How Scrum Masters can use OKRs to better serve the Organisation

Scrum Master mentoring the team around her

Introduction

I think it’s fair to say that anyone who has worked in – or understands the concept of – Scrum, will have an appreciation for the magnitude of a Scrum Master’s role and responsibilities.

A Scrum Master is tasked with casting a watchful eye over all members of the team, reporting seamlessly on the work to do, the work in progress and the work that’s been done.

Additionally the Scrum Master operates in service to the Product Owner, the Development Team and the Organisation.

If you’re familiar with Scrum, chances are you’re also familiar with OKRs, but for those of you who are not; OKRs are used as a way of installing and maintaining a mindset and culture at all levels of the organisation, based around alignment, transparency, fast data-driven decision making, focus on desired outcomes, and connecting different parts of the organisation to each other.

The purpose of this short insight is to demonstrate the ways in which a Scrum Master can use OKRs to improve how they serve the Organisation, Product Owner and Development Team.

The Product Owner

The Scrum Master acts in service to the Product Owner, helping the team to stay on top of product backlog items and rigorously campaigning to get maximum value out of the work not yet done.

In many ways the role of a Scrum Master is similar to that of an orchestral conductor, arranging all the moving parts of a team through effective Product Backlog Management and event facilitation, as well as helping to develop an empirical understanding of individual accountability within the team towards the long-term goals.

What OKRs bring to the table here is helping the Scrum Master to understand what should be prioritised on, because they are fundamentally focusing you on the outcomes that you’re trying to achieve.

OKRs are set out to demonstrate the impact of work, highlighting what activities (or features) will yield the most impact toward the outcome. This enables the Scrum Master to make an informed economic decision as to where the Product Owner should focus their efforts and prioritise activities accordingly.  

The Development Team

The Scrum Master’s service to the Development Team is not too dissimilar from their responsibility to the Product Owner, being primarily focused around productivity and performance, in order to effectively facilitate the development of high-value products.

A crucial aspect of managing the team’s productivity and performance is helping them to gather and maintain an understanding of the scope of work alongside the goals they’re trying to achieve.  

One of the biggest challenges most Development Teams have that we’ve worked with, is they don’t seem to have a clear understanding of the goals, and end up in what’s called a ‘feature factory’. 

What OKRs help with in this scenario is creating transparency and alignment between teams, so that the Development Team has a clear understanding of the added-value the work they’re doing is bringing to the overall goals.

By using OKRs, Scrum Masters can help the Product Owner articulate to the Development Team the impact and outcomes, alongside Key Results (measures of success), they’re trying to achieve. 

Product Owners can present proposed quarterly OKRs to the Development Team and ask their opinions of what should be done in order to achieve those goals and where the most impact will be made, encouraging the team to take ownership of the work and have a clear apprehension of not just the goals, but how the goals deliver added-value.

The Development Team can then work more effectively towards the goals and in alignment with the organisation. 

The Organisation

This leads us fittingly into the ways in which the Scrum Master provides service to the organisation.

Primarily the Scrum Master’s role here is to help the organisation successfully adopt Scrum, have a better understanding of the Scrum Framework and implementation of Scrum practices (Sprints, Retros, Standups etc).

But in a more figurative way, we could look at the role as being centralised around effective Stakeholder Management.

It’s the Scrum Master’s job to help stakeholders understand the process that the various teams in the organisation are going through in order to achieve the outcomes that have been laid out by senior stakeholders.

An image depicting how OKRs can be integrated into Scrum principles
1ovmany – How OKRs can be integrated with Scrum principles

 

In this respect, OKRs are perfect for translating to the rest of the organisation what the Scrum Team is doing and how they’re helping the Product Owner and Development Team achieve outcomes, by outlining Objectives and the Key Results that will sequentially lead them toward achieving the organisational goals.

Another key takeaway is that if Scrum Masters help teams to develop and articulate their OKRs, it gives them the ability to communicate to the wider organisation in a much more succinct, collaborative and understandable manner, so as to improve decision-making and rationale towards the organisational objectives; where to prioritise and where to de-prioritise.  

Start harnessing the potential of OKRs

If you’re a Scrum Master and need a ready-to-use template for introducing your team and organisation to OKRs, try downloading our OKR Canvas.

The 1ovmany OKR Canvas is a facilitation tool for groups to create OKRs with greater confidence and remain aligned to the organisational strategy.

Alternatively, register your interest in our Training Programs, and discover how 1ovmany can take you to new heights with OKRs!

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