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7 USE CASE questions for Scrum Master

These USE CASE interview questions provide a situation and a challenge for the team. The questions test the ability of the Scrum Master to effectively help the Scrum Team to deal with the challenge. For each question, we provide a few important points that the interviewer is looking for in the answers.

Assume a stable team with people working on individual tasks in isolation. They strive to deliver every sprint what they promised, but the reality is that they often have a lot of work incomplete. How would you help the team improve?

Looking for: probing questions about team’s composition, number of people, specific expertise or role on the team, how work items are broken down and assigned to team members; looking for conversation around team’s commitment, selecting work that fits into available capacity, and using past performance as a measure for capacity; also, team working as aggregate of individuals and not as a team.

Example: suggest to establish a team’s Work-In-Progress limit to force team members to collaborate. Stop assigning individual work, and rather let team members self-organize on who is doing what. Use the Daily Scrum to sync on progress and decide what to do next.

Your team is not implementing the action items agreed as result of Retrospectives. What do you do?

Looking for: servant leadership rather than command-in-control; empowerment of team members to own their own improvement; activities the Scrum Master can do to guide the implementation of action items and check progress.

Your new team consists of people distributed across different countries that work remotely and have never met in person before. What challenges may this team face that may impact their productivity?

Looking for: understanding of work complexities in a remotely distributed environment compared to a co-located team; need for extra effort to share updates and sync on progress of the work; understanding that geographical distance may create barriers to people feeling part of a team rather than working individually.

Your team is in the middle of a Sprint, and your boss requests to add more User Stories to the Sprint. How do you manage the additional work load?

Looking for: understand of impact of extra work on team’s commitment for the Sprint; using an Interrupt Buffer to help the team create sustainable commitments when work load changes; coaching the boss about how to manage changes of priorities with the Product Owner.

This is your first week as Scrum Master with a new team. What is one of the first things you make sure you do? Why?

Looking for: understanding of the Scrum Master’s role and responsibilities within the team; understanding the need to establish safe space and understanding of team’s dynamics before affecting change.

A team member calls you privately and shares that she is having a conflict with another team member, and that the other person is extremely disrespectful to her. She needs help because otherwise she is leaving the team. What do you do?

Looking for: understanding that interpersonal conflicts can cause reduction of productivity and may affect the entire team; need to have private conversations with people involved; facilitate conversation and possible resolution of conflict.

You just started working with a team who shares with you that they find the Retrospective a waste of time. After a conversation with the team, they agree to give it another try. How do you prepare for Retrospective and how does your agenda look like for the event?

Looking for: understanding the need to be prepared, and that not all Retrospectives should be the same; also, involvement of the team in deciding how to make the event more effective, rather than forcing a solution on them.

Example of agenda: Use the five step structure of the Retrospective:

1) Set the stage, 2) Gather data, 3) Generate insights, 4) Decide what to do, 5) Close. Prepare ahead of time (the day before) a list of exercises or activities for the team members to do at each of these steps. Guide the team members through the process and towards identifying action items to make Retrospectives more effective for them.

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