Our Work


Team Dynamics

By Chris Alfano on July 21, 2015
Hi, Chris here again, ILAO's ScrumMaster for the website rebuild. Today, we started our 20th Sprint and I have to say it's amazing how far we've grown and adapted to using Scrum. I want to take this opportunity to briefly discuss an integral aspect of Scrum: team dynamics. Like any team, a Scrum team is only effective when its members cooperate and work together. Illinois Legal Aid Online is a small organization, so we all knew each other and worked well together before we started using Scrum. Still, there are a few subtle techniques that I use as ScrumMaster to keep things running smoothly. Here's what I've got:
  • Make Sure Everyone Gets to Speak
As a facilitator, one of the most important roles of the ScrumMaster is to make sure that everyone has their say during daily Scrum meetings. The ScrumMaster should ensure that everyone's thoughts are heard by the group. Questions that go unheard or unanswered should be repeated so that they can be addressed by the group. If someone is making a face or looks uncomfortable with the course of discussion, I might ask for their thoughts. The magic, of course, making sure everyone's been heard all while keeping these time-boxed meetings on track and ending on time.
  • Avoid Undue Influence
Many Scrum teams have a natural tendency to defer to lead developer when taking on new stories or estimating story points. While the wisdom of the lead developer is unquestionably valuable, the thoughts of the other team members must be heard as well. The lead developer's influence is often strongly felt when voting on story points. Some ScrumMasters go to extremes, like isolating team members and recording their votes anonymously, I've found that counting down (3,2,1...) and voting at the same time is sufficient to avoid vote bias.
  • Use Webcams
Like many Scrum teams, some of our Development Team members connect to meetings remotely. I have mentioned the use of webcams before, but I'd like to reiterate how important they are to ensure a good experience for everyone during Scrum meetings. Webcams allow the in-person meeting participants to observe the remote-participants facial expressions and reactions. They also allow the remote participants to vote on story points at the same time as everyone else. By using a webcam, the remote participants are more than a disembodied voice – they can engage in the meeting as if they were there in person.
I hope these techniques will be useful to other new ScrumMasters. We're still learning as we go along, but after 20 Sprints we're starting to find our footing. We'll keep you updated as we continue to learn more about Scrum!
- Chris