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A graphic to introduce the scrum master article

A portrait of Kris Sugatan

Kris Sugatan
CEO & Founder | Sugatan
February 16, 2022

How A Scrum Master Takes Performance To The Next Level & Why Your Business Needs One

For a long time I was stuck as the person who figured out the high-level what and how. I was the communication facilitator that pushed performance on most of our accounts that we took under our wing while also being the CEO/Founder running the agency’s operations. 

Basically, I strategized, executed, and facilitated everything, working 12 to 14-hour days, 7 days a week.

And after an 80-hour work week, I still felt guilty for not having done enough, because no matter how many hours I put in, I fell behind.

Then an interviewee introduced me to Agile & Scrum through watching one of his hiring tests where he introduced that the concept could work inside Sugatan.

I became obsessed with this framework because I understood that this was what Sugatan’s performance team needed to operate and produce creatives in a scalable way while adapting to actual performance on an agile basis. 

Successful implementation, however, was a whole ‘nother story. 

I struggled to implement Agile globally inside the agency for almost 2 years, mostly because I didn’t hire an expert. Instead, I tried to learn it on my own and roll it out in the agency (critical mistake).

Once the opportunity came around to implement it a third-time ‘round, I did what I should’ve done in the beginning: 

Identify a Head of Agile Transformation to oversee its global implementation throughout all accounts and hire a Digital Marketing Scrum Master.

Now, you can seek a Head of Agile Transformation candidate but I ended up promoting someone from within–Maryna Taiberman, who is also our Director of Graphic Ads.

Today, I have a high-performance team that is working in-sync, ebbing and flowing with the various changes within the market, algorithms, and the businesses we serve. 

I can now focus on growing the business and delivering the highest value to clients, teams, and our communities while the Agile & Scrum machine improves on its own. 

And so, you’re used to us sharing our marketing and media buying strategies by now. However, this time, I’m sharing an operational hack that will support your business’s growth internally, that took me 2 years to do successfully.

As always, the advice we offer is based on our own experiences, so trust us when we say hiring Nicolas Perez, our Scrum Master, was a total game-changer for Sugatan’s high-performance efficiency. 

We’ve now implemented Agile and Scrum frameworks in every department throughout the agency and it has leveled up our innovation and speed of execution while simultaneously reducing friction. 

So, let’s dive into exactly how a Scrum Master takes performance to the next level and why your business needs one. 

 

What does “scrum” mean?

The word “scrum” originates from a sport called rugby, where a scrum is a formation of players. They coined the term for organizational use because it represented teamwork. 

Essentially, the scrum framework helps teams work together to generate the highest value by solving complex problems in an agile way. 

It encourages people to learn through and from experiences, reflecting on the wins and losses to keep improving.

 

What is a scrum framework?

Yes, it’s true that we usually associate scrum frameworks with software development teams. However, its standards and lessons can apply to just about any team. That’s why scrum has seen such a surge in popularity. 

You might have heard the words “agile” and “scrum” used almost synonymously. 

Agile is a mindset, described by 5 values, defined by 8 principles, and manifested as a number of practices; one of those practices being scrum.

 

What is the Agile mindset?

 

A graphic of the agile mindset

A graphic of the agile mindset

 

The 5 values of Agile

A graphic of the 5 Agile values

 

Agile’s 8 principles

 

A graphic of the 8 Agile principles

Source: Sugatan’s Internal Agile Training Deck

 

The scrum framework

Scrum is an Agile project management framework that encompasses a set of tools, meeting methods, and roles that all work together to help teams structure, manage their tasks, and remove impediments. 

While strategists work on the “what,” a Scrum Master figures out the best “how.” It is a framework that improves overall project management. 

There are 3 essential pillars at the core of scrum.

  1. Inspection
  2. Transparency
  3. Adaptation

Once a team has been defined and roles assigned, you need to define specific goals or KPIs. The scrum framework promotes collaboration, responsibility, transparency, and repeated development towards the goals. 

The benefits of implementing a scrum framework are that teams can learn from their experiences, organize themselves autonomously when working on problems, and learn to improve on any past successes or failures. 

The scrum steps

It’s the framework we follow to ensure that we prioritize every task based on our KPIs and goals. After all, you need to set expectations of what you want to achieve, in order to design the roadmap (tasks), that will get you there. 

The scrum framework helps us split big hypotheses or assumptions (themes) into smaller tasks (epics and stories), enabling us to review, adjust, and improve along the way by working in increments.

A typical scrum framework looks like this:

A graphics showing the scrum process

Project Backlog
They usually refer to this as “product backlog” in software development, but due to the project-based nature of our business, “project” is more suitable. A project backlog is an essential piece of the scrum process that helps teams prioritize the most important assumptions that need to be executed. The backlog comprises hypotheses that are later on turned into themes, epics, stories, and tasks.

Sprint Planning
Specific tasks are planned weekly. These tasks contribute incrementally to the testing of high-level assumptions that were identified in the project backlog stage. This process helps build towards the project’s overall success by always working on the most important items.

Sprint Backlog
Similar to the project backlog, teams get together to decide on smaller tasks that will allow them to test their project backlog assumptions through iterations. This includes every task and item that needs to be completed to meet the project’s goals.

Daily Scrum
The team meets daily to ensure everyone is on track and to address any issues. Team members can remove impediments quickly by implementing daily cross-functional communication. 

Sprint Review
At the end of each sprint, the team assesses whether they met their goals and discusses possible future improvements.

Sprint Retrospective
This is an essential part of the scrum framework. Team members get together and discuss how their last sprint went. Other than data, teams focus on relationships, tools, and processes. The scrum team identifies areas for improvement, celebrates victories, and embraces failures to learn and improve in future sprints. 

 

What is a Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master is like a scrum facilitator, who makes sure the team understands and follows the scrum framework. 

This person needs to commit to the scrum values and principles, while also remaining flexible and open to opportunities for the team to take workflow to the next level. 

It is essential that they act as a servant leader. This means they are not any type of manager or doing any kind of micromanaging; they simply communicate the importance of accountability and establish a clear understanding of the scrum framework while supporting the Scrum Team to remove any execution impediments. 

The Scrum Master always has the team’s best interests at heart. They try to get the best out of each individual within the framework.

There are 4 clearly defined roles inside Sugatan’s scrum framework. 

  1. Stakeholders
  2. Project Owner
  3. Scrum Master
  4. Scrum Team

Take note, these are not job titles, but functions or roles. For example, the Scrum Team can comprise graphic designers, video editors, media buyers, and copywriters (as it is in our agency).

The Project Owners are the ones who deal with stakeholders, such as the CMO, Founder/CEO, or Head of Growth. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what each role can entail.

A graphic showing what the scrum team does

A graphic showing the responsibilities of the project owner

A graphic showing what the scrum master does

A Scrum Master works with every member of the team to direct and coach them as they navigate the scrum framework.

 

The Scrum Master’s responsibilities

It takes time for a team to get used to Agile processes and tools, so depending on the level of “interference” your team requires, a Scrum Master’s involvement can vary. 

Here’s a list of responsibilities a Scrum Master might take on.

  1. Facilitate daily standups or the “daily scrum.”
  2. Take part in sprint planning meetings to ensure the team sets achievable goals.
  3. Take part in sprint reviews and collate feedback.
  4. Find areas for improvement and decide on the action items needed for future sprints.
  5. General administration to ensure scrum tools are being used effectively.
  6. 1-on-1 meetings with team members and founders to iron out disagreements about processes and work styles. 
  7. Internal consulting to ensure top-level staff members know how best to work with the scrum team.
  8. Facilitating workflow improvements where needed. 
  9. Ensuring that the scrum team is always buzzing with work and eliminating any obstacles.
  10. Constant work with the project owner to ensure a high-quality product and sprint backlog.
  11. Identifying areas of improvement in individuals and coaching them for constant improvement.

They create stability out of chaos. They’re stabilizers and unifiers who bring the entire team together and get them on the same page.

 

Stabilizers & Unifiers vs. Innovators & Producers

If you didn’t know this about Sugatan already, we’re big advocates for personality tests–especially when it comes to hiring a kick-ass performance team. 

One test we always refer to is called the PSIU Assessment. It places people in four categories, as seen below.

A graphic explaining the 4 PSIU personasHere’s an extract explaining what each of these quadrants represents.

The language we use to describe each of the quadrants is “PSIU,” which stands for the Producing, Stabilizing, Innovating, and Unifying forces:

  • The Producing Force is what makes things produce results. When an individual or team shows a high drive to accomplish the day-to-day work and achieve short-term goals by remaining focused on what to do now, that’s the Producing Force in action.
  • The Stabilizing Force is what makes things controllable. When an individual or team is focused on bringing order out of chaos and producing high-quality work down to the details by remaining focused on how to do things the right way, that’s the Stabilizing force in action.
  • The Innovating Force is what makes things adapt. When an individual or team is focused on finding creative solutions to complex problems, disrupting the status quo, and is asking “why not do it this way?” that’s the Innovating force in action.
  • The Unifying Force makes things respond as a whole. When an individual/team is focused on who is doing what, is empathetic and seeks harmony, teamwork, and connection with others, that’s the Unifying force in action.

(Organizational Physics, 2022)

As you might have gathered from the responsibilities of a Scrum Master, the ideal person for the job would be someone who has strong Unifying and Stabilizing forces.

In contrast, the production team would consist of Innovators and Producers.

 

The relationship between a Scrum Master and project manager/owner

It’s essential for a project manager to be involved with the goings-on of the production team, but sometimes their involvement might hinder instead of helping their team. 

A project manager might set and track timeframes, milestones, progress reports, and coordinate team communication. However, those are ways of keeping control in the traditional sense of management. 

The project manager or owner focuses more on the WHY of a project, whereas the Scrum Master focuses on the HOW, relating to the processes the team follows in order to reach the project’s goals. 

A Scrum Master can help balance the downfalls of having to change direction on a project with the advantages of efficiency. They’ll do this by helping their team self-organize to reach the project’s goals. 

The Scrum Master helps the team enhance and streamline processes to help them achieve their goals. They are on equal footing with the rest of the team, so they act more like a collaborator and facilitator, and not as someone controlling who is in charge. 

 

Why is a Scrum Master essential in a remote team?

Sugatan is a fully remote agency and some of our teams who work together daily are situated thousands of miles apart. 

It’s important for us to maximize efficiency and workflow because we don’t have the luxury of just peeking over a desk divider to get the ball rolling on a project.

When you’re managing a remote team of over 50 employees, a Scrum Master comes in handy to help organize teams, schedule regular scrum meetings, and catch-ups, and show them how to self-organize using tools like Asana, Trello, Miro, or Figma

It frees up time for the innovators and producers in your organization, AKA the managers and project owners, to focus on their own roles instead of having to spend hours in meetings or focusing on people management. 

That being said, it won’t benefit your business to hire a Scrum Master if you don’t intend on committing to the scrum framework operationally. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of deal. 

 

In conclusion

When you have a Scrum Master on your team, every micro team in your organization will start reaching some serious goals. 

Silos will start disappearing while cross-functional collaboration and communication increase drastically. 

You’ll not only keep track of goals and progress more efficiently, but ensure the team is constantly learning from victories and defeats to increase performance.

On top of ensuring regular, epic value for your clients and/or customers, your staff and managers will be able to focus on what they do best. 

Strategists can focus on innovating, media buyers can test ads like there’s no tomorrow, and Kathy from sales can bag that new lead.

If you’d like to know more about running a business, why not check out these articles?

4 Qualities of a Successful Founder
The Start-up Starter Kit
How to Scale a Brand from $0 to $100k Monthly Revenue

 

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