The Titan of Transparency – your superhero Scrum Master

I have seen a lot of Scrum Masters with capes.  Well a lot of Scrum Master Cartoons with capes…and wizard robes. It’s inspiring and I know, I Know that Scrum Masters are super heroes.  What I don’t know is their super power. I know a good Scrum Master ‘when I meet one’ but that intangible quality has been a frustrating mystery to me over the years. When I made the shift into training and coaching I spent hours poring over the core materials that make up Scrum and other agile frameworks to understand them down to their bones.  And that’s when I found it. In the Scrum Guide, plain and clear.  The Scrum Master’s super power is transparency. They are the Titan of Transparency.  It was so clear I saw right through it.

One Question – Enormous Tracts of Transparency

The Scrum Master gets to ask and judge one question, ‘Are we doing Scrum?’.  It’s a common trap to think of it as a small one. Scrum is based on the pillars of Inspection, Adaptation and Transparency, a large field for that one question! It is also a proactive question.  While a newer team may need a Scrum Master’s focus on the basic of ceremonies, roles and artifacts, a reactive approach, an effective Scrum Master soon graduates to a proactive enabler, asking the questions ‘Are we doing Scrum?’ everywhere the work gets done. The Scrum Masters with ‘it’, that superhero gleam, are creating, promoting and preserving transparency across the process, artifacts, and culture.  Let’s explore some specific ways Scrum Masters champion transparency in the realm of Scrum Artifacts.

Artifact Transparency  

The Scrum Guide prescribes a few artifacts of note, the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog and the Increment (the working software). The Scrum Guide states

Scrum relies on transparency. Decisions to optimize value and control risk are made based on the perceived state of the artifacts. … To the extent that if the artifacts are incompletely transparent, these decisions can be flawed, value may diminish and risk may increase.”

Seems obvious enough…but we lose that focus in the day to day sprint toward our goal. The Scrum Master, Titan of Transparency, ensures that each of those artifacts, as well as any other artifacts the organization values in their Scrum process, are transparent.  Transparency really includes everything that makes the artifact useful in making decisions.  

  • Availability Can everyone who makes decisions find and access the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog and Increment?
  • Usability Is the artifact in a fit for purpose format?  Is it too complicated? Is it detailed enough?
  • Accuracy Is the artifact correct?  Are we showing an Increment that meets the definition of Done? Do decision makers know that definition? Is the Product Backlog up to date?
  • Understandability Does the artifact communicate clearly and concisely?  

Scrum Masters don’t wait to be told that artifacts aren’t working. The Scrum Guide explicitly lays out the sleuthing expectations:

A Scrum Master can detect incomplete transparency by inspecting the artifacts, sensing patterns, listening closely to what is being said, and detecting differences between expected and real results.”

Titans of Transparency notice things.  They notice when feedback increases, or decreases.  They notice who tends to be confused by the backlog, or, the commons patterns of how the team struggles in Product Backlog refinement sessions.  Innovative Titans (the ones with the capes) have even gone so far as meeting with Stakeholders one on one to ask probing questions when Sprint Reviews bring out gaps in the Increment versus stakeholder expectations.  They dig into The Product Backlog, and even the Increment itself to find out where things got cloudy and how they can be improved.

Act with Purpose – Get a Cape

The Scrum Guide is explicit in its expectations of Scrum Master service – to the team, the Product Owner and the Organization.  If you haven’t considered attaining the superpower of transparency, the Scrum Artifacts are a concrete place to start. Another thing to try is mapping the three regions of your Scrum Master domain – process, culture and artifacts – onto a whiteboard and adding shading where you see things becoming less transparent, or noting patterns as they appear.  A transparency map can help you track and activate!

However you decide to grow into your Titan of Transparency cape, the key is to act. Act with the purpose of increasing transparency in every place work is done. I doubt you will run out of places to look.

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