Agile Software Development

4 Things to Do before the Scrum Master Goes on Vacation

Vacations are a delight—for the people who get to have them. For everyone else who would normally be relying on that person’s work output, it can be a bit of a pain. In a post for Mountain Goat Software, Mike Cohn describes what to do to ensure work progresses smoothly when the scrum master takes time off:

  1. Find a replacement if the team is inexperienced or the absence is long.
  2. Clarify expectations with the team.
  3. Consider changing the sprint length.
  4. Consider providing emergency contact information.

Before Bon Voyage

Experienced teams will be able to get along just fine without the scrum master for a while, but in cases of inexperience or long time frames, you may want to seek a replacement. In fact, this could be an opportunity for someone else with interest in the scrum master role to take it for a test drive. Perhaps team members could even take turns being the scrum master for a day or so.

Next, the departing scrum master should make expectations clear that scrum should proceed as usual in his or her absence. All regular ceremonies should continue, because they exist for the benefit of the whole team, not just the scrum master. The scrum master should also concede that the team may have a harder time removing impediments to progress when he or she is not around. It is unfortunate but expected.

On very rare occasions, you may want to change the length of a sprint on an individual basis. For instance, if the team is very inexperienced and a scrum master will not be around during a scheduled review and retrospective—you may want to add an extra week to the sprint, so that the scrum master can be present. These scenarios are few and far between but worth watching out for.

Finally, it would be helpful for the scrum master to leave emergency contact information for at least one person. Actually contacting the person while he or she is on vacation should be treated as a last resort though.

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