coordinator       1               1    
Scrum Master     1   1 3 9 13 11 1 1 40 13% 87%
Scrum Master/Agile Coach                 1 1   2    
Scrum Master/Agile Lead                 1     1    
System Tester       1               1    
Team leader               1       1    
Senior implementation consultant           1           1    
Scrum Master, Change Management Practitioner               1       1    
Expert           1           1    
The sum of responses of a given type     1 3 1 5 11 15 13 3 1 53    

The most common challenges in the work of a Scrum Master

In addition to validating the two hypotheses, the aim of the study was also to collect information about the actual challenges of Scrum Masters working in various locations in Poland.

The study showed that in the area of ​​challenges when arguing, they are quite dispersed:

  • 30% of people indicate various problems that are not repeatable, e.g. the desire to encourage experimentation in the team, lack of time to introduce improvements, working with “toxic” people.
  • 9% of the respondents stated that they did not face any challenges during argumentation.
  • Another 9% of respondents believe that the main challenge is “Undasism” – the team’s reluctance to change, take up challenges or develop resulting from a lack of faith (due to previous unsuccessful attempts or the existing situation) in the possibility of such a change.
  • Another 9% of people say that the problem is the team’s bad habits (in the areas of, among others, coding standards and test writing) and the team’s failure to take responsibility for their work.
  • 11% of respondents believe that the biggest obstacle is the reality of the organization in which they work – whether the organization supports and understands Scrum, what is the support and readiness of managers for transformation and the business to change its habits and established paths of conduct.
  • The largest group – 30% – believes that the most significant challenge in the work of a Scrum Master is showing the advantages of Scrum. What they lack most is quick, practical, data-supported examples that will generate buy-in and understanding of the team, convince them of the necessity, need and effectiveness of a given technique or method, but at the same time will not be an attempt to force something.

Summary

In summary, the Scrum Master Challenges Study reveals key areas where Scrum Masters encounter difficulties, highlighting the need for strong communication and persuasion skills. The results indicate that work experience influences the ease of managing these challenges, highlighting the value of continuous development and adaptation in a rapidly changing work environment.

The content of the article comes from the Report “Challenges at work of a Scrum Master” – report authors: Luiza Lipień, Dorota Sternalska (December 31, 2020)