The Makings of a Great Scrum Master

How to become a great Scrum Master.

In my experience working in the agile environments, I have found that many of my counterparts have one thing in common: finding ways to constantly improve. In this blog, we explore some common attributes that many of us use to master our craft.

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Run with honesty and integrity

As a professional Scrum Master, it is important that you remain impartial in all your dealings with your Scrum team. Some in the industry call it being an 'honest broker'. An honest broker is someone who is accepted by everyone where neutrality is important for the purpose of developing a solution without a preference for either party involved.

As a Scrum Master, your time is spent where needed based upon helping the team achieve the best results each sprint. This is achieved by encouraging ideas from your team to work towards and evolve those ideas into a solution  keeping an eye toward the main goal, and that is product success!

This can be done by encouraging your team to brainstorm ideas and encouraging those ideas to evolve. From improvements to internal or external processes, ways of working to new features and improvements. You will drive toward the best idea.
An honest broker is neutral yet supportive of the ideas presented. Your input is biased towards building the best team. 

Finding root causes

In the retrospective, a great scrum master develops a shared pool of knowledge across the team. To accomplish this in a retrospective. 
  • Ensure everyone on the team is contributing to the conversation. 
  • Encourage everyone to discuss what went right and what went wrong. 
  • Listen to every voice and ensure it is heard by all so that we have the best information to mind for root causes. 
  • Then identify patterns, which deepen the understanding of the problem and garner common agreement.
    • To help with this, physically group the ideas together on a board so it is visible and apparent. 
  • Facilitate to expose insights. 
    • Go beyond symptoms and arrive at root causes through insights by asking what have we learned as a result of the patterns we've uncovered? What seems obvious as a root cause? What's important here? How can see get more clarity? 
Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplashed.
If you reveal it will help ensure continuous improvement is improved and enhanced. 

Coach Scrum

The role of Scrum Master is meant to help the team ensure they are following the framework and you help them to learn on how it's applied. 
To do so, focus on three actions:
  1.  Gain a deep understanding of Scrum and other Agile frameworks. The team will look to you when questions arise. Are we still within the rules of Scrum if we decide to extend the sprint a few days? A Scrum master will know the answer to this is no. These are things the team will depend on you to resolve.
  2. Build a habit of reviewing decisions and practices as well as their impacts. For instance, at the end of each sprint, during the retrospective,the Scrum master can pass along observations which may not be readily apparent, since the team is working so diligently to meet the sprint goal. These observations can range from team dynamics to engineering deficiencies and everywhere in between. 
  3. Support the application of the Scrum framework. Most teams go through many iterations trying to form itself, build the proper skills, change organizational norms and removing countless impediments just to get close to building potentially shippable increments consistently each sprint.
See Scrum in a Few Words for more information.

Removing impediments

Use the Daily Scrum so the team can identify any impediments and the team can make a plan to help the other team members to overcome them. The Scrum Master plays an integral role to ensure this is recognized, followed up and succeed upon. The same occurs for the retrospective. 
  1. To remove an impediment, it has to be adequately identified. To do so, listen for the obvious. 
  2. Decipher between the signal and the noise. Develop the listening skills to hone in on the impediments,separating them among other important, yet different information is vital. 
  3. Then identify who can best remove the impediment. Empowering the team to remove the impediment can be the most effective. 
For more nuanced situations, help the impediment remover understand the context of the impediment, its impact, and who it's impacting. This will help the remover become more invested in the actual solution.  The remover should ensure the solution is accepted by those who the impediment is impacting. There is no sense in developing a solution which isn't in line with those who originally cite the impediment. 
Now, start executing the solution. Get that impediment removed. 
Removing impediments can be painstaking, yet it is a critical component of helping the team and organizations succeed. Take this seriously.
 See Removing Impediments for more information.

Ensure safety

Safety is the key to employee happiness, this leads to a more productive and successful workforce. Without safety, our innovation, contributions, and success are all affected to the detriment of the team and the organization. 
Safety describes an environment where curiosity, risk-taking, challenging norms, and injecting opinions are offered with respect.
Each aspect of safety should be what a scrum master exudes through personality and interaction with team members. Scrum masters model safety through encouraging everyone else to follow suit. Safety becomes a behavior to be practiced by everyone, thereby making it part of the culture. 

See Modern Agile in a Few Words for more information.

Continuous learning

Becoming a great scrum master is a journey. The goal is to improve everyday. Take a look at some of my other writing to help continue and hone your Scrum Mastery.
Would love to hear your feedback. Until next time, stay agile!

Luke