Should I Be A Scrum Master?
6 Questions To Determine If This Scrum Role Is Right For You.
Expertly trained Scrum Masters are in high demand. Search the term on a site like LinkedIn and you’ll likely find tens of thousands of related job postings in the US alone.
Effective Scrum Masters are critical for the success of any Agile organization. As more and more companies (and whole industries) implement Agile, Scrum and Scrum@Scale, the demand for Scrum Masters are expected to grow.
The World Economic Forum ranked Scrum Master as #6 in their listing of product development jobs of tomorrow. And employment data firm Burning Glass predicts this will mean a 37.9-percent increase in demand for Scrum Masters over the next ten years.
A career as a Scrum Master is a rewarding one. But is it a good fit for everyone?
The honest answer is no.
However, if you answer yes to these six questions, you have what it takes to become a Scrum Master.
1 - Am I Empathetic?
The ability to sense and understand how others feel is as close as it gets to a universal characteristic found in all effective Scrum Masters.
Why is empathy so important?
By definition Scrum Masters are “leaders who serve” organizations and Scrum Teams in many ways. They are called on to act as a catalyst for change, a coach for Scrum and Agile, an advocate for continuous improvement, or all of the above. Sometimes they focus on the needs of a team or an individual, sometimes the organization as a whole.
No matter the scenario, a high level of emotional intelligence and the ability to truly understand where someone, or a whole group, is coming from is critical if you’re going to help them learn, achieve, and grow.
Yes, being a “people person” is a good start, but an effective Scrum Master often takes much more than that.
2 - Am I Passionate About Process?
Are you the type of person that, when stuck in a line or are waiting for something, starts thinking about ways the process should be improved? Does inefficiency drive you a little crazy?
If so, you’re likely to love being a Scrum Master.
Scrum Masters are passionate about outcomes. They love helping their team(s) make their customers happy - especially if the product or service comes in on time (or early) and is under budget. And they love their team(s) and celebrating shared success.
These are some of the reasons they have a passion for process. For Scrum Masters, making something right is just as important as making the right thing.
Why is being passionate about process important?
As we teach in our courses, a Scrum Master “owns the process.” They are accountable for team and organizational effectiveness and improvement over time. A big part of their job is helping remove the impediments slowing work and innovation.
In short, if helping to make things better for teams, customers, and your organizations is not for you, consider another role in Scrum.
3 - Am I Courageous?
Change takes courage. So does being a Scrum Master.
Effective Scrum Masters dare to challenge preconceived ideas, established processes, bureaucracies, and the built-in inertia that all organizations have. That doesn’t mean Scrum Masters have to be aggressive or rude. It does mean they need the courage to say what data and experience show needs to be said even to those in positions of power.
Why is being courageous important?
There are times when a Scrum Master may need to speak hard truths to be a “leader who serves”. That is not always easy. Take something as fundamental to Scrum as making work visible even when it’s in progress. Some may not want to let others see an unfinished product, fearful they will be judged on something that isn’t yet done.
But making work visible enables inspection and allows for pivots or changes based on the feedback it generates. Inspection without that level of transparency is misleading and wasteful.
Scrum Masters must have the courage to challenge their team(s), Product Owner, stakeholders, and leadership. In the long run, they will thank you for your candor.
4 - Am I A Good Facilitator (Or Can I Learn To Be)?
This requires a lot more than just making sure meetings start and end on time.
A good facilitator helps ensure the meeting is productive, inclusive, and achieves its goal(s).
When facilitating a meeting or event, a Scrum Master is also:
- A good listener - They catch and help point out when there is agreement or diversity of thought or opinions.
- Objective - They make sure everyone who wants to be heard is heard - not just the loudest or most prominent voice. And they ensure ideas are considered on equal ground.
- Helpful aligning on next steps - This DOES NOT mean everyone has to give a big thumbs up on what is the best path forward is. Consensus can be the enemy of progress. Effective Scrum Masters know the power of getting everyone to agree on trying something, inspecting the output, then adapting the plan as needed based on feedback and data.
- O.K. with speaking last or not at all - The words of a Scrum Master are likely to carry a lot of weight with a team or organization. They can easily anchor a team to an idea without meaning to. When facilitating events, good Scrum Masters give their opinions only when they must or are asked to.
Why is being a good facilitator important?
Poorly run meetings are a waste of time and energy. They can often leave participants confused, even demoralized.
That is not a recipe for success.
A Scrum Master is always focused on helping others achieve positive outcomes. Properly facilitated meetings or events are opportunities to create alignment and focus. Participants who feel they were fairly heard generally don’t leave a meeting feeling dejected if their idea wasn’t adopted.
Alignment, focus, and an empowered and happy workforce are critical for success.
5 - Am I Able To Help Resolve Conflict (Or Can I Learn To)?
Conflicts are going to happen. It could be a difference of opinion, or vision, or a disagreement on approach. Some conflicts are big, some small. Some may seem downright trivial.
To be clear, a Scrum Master is not responsible for resolving every conflict they find. Some things must be handled by HR and/or leadership. But a Scrum Master should be able to help resolve the conflicts they can before they become an impediment for their team(s).
Why is being able to help resolve conflict important?
All teams rely on communication and collaboration to achieve a shared goal. Conflicts can stop communication and collaboration from happening. It derails the process, which is why the Scrum Master helps to resolve conflicts as soon as they can.
Just how they help resolve the conflict in question can take many forms.
It is also important to note that many conflicts can be a good thing. They can surface a hidden problem, or lead to an improvement or innovation. As one of my Scrum Inc. colleagues once said, “You can find treasure in a shipwreck,” and good Scrum Masters find that treasure before the ship sinks.
6 - Am I An Effective Communicator (Or Can I Learn To Be)?
Effective communication is a two-way street. One must listen as well as they speak. Perhaps more so. After all, you have two ears and just one mouth.
To be effective, a Scrum Master must have earned the trust of both the team(s) and the organization. That won’t happen without first showing the ability and willingness to hear from others before they share an informed opinion.
Why is being an effective communicator important?
It’s the one common thread woven throughout all the questions in this post. Everything a Scrum Master does relies on effective communication. It is a skill just about anyone can learn, though not a skill that everyone is willing to use.
Are You Ready To Be A Scrum Master?
The true measure of a Scrum Master is their ability to help others achieve. They are part coaches and part mentors. An advocate and a problem solver.
Scrum Masters are in high demand and have been for some time. Are you ready to take the next step?
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