It’s finally hot outside, and plane tickets to Spain are cheaper. Relaxing by the sea or relaxing from these heatwaves in Norway means temporarily leaving your team. Even if you only leave for two weeks, it may be challenging for them. Or for you, if during your vacation instead of googling the opening hours for the closest bar you’re dealing with 20 missed calls. To make your absence (and return) easier for yourself and your team, plan it. If you don’t know how to do it, we will advise you on how to substitute the roles of a Scrum Master and Product Owner during vacations and how not to disturb the development.

Plan the date

Think about how your responsibilities will be dealt with during your vacation when choosing the date. If either  Scrum Master or Product Owner is on vacation, they can substitute each other, so try to have at least one of you available. If you have your substitute chosen, make sure that he will be available at the time of your vacation. Last but not least, try to select a date when the presence of a Scrum Master/Product Owner is not essential.

A well-played team does not need a Scrum Master

A team that’s well played should know how to function without a Scrum Master. If your team is responsible and understands the principles of Scrum, they should handle your short-term absence. By acting independently, their dynamics and relationships can be improved. A good idea is to prepare posters or cards with principles of Scrum that need to be fulfilled (if you don’t already have them stuck on the walls).

Delegate someone to a temporary Scrum Master role

The representative of the Scrum Master can also be the Product Owner. It is a person who knows the product, knows what is in the backlog and knows the principles of Scrum. They work with the team every day, just like you do. All this makes them a qualified substitute even in the event of unexpected problems.

Another option is to be represented by someone from the team. Ask who is interested in taking over your responsibilities temporarily. It should be someone who understands the Scrum principles, has good soft skills and has good relationships with other members of the team. If the team has been developing using the principles of Agile for some time, they will know, at least from the observation of how the Scrum Master behaves and what its role is.

How to substitute the Product Owner

The person who substitutes the Product Owner should be someone who knows the domain and also understands what agile development is. A good representative can be somebody from the customer, business analyst, or a stakeholder. Their direct participation in the development and collaboration with the team will strengthen relationships and provide a new perspective. Product Owner may be, if necessary, substituted by the Scrum Master. If the Scrum Master does not feel at home when it comes to the product, spend adequate time trying to prepare and make sure the Scrum Master understands the items that will be dealt with during the time of your absence.

Thorough preparation for your departure

Both the Scrum Master and the Product Owner have to prepare their substitute properly for their departure. By careful preparation, you will facilitate the work of your substitute and prevent any disruption to the effectiveness development. Try to think about the scenarios that could happen during the time of your absence and write down everything that might be needed for the development.

The substitute for the Scrum Master should:

  • know how to ensure daily activities,
  • have access to scrum tools,
  • sprint planning, review, or retrospectives:
    • organize and prepare meetings or presentations,
    • help determine the team’s capacity during the sprint,
    • know where to find reference user stories.

The Product Owner should ensure that before leaving on vacation:

      • there are enough items in your backlog for the time of your absence,
      • items are well and clearly described,
      • items have their order.

Longer absence? Try Kanban!

The easiest thing to do in summer is to switch to Kanban pull mode and not to sprint. Kanban applies continuous development, eliminating the need for sprint planning, review and retrospectives. The team is in an idle state, the pressure falls and allows the members to choose what to do and when to do it. The lack of more complicated planning will also enable us to focus on dealing with technological debt or research (more on Kanban here).

Changing to Kanban is often the ideal solution in summer, but be sure to consider how flexible your team is and how you can handle the implementation of a different way to manage the development. In ScrumDesk, we like to switch to Kanban mode in the summer. Both preparation and development go at their pace. However, this does not mean that we underestimate the preparations and discipline during the development, i.e. updating the board and communicating at least via Slack. The team has to be able to continue, even if some members are not available.

In conclusion: Common sense

In the time of absence of any team member, it is essential to use common sense. If you want to substitute the role of the Scrum Master or Product Owner, choose the method according to the current state of development and consider the circumstances. Sprint planning in a pair might be romantic but not sensible. Think about your team and their readiness and limits. If everyone has a responsible attitude and keeps a cool head, everything will be done according to plan and won’t disrupt the progress of development. And most importantly- no stress, problems can be solved on the go – applying Agile.