The Value of One-on-Ones

During a recent client engagement, I advocated that Scrum Masters schedule one-on-ones with their team members. Afterwards I was approached by a Scrum Master who was curious as to the “why” behind this recommendation. He thought the purpose was to receive feedback and answer questions regarding the Scrum Process. His assumptions were correct, but he only touched the surface, so I thought I’d dive a little deeper.

The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum team. They serve the development team in self-organization and cross-functionality – through training, mentoring and coaching. Great Scrum Masters want to help grow the team, enforce accountability and encourage productivity, and empower collaboration. 

Essentially, the Scrum Master is the team coach.

A One-on-One session is an extremely efficient technique to:

  • Connect with people
  • Uncover impediments
  • Learn of problems early on
  • Provide space for feedback and coaching
  • Teach the Scrum Framework
  • Gain insight into how the SM can improve

One final note – spending one-on-one time with a person sends the message that the person is valuable.  When the focus is on understanding team members’ concerns and helping them be productive, the SM is also building trust. . .which is KEY for high performance.

Outward one-on-ones

The technique is not only useful for team members. I often recommend that Scrum Masters schedule regular one-on-ones with the managers of their team members. This is NOT a complaint session nor focused on airing dirty laundry.

Instead, you establish a partnership where you both are helping each team member, and the overall team, be the best they can be. This also helps the manager increase the effectiveness of their own one-on-ones with team members.

Wrapping Up

There is a wonderful book related to one-on-one’s called Behind Closed Doors by Esther Derby and Johanna Rothman.

And here’s a more recent article by Johanna –

Both provide advice that you might find useful.


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