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My Scrum Master cliff-notes: Risks and how to mitigate them in Agile

This is another entry in a series of posts that covers different aspects relating to Scrum, being a Scrum Master, and everything Agile. These are the notes that I have taken during my journey and self-growth to understanding different perspectives and approaches in the Agile community.

Whether it is a Waterfall or Agile project there will always be risks involved. This article will cover just a few of the common risks found in Agile Projects. Also, as a Scrum Master I will discuss how the use of Scrum ceremonies can help in continuously mitigating current or future risks.

Risks in Agile Projects

Scope Creep

Issues that can cause scope creep:

  • User stories not being properly developed (lack of clear or presence of the WHY!)
  • Product Owner adds work as the team progresses (Scrum Master needs to support the Product Owner and be made aware of when the injection of work deviates from the plan)
  • Changes in priorities (Make sure management is made aware of the impact on project scope and timeline of the originally planned)

Some ways to prevent the issues above:

  • Proper development of acceptance criteria and appropriate specifications
  • Monitoring current project progress against the scope
  • Make sure that the team understands the requirements for current and future phases

Timeline Issues

Errors that can occur when dealing with timelines:

  • Additional days are taken off by team members (extra days off, sick days, etc...)
  • Production issues that can cause delay
  • Lack of account for feedback time/hand-offs between teams or stakeholders
  • Lack of testing time allocated

Managing Risks with Scrum Ceremonies

Agile methodologies inherently is able to reduce risk: short iterations to product/feedback and deviations from product expectations is minimized by having the Scrum Master support the Product Owner involvement in each Iteration.

As a Scrum Master here are a few of the Scrum Ceremonies that help reduce risk:

  • Release Planning - The train addresses all risks during the planning and go through the R.O.A.M exercise at the program level
  • Daily Scrum - This meeting inherently allows for impediments and roadblocks are discussed that may become risks, which also allows the Scrum Master a chance to mitigate those risks.
  • Sprint Retrospective - Issues from the past Iteration are discussed, which helps identify possible future risks and helps to determine with the team ways to prevent those risks from re-occurring.


There will always be some degree of risk involved. Here are a few categorizations:

  • high or low impact
  • positive or negative outcomes
  • helpful or harmful

When Agile methodologies are implemented correctly it will inherently help to reduce risk. By working in short Iterations it shortens the time between project completion and feedback from management and stakeholders. This constant product feedback helps mitigate the risks between product expectations and the completed product.

Exclusive 💬

Jonathan Ray

About author

Agile Enthusiast | Certified Scrum Master | Agile Coach

As a SAFe Advanced Certified Scrum Master (SASM), he has successfully (and concurrently) coached and led multiple teams under SAFe. He is a firm believer in agile methodologies as the means to build happy and effective teams, delivering business value early, and supporting people and organizations to improve their work flow. He has helped in leading Agile transformations and worked in Agile environments with a focus on achieving an Agile culture that supports: trust and growth, transparency, and systems thinking.
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