How Every ScrumMaster Should Deal With Attention Issues?

Ever been part of a team where team members didn’t pay attention to what was being communicated?

Yes, in Scrum teams also that happens. Especially in the Daily Stand-ups.

Team members don’t always pay attention to what other team member is saying.

Most people get this habit from their daily lives. They go to doctor and while talking to them, they’re checking their BlackBerry. The same people go to restaurant with their spouse and spend more time with their mobile device than their spouse.

They are just like that. Involved in something else when they’re with someone else.

No wonder that kind of people would want to do the same even when they are part of a scrum team.

That’s not acceptable.

As ScrumMaster, you must coach every team member about importance of attention.

Conversations are most important tools in agile frameworks. They get your work done. And you can’t have a conversation without your team members listening to one another with 100% of their attention.

Listening with intent and with 100% attention is what makes Scrum team successful. That becomes and impediment if not resolved early.

Non-listening frustrates people and they tend to lose interest in the project.

Scrum team members are also human beings with their strengths and weaknesses. Scrum team is a committed team and commitment works when every team member trusts and respects one another.

If that does not happen then Scrum processes might still be there but there won’t be a Scrum team.

As a ScrumMaster, coach your team members to listen. Re-state and coach again and again so that they get why it is important.

Your conversations show who you are. Let your conversations say you’re committed. Let the whole team get it sooner than later. If not, then you’re not doing the right job of a ScrumMaster.

The Most Important Trait of an Effective ScrumMaster

When it comes about being an effective ScrumMaster, I often give an example of orchestra. I conclude by saying, “If even one team member is out of sync, the produced software feature might be out-of-order. That’s an impediment the ScrumMaster must remove.”

(If you want to read about the orchestra example, please have a look at my ScrumAlliance Article and read point #6.)

A couple of days ago, I got an interesting counter argument on my above mention.

The argument was: The ScrumMaster herself may not have required skills to bring the team member back in sync so she needs to empower the team and otherwise it may take more time etc.

My point of view: ScrumMaster does not have required technical skills? So What?

The Most Important Trait of an Effective ScrumMaster

Sure, the ScrumMaster may not have all the required skills to solve the problem but the most important trait of an effective ScrumMaster is to lead without a title and cause the right change.

ScrumMaster would have many impediments to deal with. Not enough technical skills…not enough authority…no access to needed resources. ScrumMaster would have tons of constraints.

Nonetheless, the ScrumMaster needs to presume the responsibility of the situation and influence respective persons to make things happen.

For example, consider this impediment: Because of a system failure, payroll will be processed 4 days later and hence salaries would be delayed by 4 days. A key team member has house loan installment to pay. Since the key team member is stressed fearing what will happen if he would miss the installment date, he’s not able to concentrate. Now in this situation, ScrumMaster has almost no expertise or authority to resolve the problem with Payroll department.

Regardless, the ScrumMaster may choose to communicate with respective persons and figure out the alternative ways by which the key team member’s loan installment issue can be resolved. Whenever anything is going wrong with the team members – either directly related with work or otherwise – ScrumMaster has to take the right actions and help the team member to focus on the work the team member has committed.

Obviously there could be more than one way to solve this problem but the bottom line remains the same – The ScrumMaster has to facilitate the team, remove the impediments and help the team focus to carry out the work they have committed.

That’s what effective ScrumMasters choose to do. They do it by presuming the responsibility and causing the right actions. Their ways may vary, though.