Agile best practice

4 min read

A Scrum Master's 7-Point Retrospective Checklist

Thu Sep 14 2023
Richard Cheng
Written by Richard Cheng, Agility Trainer, Coach, Consultant, Founder

One question that often arises is, “What are the indicators of a highly effective Scrum Master?" When striving to become an exceptional Scrum Master, consider the following:

  • Identify Repeated Mistakes: While occasional mistakes are expected, it is important for the Scrum Master to collaborate with the team to identify recurring mistakes. By implementing policies and practices, the team can prevent these mistakes from happening again.
  • Address Systemic Issues: If the team consistently encounters the same issues, the Scrum Master must recognize the presence of systemic problems. Working with the team, the Scrum Master can establish countermeasures to prevent these issues from reoccurring.
  • Measure Improvements Over Time: Are we continuously improving as a team? Assess whether the team is more effective now compared to prior periods, such as 6, 9, and 12 months ago. Similarly, consider if the team will be better in the future. If progress stalls, it may be necessary to reevaluate the effectiveness of the Scrum Master.

If your team is progressing across all three of these areas, that’s a great sign that the Scrum Master is effective and that the team is learning and improving.

To drive continuous improvement, the Scrum Master should utilise the retrospective. The retrospective is a Scrum event conducted after the Sprint Review to evaluate and adapt the process and the team's ability to deliver products effectively. During this session, the Scrum Master guides the team in celebrating successes and exploring areas for improvement.

Outlined below is a 7-step checklist used by Scrum Masters during retrospectives to address problems:

  1. Discuss the Problem: In the retrospective, the Scrum Master facilitates a discussion to identify the main challenges faced by the team.
  2. Assess Impact: Determine the urgency and impact of the problem. Immediate action may be required for highly impactful issues, while less pressing matters can be addressed later.
  3. Identify Root Causes: Understanding the root cause allows the team to gain deeper insights and generate potential solutions.
  4. Generate Solutions: Once a significant problem is recognized, the Scrum Master guides the team in brainstorming solutions to address the issue.
  5. Implement Solutions: This step is carried out in the subsequent retrospective. The Scrum Master ensures that the proposed solutions are tried and tested.
  6. Evaluate Initial Results: Assess the effectiveness of the implemented solution. Did it fix the problem, make it worse, or have no effect?
  7. Determine Next Steps: Based on the results, decide whether the problem is resolved or if further action is needed. This may involve continuing with the current solution or pivoting to a different approach.

For example, let's consider a team struggling with high defect rates. Their defect rates surpass both the organisation's average and industry standards. Here's how the 7-step checklist could be applied:

Step 1: In the retrospective, the Scrum Master raises the issue of high defect rates for discussion.

Step 2: The Product Owner shares feedback from the help desk team, highlighting customer complaints and the negative impact on sales.

Step 3: After deliberation, the team recognizes that many defects are missed during manual testing and identifies the lack of test automation as a contributing factor.

Step 4: A team member with experience in automated testing proposes implementing unit-level automated testing practices.

Step 5: In the subsequent retrospective, the team reports applying the new unit testing practices to all their work during the sprint.

Step 6: The team acknowledges that the automated tests identified six defects that would have otherwise been missed.

Step 7: The team agrees to continue using automated unit testing practices and plans to expand to integration-level testing as more of the codebase is covered.

By utilising this 7-step checklist, Scrum Masters can effectively leverage retrospectives to address recurring mistakes, resolve ongoing issues, and foster continuous growth and improvement within their teams.

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