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WHAT’S NEW IN SAFe 6.0: Empowering Teams and Clarifying Responsibilities –Scrum Master’s Role Clarity

One of the key elements of SAFe 6.0 is clarifying responsibilities much deeper and empowering teams. Let’s understand what SAFe 6.0 solve by bringing this element from one of the roles – Scrum Master.

Scrum Master is a Team Coach

The Scrum Master role is not new to Agile / SAFe. It is in existence since Scrum was created in 1996. However, this role is still underrated in my view. SAFe 6.0 clearly calls Scrum Master a Team Coach. Though it is not new, this is missing big time. Why do I say that?

Let’s look at the below picture that SAFe 6.0 depicts and the article below to see what Scrum Masters do and do not do in their current role.

Scrum Master Wheel

Scrum Master Wheel

If you look at the Scrum Master wheel, mostly, Scrum Master follows Supporting Iteration Execution and to an extent facilitating PI planning. However, the other 3 areas of the wheel are missed to a large extent.
Beyond basic facilitation during iteration execution and PI planning, Scrum Master is responsible for the following things. Let’s take each of the responsibilities and go deep into them.

Improving Flow

Improving the flow of value can be done in multiple ways

Establish a Team Kanban board to visualize the work and enhance the flow.

Improving flow

Scrum Master’s responsibility is to establish the Team Kanban board as depicted above with relevant columns based on the Team’s workflow, WIP limit, identification of buffer states, clear explicit policies like DOD, etc.

Measure and optimize the flow based on measurements around flow, competency, and outcomes. At the team level, SM should identify and add measures like
a) Define and measure flow metrics like flow distribution (proportion of work items by type like a user story, enabler, defect, etc), flow velocity (team’s velocity), flow time (elapsed time from start to completion of user stories), flow load (number of work items currently in progress), flow efficiency (ratio of time spent in value-added activities), flow predictability (team’s PI predictability measure).
Here are a few of the metrics…

Flow Distribution

Flow Distribution

Flow Distribution measures the proportion of work items by type like user stories, enablers, defects, etc.

Flow Time

Flow time measures the total time elapsed for all the steps in a workflow and is, therefore, a measure of the efficiency of the entire system.
Flow Time is typically measured from ideation to production. Still, it can also be useful to measure Flow Time for specific parts of a workflow, like committing to deployment, identifying opportunities for improvement, etc. Scrum Master can coach the team to measure specific team-related flow time.

Flow Time

Flow Load

Flow load indicates how many items are currently in the system. Keeping a healthy, limited number of active items by limiting work in process or limiting WIP is critical to enabling a fast flow of items through the system.

flow load

Flow Efficiency

Flow efficiency measures how much of the overall flow time is spent in value-added work activities vs. waiting between steps. This is one of the tough metrics to collect, however, Scrum Master can educate teams on this and measure for an iteration to find the efficiency of the flow.
It will be an eye-opener for the team to identify the inefficiencies in the team’s flow and correct it.

Flow Efficiency

b.Competency assessments like a team and technical agility like the one given below.

Team and technical agility self assessments

Scrum Master facilitates this assessment with the entire team as a learning activity to identify areas in which they are doing good and the areas that they need to improve as a team. This will help improve the team’s competency in agility.

c. Outcome metrics like iteration goals, contribution to ART PI objectives through team PI objectives, etc, as given in the below pictures.

d.Build quality in – coach the team on built-in quality practices and enable a built-in quality culture in the team. Scrum Master should understand and coach the teams on built-in quality practices like peer review, pairing, automation, building the quality vs. testing the quality and finding defects, etc.

Building High-performing teams

One of the key responsibilities of a Scrum Master is to build high-performing teams. Here are a few pointers to enable high-performing teams

a. Foster and support Agile team attributes like self-managing, collective ownership, accountability, team alignment, having clear goals and purpose, decentralized decision-making, providing timely and valuable feedback, highly engaging and fun at work, etc.
b. Encourage high-performing team dynamics like continuous flow, and relentless improvement, build an atmosphere of mutual respect, help resolve interpersonal skills, identify growth opportunities for team members
c. Become an effective Team coach by coaching Stakeholders, and non-agile teams on effective interactions with Agile teams, participating in the Community of Practice, and supporting SPC in organizational transformation,
d. Coach through powerful questioning like open-ended questions like

  • What brings us to this inquiry? What other possibilities or options exist?
  • What is it we’re not seeing?
  • What if it happens?
  • What if it doesn’t happen?
  • What do we need to do to reach a deeper level of understanding?
  • If success was guaranteed, what actions would you take?
  • What else?

e.Resolving team conflicts
f.Develop team’s skills like I- skill to T-skill and over a period to PI-skill, Comb-skill

Building High-performing teams

Improve ART Performance

Scrum Master is responsible to improve not only the team’s performance but also improve ART’s performance through the following activities

  1. Facilitate cross-team collaboration – align to ART PI Objectives, participate in System Demo, and Inspect & Adapt events
  2. Build trust with stakeholders – through the team’s PI objectives commitment and delivering predictably
  3. Coach IP iteration – NOT to use the iteration as an estimation buffer, but to dedicate time for innovation, continuing education, I&A events, and PI Planning
  4. Facilitate the I&A event by understanding the lean tools and facilitating the event with the tools like Five-whys, Fishbone analysis, Pareto analysis, dot voting, etc to find the root cause of the biggest problem and fix the root cause. Here are the sample Problem-Solving workshop steps.
Improve ART Performance

Summary

Having clarity on roles like Scrum Master and Scrum Master operating based on the roles and responsibilities is very essential for the team to be a truly agile team.
Images source: Scaled Agile, Inc. (https://www.scaledagile.com)

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