Matt | 17 December 2019

29 Questions A New Scrum Master Should Ask Their Team

Starting a new role as a Scrum Master for any business can be daunting. Whether you are new to the Scrum Master role or have a wealth of experience, joining a new team means getting up to speed with new people, processes and products. In order to get a good idea of how your new Scrum team are operating, we’ve collated 29 questions for you to ask. This list of questions covers all the various topics you are likely to want to know more about, so gather your new Scrum team and ask away!

Typically, how long does the grooming of a user story take?
In the majority of cases, the grooming shouldn’t exceed one or two sprints. By asking this question, you will get a good idea of the teams’ typical timeframes.

How are user stories created? Are they written by the Product Owner and estimated by the team, or is it a joint effort?
It is quite common among Scrum teams for the Product Owner to become more like a technical writer of a user story and then the team estimate from this. It can often be beneficial for user story creation to be a team effort.

Where are user stories discussed?
Every Scrum team operates differently with their own habits, and it is vital you understand these when joining a new team. Find out if user stories are only discussed during grooming sessions or are they also discussed via comments on tickets or a platform such as Slack.

Is a “definition of ready” standard applied to user stories?
For all Scrum teams, this should be a standard practice, and if it is not, it can contribute to a volatile velocity.

If so, what is your criteria for “definition of ready”?
Most Scrum Master training courses will set the criteria for “definition of ready” as; there is a description available, acceptance criteria have been defined, the user story can be delivered within one sprint, UI deliverables are available, probable dependencies are identified, performance criteria and tracking is defined and the team has estimated the story.

Who is responsible for writing acceptance criteria, and what format is used?
It is vital to understand everyone’s responsibilities within the team.

How is the likely effort of a user story estimated?
Any idea of estimations is important.

Are estimations done in work-hours or story points?
Any form of estimation is beneficial; however, story points can benefit predictability and stakeholder communications.

How does the estimation process work within the team?’
This is often best observed in real life, but asking the question can give you a good indication of how the team estimate.

What is the typical distribution of story sizes within the spring backlog?
By asking this, you can begin to figure out where the team’s commitments lie based on spring backlog composition.

Are user stories re-estimated at the end of a sprint?
This should always be done in the case of a user story turning out to be very far off the original estimation.

How large is your current product backlog?
Asking this will give you a good idea of how the team are operating. A backlog that exceeds three or four sprints could be a sign that the Product Owner is in need of support.

Typically, what is the age of a user story in the product backlog?
This question will also help you understand the current team situation.

What is the average lead time for an idea being added to the product backlog to final delivery?
Your new Scrum team may struggle to answer this, but it is one of the only metrics that can indicate if agile has been successfully adopted in the organisation. Scrum Master training courses can help to understand this better.

Are there any user stories currently in the product backlog that none of the team is familiar with?
If this is the case, it can be worth re-estimating them with the current team to ensure accuracy.

How often is the product backlog groomed?
Typically, this should be done once a week but also depends on the state of the project.

How many user stories are being worked on in parallel during the backlog grooming?
A Scrum team should not be working on more user stories than can be handled within two or three sprints.

What was the velocity of the last three sprints?
Every Scrum team should be aware of their velocity.

How many user stories are not finished within one spring, and why?
If a team is regularly leaving user stories on the board because their estimations were wrong, then this can be cause for concern.

Are user stories changed once they become an item of a sprint backlog?
Making a user story larger after the spring planning stage is not acceptable, however making it smaller because the team ran into problems is acceptable.

What obstacles are the team currently facing?
This question can help indicate where your focus as a new Scrum Master should be.

Are there dependencies on other teams? If so, what are they?
It is vital to understand if the Scrum team is waiting for other teams to complete their tasks.

What are the three team goals for the project?
Discussing the goals with the team can help to bring out other goals that are not always obvious. This can help you to understand the team’s motivations and dynamics.

What key success factors are used to achieve team goals?
By discussing key success factors, project-level risks and issues can be identified.

What do the team members want to achieve from the project?
This question will give you a sense of each individual’s personal goals for the project.

What is the type of work environment that we want to create on the project?
This can open up discussions about how team members want to interact with each other in order to meet the project goals.

As a team, what more can be done to support each other to meet team goals?
As a Scrum Master, it is important that you understand how well the team work together.

What should be done when goals are not being achieved, and the team isn’t supporting each other?
Having this discussion early can help to understand how team members perceive various issues.

How should success in achieving the goals be celebrated?
The team should be able to visualise and expect success on the project. Having this conversation will help you to understand rewards that are meaningful to the team.

If you need more help getting to grips in a Scrum Master role, TSG Training is here to help. We offer a range of Agile and Scrum Master training courses to suit your needs. Get in touch to discuss your requirements and we’ll be happy to find you the most suitable training.