9 Ways to Identify the “Perfect” Scrum Master

Preamble

Is there such a thing as a perfect Scrum Master? Likely not, because of course we are all human and not perfect beings. However, we can make a case for skills that contribute to becoming a perfect Scrum Master.

In 2017, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland updated the Scrum Values document, and in a video that same year discussed the changes they were making. They talked at length about the Scrum Master role. To quote Ken Schwaber, “It’s a very tough job”.

The 2018 new Scrum Guide states:“The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide”.

In short, the Scrum Master (SM) serves the Product Owner, the Development Team, and the Organization. This involves facilitating Scrum events, coaching and educating, removing impediments, and much more. It is safe to say that successfully undertaking those relational interactions requires good people-oriented behaviours, or soft skills.

We may not normally think of Scrum Mastering in the same breath as soft skills, but a discussion lead me to consider this. A colleague stated that a good Scrum Master must understand 4 things: the business s/he works in, the technology s/he works with, Agile and Scrum principles, and, most importantly, people! Based on his experience, he was adamant that Scrum Master certification is not enough – that soft skills should be part and parcel of their training.

How can some of these soft skills be taught?

The Certified Scrum Master Training

The first thing a CST can do is model soft skills in his/her training class: treat all the attendees with respect, be clear about the goals of training, listen and be attentive to questions and concerns, create a safe learning environment, demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness. Modelling these behaviours is one way a CST can teach without words.

But in two days, is role-modelling enough? Let’s look at the Scrum Guide for clues. “When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and build trust for everyone.” http://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide

How much are these values discussed in training? What does “courage” or “openness” look like? In-depth discussion, with examples/activities of each of those values/ skills, could go a long way in teaching soft skills.

Scrum Masters can be guided through specific exercises that help them understand and practice the Scrum Values of courage, openness, respect, commitment, focus. As well, specialized skills can be taught, including leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, compassion and more.

I recommend a video called “Agile and Scrum Soft Skills Needed to Drive Process Success” which provides helpful guidance:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owa1fftIfzA&t=7s

9 Best Skills for the “Perfect” Scrum Master

After polling the readers of the REALagility Newsletter, I’ve put together this list of skills that many of us believe every Scrum Master should strive for:

  1. Listening well – to your team, your organization and especially your stakeholders
  2. Empathy, friendliness and respect – builds a collaborative culture
  3. Trust – you do what you say, walk the talk, and create safety
  4. Openness and transparency
  5. Identify and help solve problems
  6. Create a learning environment – for continuous learning and improvement
  7. Show courage – remember Schwaber’s “It’s a very tough job!”
  8. Support team, team members, PO and CEO! – why the CEO? S/he has to be on board with the changes and growth.
  9. Be service-oriented/team-first attitude – it’s not about you; it’s about serving the people and the process. This is why Scrum Masters are often called “servant-leaders”.

Post Script

Additionally traits that readers added: “Altruistic”, “has humor/fun-loving”, “proactive”, “easy-going & strict”, “can cheat”!


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