Scrum masters are the spiders in the agile web. They coach the development team and remove their impediments. They spread scrum throughout the company. They teach customers how to work with their company using scrum. And they advice the product owner how to collaborate best with all people involved. In my trainings, I always show the below image from Roman Pichler, which shows these responsible in a simple and clear way:
Now with all these monkeys on his shoulder, what makes a good scrum master?
The scrum training programs of both Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org have the Scrum Master training as their first step. A scrum journey can also start with the certified scrum developer training or the product owner training, but the scrum master training gives people the overview of the framework. Because of that, most people who start with scrum will join this program. What many people fail to realize is that the essence of the 2-day training is teaching people the above.
People who come to the training in order to become true scrum masters in their organization, need to understand the importance of their role. They need to realize that not only should they thoroughly understand the framework and gain experience using it. They should also do all of the above. Scrum tells us to have 1 scrum master per team because the role is much more than facilitating the work of a team. So that’s the first thing you’re looking for in a scrum master, the understanding of the weight of the role.
The second thing you’re looking for is ‘empathy’. As the scrum master needs to interact with many different people at different levels, he (or maybe even better: she) should be good at understanding what drives each person. Empathy means the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person. Through empathy, a scrum master creates positive relationships and is able to make scrum work at different levels.
The third thing is training and coaching skills. The scrum master should be able to do trainings at different levels to make people understand the scrum framework and the roles. He should also be a good coach. This is important because a team lead hands out tasks. A team lead solves problems for team members. But a scrum master coaches people to solve their own problems. A scrum master coaches the team to self-select the work they can commit to and then helps them do it.
The fourth thing is understanding of technology. Now I put this fourth because I believe it comes after the first three. It helps a scrum master if he understands the world of a developer. He will gain respect and can more easily help solve impediments. At the same time, it can become an impediment. The scrum master may do coding himself or prescribe solutions to developers. So I’d rather have an empathic person who gets everyone into the scrum ‘flow’ through personal interaction, training and coaching, than someone who can code.
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