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A GOOD SCRUM MASTER

The mission of SM

A good Scrum Master has a highly versatile personality, as his work is quite complex and mixed. A Scrum Master must be able to deal with all kinds of actors in a project or organization at the same time, while he / she needs to help and support team members so they can do their job as best as possible. Of course, we’re talking about Agile methodology support, as we take personal professionalism for granted until proven otherwise.

An SM deals with team building, the soul of people, harmony and developing self-organization. He / she supports business decision makers and provides analysis support.

All in all one forever basic mission for a Scrum Master should be “operation of transparency”.

Does an SM need developer experience?

Not really. In fact, whenever he / she interferes with technical issues, he / she ventures into a place that is not her playing field. This stands even if he / she thinks he / she knows the solution to an issue.

If an SM understands technologies so much he / she is able to give advice to stakeholders and developers, then, by all means he / she should do it full time, as it will add the greatest value to the product. But!  If one isn’t that sure of things, it’s better not to speak up on these issues. This will protect authenticity. 

At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to read on and find out what the world of development is up to and where it is headed. However, knowing about things (which is pretty important) is far from actually knowing how to do them.

Why is authenticity important? It all comes down to day to day work. Authenticity is the only true power and most important source of influence a Scrum Master has, as he / she has no formal power or authority to instruct. Meanwhile, he / she has to be able to get her colleagues to do things the Agile methodologically correct way.

The work of the Scrum Master is therefore neither technical nor technological, even if you work with such teams anyway.

It’s harder for graduates

A lot of my clients make the mistake of looking at Scrum Masters as junior project managers and labeling project management tasks as “SM” tasks.

Sometimes, when labeled this way, Scrum Masters are even sent to two-days crash courses to see if they’re learning something useful, thinking “At least they don’t drop out of work too much.”

However, once they get the international Scrum Master certification and try to actually do something, it soon turns out they have no life experience, no work experience, no real agile / scrum knowledge or worse… lack of proper attitude.

Then, often the whole methodology is labeled as another proverbial nonsense that makes just no sense and is of no use. Well, if organizations do it wrong, that’s a fact 🙂

However, this is not the methodology’s fault.

The SM work is extremely difficult (but not impossible!) for colleagues that’s just starting out the Agile way, because they encounter a load of problems that can be traced back to conflicts amongst people, between people and the organization, between the organization and different sub-organizations etc. These web of conflicts needs to be seen and the games of people working in them need to be understood.

That is why it is imperative for someone who works as a Scrum Master that they make a serious effort to use and understand everyday psychology, in addition to a great many things. Read psychology magazines as well, per say.

Don’t get me wrong, SMs don’t have to be therapists and psychologists. But they should be aware of psychological patterns of healthy adults working in everyday work environments, including conflicts and sources of stress in those work environments, as well as the identification and resolution of such issues.

SM and wages

How do we SMs produce value for our salary?
You might want to read my next blog post “Why Use Scrum Masters”. It provides clues as to how to calculate the cost, time, energy and value of a Scrum Master.

Good SMs learn till the grave

An SM needs to be able to learn fast as the methodology, like all knowledge, is changing fast and dynamically.

An SM must be aware of project and process management methodologies and theories other than Scrum and Agile as well. One needs to know and understand the logic and methodological knowledge his partner is thinking along.

In addition, SMs should quickly become aware of the domain in which they operate.

It is essential that you become aware of the specifics of the business environment as quickly as possible.

You need to have good analytical skills as you need to do a lot of observation and measurement to be able to draw in-depth conclusions and uncover the root causes of things.

You need to develop solution schemas for these triggers, and then some of these solutions need to be run through the system directly and you have to do it. You need to be able to collect and evaluate results and pass them on to management, make them see and understand more than what meets the eye, you need to understand and present things in such ways that everyone understands and accept them as objective knowledge.

Empathy, assertiveness, diplomacy

You as an SM have to be empathetic because you have to deal with people, you have to get people to work (methodologically) better.
You need to understand the problems of colleagues and stakeholders and recognize when people have hidden problems, maybe even sometimes agendas.

You need to know how to explore and / or see through problems in order to be able to support your team as an obstacle remover, coach and trainer.

A Scrum Master needs to be assertive because he / she has to stand up in different communication situations and maintain her credibility.
You need to have a good diplomatic eye, as you can’t attack organizational actors in project-level conflict situations, or even organizational conflicts, just because you want to protect your team.

Good…good, Excel or what?

So far, no matter what process support system have I come across, Excel and statistics have always been essential. AND there is already a great and easy to use, fast tool that helps us Scrum Masters to create value via a report without

Excel or any other platform: www.sprintreport.hu

The Patience dimension

You have to be very patient as well, because when you ask for something, it almost always involves a change on the part of other individuals or the organization, and that change often breeds resistance.

This resistance, although tempting, is often not to be overcome by force. Patience is needed, often special pedagogical patience.

Altruism

A Scrum Master must be selfless, because every result, every positive change, every development, every increase in efficiency, must always and exclusively be the merit of the team (no management or other actors).
This is true even if without the Scrum Master, these changes could not have been achieved by the team.

A good Scrum Master takes pleasure in making others more successful, skillful, faster and more efficient through their work. Therefore, he / she does not expect public recognition. You can get it, and you can be very happy about it, but that’s not why we do Scrum Mastery.

That’s why Scrum Masters also need to keep a little distance. If you become emotionally involved with your team, sooner or later, in the eyes of management you will become less credible.

If an SM is emotionally involved with the team, the temptation will sooner or later come to divert the focus of transparency and thereby unduly improve the team’s judgment.

English, literature

Knowledge of English is essential for Scrum Masters. The literature is almost always in English. SMs need to research, in fact, it is fair and above a certain level of expertise it is expected to provide useful content to the Agile professional community.

I came from America, famous…

Background is almost(!) irrelevant.
There are elements from all previous work experience that a Scrum Master can and should incorporate into the methodology.

For example, if someone was a coach, that can help them deal with individual problems, if someone was a salesperson, persuasion skills will come handy and if someone was a bricklayer, that can help them interpret plans and deal with clients.

I can’t come up with a profession that wouldn’t be helpful for someone as a Scrum Master.

Focus again

A Scrum Master should be able to stay focused. If we’re already doing the routine and the teams don’t have to deal with transition anymore because the basics are already working well enough, then, and only then, it is OK albeit contradictory (!) for a Scrum Master to take on two teams.

One Scrum Master, one team. This is the ideal setup.

Perspectives

Toward what future the Scrum Master can go on, what career paths he / she can have is very variable.

Some will be Agile Coaches, some will be transition experts and some will be organizational development or transparency managers, or… be the one of the best Scrum Masters available on the market. It really does not matter.

How much money they’ll make depends on their experience and personal development, their ability to create value and not on what position they currently hold. A veteran Scrum Master working dedicated with a team knows exactly how to connect Stakeholders with the team. And this is often worth more than anything a consultant may give.