Refer & Earn

Interaction with Practicing Scrum Master - Ashish Agrawal

Interaction with Practicing Scrum Maters

It’s a series of interactions with Scrum Masters who are working towards transforming world of work by building great scrum teams. We invite practicing Scrum Masters to our CSM workshops and let potential Scrum Masters to interact with them to understand the road ahead.


Generally the discussion would be around how they got started with Scrum Master’s career, the challenges they faced, how they keep learning and their overall journey.

Our goal is to inspire participants of our workshops to take up the Scrum Master’s role and keep them in touch with reality.

Ashish Agarwal is a Scrum Master at Aristocrat. He interacted with participants of our Certified Scrum Master workshop in Delhi on July 21-22.

Here is how the interaction went.

Q. You were a technical guy so how the transition was and what challenges did you face?

Ans. Being a technical guy, it was my tendency to get involved in the technical solution and helping team members in technical stuff. It was very difficult for me to stop myself from getting involved technically. I had to keep a constant check and constraint on myself to avoid this. This was required so as to make team independent as they were becoming dependent on me. They were coming to me for help without exploring.

Q. How long did it take to move to a full time scrum master role from a developer role in terms of mindset?

Ans. It took me around 3 years and still today many times even inspite of trying to stop myself from getting technically involved, I help team members.

Q. Share one change you brought in and what benefits did you reap?

Ans. In my last organization, we had line managers also in the retro. I saw that there were some things not coming in retro and was hampering team. I tried to find the reason of this from team and got to know that team did not want to raise this as manager was present and it could impact their appraisal. So I discussed it with manager. I told him about my observation which I thought was a potential problem for the team and how I thought it was impacting them. I asked his help to get to the solution for this problem. He asked me what can be done. I suggested if we can try and have him away from the retro so that team members can bring this problem and openly discuss the solution for this and he agreed. I told him that we can try this for some retros and see if it helps else we can have him back in retros. This resulted in team being open with each other. They started openly discussing problems and its solution. Here suggestion from Vivek Jayaraman helped me in discussing this problem with manager.

Q. How long did a new team take to become functional?

Ans. I worked with a team which was created as a new team from scratch. Most of the team members were recruited. For us in organization we expect a person to be productive in around 2 to 2.5 months. Team started delivering during sprint as per this. But a scrum team feeling was missing. I had to help them, guide them to move towards this path. It took around more than a year for the team to come to a stage where they are now delivering and having coordination between them. But still I think they need to work upon a lot as they are not a very good scrum team.

Q. Were you asked to become a PO?

Ans. Yes as organization wants to have multiple people work done by a single person, so this happened with me also. I had to help management understand that it was a conflicting role and would result in degradation of work done by me in the role of SM or a PO.

Q. How often do you interact with PO?

Ans. Being a SM, it is my responsibility to help PO in his work and have business goals achieved. I interact with PO at-least once every two weeks and have sync with him. In this sync up, we discuss about how I can help him in achieving business goals. I also share with him my observations regarding his role and he shares his observations about me and team. And what we can do better together.

Q. What are the differences you see in what’s written and what’s followed?

Ans. As per my experience, Scrum is not followed exactly as it is prescribed in scrum guide.  Almost all organization customizes it as per their needs. I have also observed that more the customization done less the results. Some organizations just do standup and say they are doing Agile. For some they are doing all ceremonies and still have a control structure by the managers and senior management where things are being commanded rather than coming from team.

Q. How do you measure teams productivity?

Ans. For me teams productivity is measured based on velocity delivered by team.

Q. Did you face any challenges with PO?

Ans. Yes there have been few instances. There was one scenario where PO wanted me to ask team to take more work. In this scenario, I had to discuss with PO and make him understand the power of transparency. I suggested him to let team know about the releases and tell them about the expectation and then let team decide how much they can do and what strategy they want to take to. This helped and team was able to finish the desired release goals.

Q. Do you interact with sales?

Ans. No. PO interacts with sales as he is responsible for ROI of the product.

Q. Development doesn’t finish work in time, do you go and negotiate with PO? If PO says no, how do you motivate the team to finish it?

Ans. No. As per my role, no one should command team to do something. It should be decided by team in collaboration with PO to decide about how much work they will do. I will bring team and PO together for a discussion about what business needs are, what team is able to deliver and what their constraints are. I just suggest my team that whenever they see a risk to sprint commitment thy should immediately inform PO and discuss with him.

Q. Are you asked to fill in up for other scrum teams?

Ans. Yes there have been an instance where I was asked to take care of SM work for a team whose SM had left. I tried to explain the management about its impact and how it would have negative impact on my current team. At last we came to an understanding where I would help team in their SM work into being a full time SM for them and someone from team will take this role temporarily until a new SM arrives.

Q. Any artifacts that you are directly responsible?

Ans. In terms of artifacts, I am responsible for proper updation of status of stories on scrum board, maintenance of burndown and metrics defined in organization for the team.

Q. How do you handle actions out of retro?

Ans. We have a zero point story in Scrum Board for retro Action Items and all the action items are tasks of this story. Team has a view of the action items as it is on their board. At the end of each sprint completed action items are closed and story is split thus moving the other action items to next sprint.

Q. Do discuss work done in terms of percentage in DailyScrum?

Ans. No, the understanding of the team is either they have completed the task or not, there is no percentage completion of the task. For each story so as to help team understand where they are, tasks created and based on completion of tasks, team is able to see the progress of the stories.

Q. How do you track progress of Sprint?

Ans. Sprint progress is tracked based on burndown chart. Team members take care to update the ‘To Do’ hours of the task so as to have accurate burndown.

Q. How long have you been a Scrum Master?

Ans. It is now around 4 years since I started my scrum master journey.

Q. Do you also track progress of tasks?

Ans. No. Tasks have states as ‘Not started’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Completed’. There is no percentage completion of tasks so as to assess its progress.

Q. Do you estimate tasks also? And how?

Ans. Yes team does estimation of tasking. During sprint planning, once team has committed for the story points and pulled in the stories, after that they move to strategizing how they will achieve the sprint commitment. During this time, they create tasks required to complete a story for each stories and estimate the hours required to complete the tasks. There is no relation of story points and total estimated hours of all the tasks of a particular story.  

Q. How do you keep learning as a ScrumMaster?

Ans. I think a person should consistently learn. If learning stops then growth also stops. Being a SM, I am trying to learn new things. I try to read books. Also I read articles consistently on website like scrum alliance, agilealliance, mountain goat software etc. I also watch videos on youtube and plurasight. But one thing that has helped to be motivated and learn is the meetup. I am consistently attending meetups. These meeting sometimes help you to get new concepts, sometimes it gets a revision for some already know thing. But one thing is it always gives me atleast one thing which I need to explore and learn further.

Q. What next for you as SM?

Ans. I think I first need to be a very good scrum master. For future, I am interested in being an Agile Coach where I can help people learn and change the way they are working thus bringing happiness in their lives. 

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