If you’re looking for a scrum master, who you need may be different from what you want. What personal attributes should you be looking for in the most suitable candidate?
I have read many a blog post about what a scrum master needs to do as part of their role, but when I work with teams that want to appoint a new scrum master (or agile project manager) I find that the conversation can lead very quickly to what kind of attributes the individual should demonstrate.
The scrum master is an organiser. They don’t have to run ceremonies like planning sessions or daily stand-ups, but they need to make sure they both happen and happen well. They need to make sure that everyone is delivery-focussed and have all the means at their disposal to do their job. They need to make sure that the right people are kept informed of what is happening.
Organisational skills are vital, without them a team – or project – can lose their bearings very quickly and descend into chaos.
A good scrum master makes sure that the right things are happening at the right times for the right reasons – but more than that they need to make sure that they are done right too. Ineffective planning meetings waste time – and good will. Equally, failure to run all the necessary events such as retrospectives and daily scrums (stand-up meetings) can lead to hairline cracks in the process, weakening it and making it brittle.
Discipline doesn’t mean being controlling; it’s about keeping the standards up. It takes effort, patience and persistence to help team members remain accountable and true to one another and build the best working environment for them.
The term ‘scrum master’ was deliberately intended to be different from that of the traditional ‘project manager’ because it wanted to get away from both of the words as they had become loaded with undertones of failure and control. Being a scrum master is about leading, inspiring and enthusing, becoming a trusted partner and a point of stability in what can sometime be a tumultuous environment. A good scrum master will want to create both the space and the mindset for the team to deliver.
Listening, decision making and providing ‘air-cover’ for people to work effectively are great skills for all scrum masters to have.
If you are looking for a scrum master, remember it’s not just what they can do and the experience they have, but who they are that is important. It’s also worth bearing the five ‘Scrum values’ in mind too.