I have been a SM now for about 3 years and I enjoy many elements of the role and so far I have had really positive feedback from my stakeholders. The PO says I have good influence over them in making improvements and engineering managers say they are getting what they want from me as a scrum master so it seems to be good.

What I do find however is that I go from being very busy during sprint end/start weeks to be very bored. I literally am not sure how to fill my day and its quite demotivating. I have started have 1-2-1’s with all my team members as I think it important for they evolution to agile greatness but I still have huge gaps of my day when I have nothing to do.

I have regular workshops with the team, but I don’t want to take them away from their desks too much during the sprint because then they can’t deliver on their commitments. I facilitate all their ceremonies and I do participate in the agile community in the organisation.

I find however that if I am not doing what I mentioned above I have not much to actually do.

Does anyone have any suggestions of things I am maybe not doing that I should be doing?

  • Do you have a technical background in the field of the Development Team? For example, if the Development Team is a software development team, do you have a background in software development? – Thomas Owens Jun 4 at 17:03
  • How many team members are there? Is the product owner part of the same hierarchical team or department? – Christian Strempfer Jun 5 at 16:09
  • I have a dev background yes. 6 team members, a very active PO AND PM! – user32613 Jun 6 at 13:09
  • PM means product manager or project manager? I'm asking these questions, because to me it sounds like someone is taking away some of your Scrum Master tasks. I worked mostly with Product Owners which had a technical background but no experience in the used technologies and there were always more open questions than time. So either your PO knows more than usual about the implementation or your project is not complex enough to have a full-time SM. – Christian Strempfer Jun 6 at 15:43
  • Project Manager. I am not sure why a a technically complex project justifies a scrum more than a technically simple project. It sounds like you are eluding to the SM getting involved in the technical implementation. – user32613 Jun 15 at 15:59
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Now, it could be that you have worked to create a hyper-performing team and there is no further room for improvement. A measure of this is that velocity (or similar metric) has increased by an order of magnitude in the last year.

However, the most likely scenario is that you and your team have become 'comfortable' and velocity has not increased significantly in the last few Sprints and/or there is a high variance in velocity.

I recommend you take a look at the Scrum pattern 'Kaizen Pulse', summarized as, "Alternate periods of controlled velocity with spikes of process improvement." If your team have plateaued then it is up to you as Scrum Master to recognize the next major improvement (transparency), instigate a period of change to implement it and measure its success or otherwise (inspect and adapt).

For general inspiration on how as a Scrum Master should avoid comfort zones, I recommend 'Job Title: Troublemaker' by Adiya Mohr - read time = 3 minutes:

Go out and ask the uncomfortable questions. People will hate it. And that is fine. Some people might actually hate the questions so much that they will want to go into discussions about it. When the ugliness has been made painfully obvious — people cannot sugarcoat it anymore... That is my actual day-to-day-work: seeing the ugly things and talking about them. A lot.

For a demonstration about how a Scrum Master coaches a team to improve incrementally towards hyper-performance to achieve an 'impossible goal', try this video of Jim Coplien. Video starts at 1:31:40, watch for approx 9 minutes, ensuring you continue watching after the team demo ends to hear the learning outcomes (until 1:40:05).

This is a common question. One helpful resource as a starting point is the Scrummaster Checklist. It's not meant to be literally a checklist of things to do each day, but rather a list of things that a Scrummaster could be doing that can give you ideas of where to fill things in.

You didn't happen to mention working with the PO or stakeholders in your question. There might be more effective ways to approach the backlog or meet use needs than the current approach that you can look at.

Past that, look at what the team's biggest pain points are. Are they something inside the team or outside of the team? Maybe there are organizational impediments that you can be working on. Nothing says you have to limit your coaching to the members of the Scrum team if coaching someone else in the organization would ultimately help your team be more effective.

Finally, don't forget self-improvement. Reading blogs and publications, attending Scrum community meetings, taking new courses, and upping your skills will have huge payoff for the team in the long run.

As a Scrum Master I totally sympathise with your question. The Scrum Master role is very peaky and troughy.

The worst thing you can do is create meetings or other distractions for the team just to keep yourself busy. There will inevitably be times when you should slip in to the background and let the team get on with things.

How to best fill your time? Well some options are:

  • Consider taking on more than one team. This has to be done with great care though as you should revert back to one team if you find yourself over-stretched.
  • If you are technical, then perhaps pick up some low priority tasks from the backlog. Examples of what I have done include: resolving code quality metric warnings (like checkstyle, findbugs), fixing minor technical debt items, improving the quality of logging/error codes, etc.
  • Coaching people outside the team. I have found it bother interesting and useful to coach non-technical people on agile. Spreading the knowledge of agile widely will benefit your team in the long-term.

Whatever you chose to do though, be sure that you can quickly and easily revert back to supporting your team if they need you.

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