January 12, 2023

A Scrum Master’s Guide to Keeping Your Project on Track

Sometimes I ask myself, “how could I have prevented this from happening?” As a Scrum Master, one of my main responsibilities is to clear obstacles and establish an environment where teams can be effective, protecting them from any outside interruptions and distractions. Through my experience at Acklen Avenue, I have learned the key to preventing a project from getting off track and asking yourself, “how could I have prevented this from happening?” relies on putting the team members’ safety and wellness first. With that being said, here are five tips on how you can achieve it:

1. Hold each team member accountable

Accountability is the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions, meaning that as part of the team everyone should work hard to accomplish things they said they’d do. Make sure your team members are willing to accept responsibility for their actions by owning mistakes and sharing experiences.

2. Build trust

Trust is a two-way street, so I need to trust my team, and my team also needs to trust me. Create an environment where everyone can share their thoughts without feeling judged. Be honest, vulnerable and willing to share the good and the bad with your team.

3. Review goals in a timely manner

The question you always need to be answering is “where are we going?” which can take you in many different directions, so having clarity and a process for timely review of success/failure is essential. Setting goals applies to both teams and individuals in professional and personal situations, and can have short or long-term impacts. It’s important to select the right goals and move forward with a strategic plan to achieve and measure those goals.

4. Give and receive feedback

There’s a big difference between providing feedback versus criticism. Providing feedback the right way can be challenging, but delivered the right way, it can provide measurable benefits to both sides. The first thing you have to do is find the right time to provide feedback. A good leader is able to understand and read the environment to ensure everyone feels safe and included. Once you have found the right time to provide feedback for your team members, focus on the behavior, not the person. Be clear and offer your support. And when you receive feedback from your team members, be open and listen to make sure you understand and learn.

5. Handle conflict healthily

It’s ok to have different perspectives and opinions. After all, we are all different. This just means that as a group we are destined to disagree, but we need to be respectful of each other. Healthy conflict means that we care about our work as a team and that we are willing to disagree on occasions but it’s all for the purpose of making the best decisions.

Even when you are doing all the right things, things can go astray. It’s important to keep an eye out for certain things that must be handled right away. Those include the following:

  • Isolated team members

Based on my experience, when a team member seems to be isolating themselves, this means they are either blocked by some task they were required to do, they’re feeling overwhelmed with the workload, they’re not feeling heard, or are not feeling comfortable in the team environment. Make sure you’re reaching out to team members, especially if you sense something’s off.

  • Constant patterns

Keep an eye out for unhealthy or alarming patterns in your teams. Whether a team member keeps saying, “this user story will be done today” and it doesn’t get done, or if a team member keeps missing standups altogether. This goes hand in hand with having accountability within your teams. Remember, everyone is a contributor to the team’s success.

  • Disagreements

If you see two team members constantly arguing and being disrespectful towards each other, call it out. As we mentioned previously, conflict is normal and can be a good thing, so long as it is managed healthily. As leaders, we are not responsible for resolving personal issues that may arise between team members, but we must serve as a bridge between them to create a safe environment for everyone who works in it.

In the end, the most important thing you can do is care. This will help you stay on track with any project. At the end of the day, a healthy and well-distributed team can help your company achieve any goal.