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Why You Should Hire Your Own Scrum Masters

And How to Know a Good Scrum Master When You See One

Small Group CollaboratesTrue business agility is no longer something that’s nice for an organization to have. It’s a core competency that will separate you from your competitors. Yet outsourcing Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches is still a tactic being used by companies large and small.

Which is one reason we field questions like these a lot:

  • Do we actually need to hire Scrum Masters?
  • Can’t we use our vendors’ Scrum Masters?

In our experience, we tell them, clients only become hyperproductive when their internal Scrum Masters are effective “team-level” Agile coaches and leaders.  

This often spawns a flurry of additional comments like:

  • We can’t find any good Scrum Masters internally.
  • Our Scrum Masters just don’t seem to be effective.
  • We thought we hired Agile coaches, but we seem to just have observers.

Exchanges like these happen frequently enough that I decided to dig deeper into this disconnect.

Know a Good Scrum Master When You See One

Part of the problem with executives new to Scrum is that the Scrum Master is frequently described as a facilitator.  This can give a sense of passivity to what is really a highly dynamic role. My teammate Avi Schneier wrote about this point of confusion some time ago. His blog post clearly lays out ways a Scrum Master be an effective facilitator and what that means.

The best Scrum Masters always have a finger on the pulse of team happiness, which is a leading indicator of success and high productivity.

These days, there is a lot of focus on building and maintaining employee engagement. The demand for talent has never been higher. Continuously replacing key team members is costly and can derail or delay entire projects.

Effective Scrum Masters are always finding opportunities to improve performance by asking how their teams can be better and happier and how can they share their learning with others. Scrum Masters advocates for their team.

In addition, they are continuously watching for and removing impediments that frustrate teams and increase unhappiness.

My colleague, Kim Antelo, recently wrote an excellent article on the best ways to frame impediments in order to remove them. Its critical for Scrum Masters to communicate the business value for the leaders or those outside the team to own removing those impediments the team can’t remove on their own. The ability to communicate and be an effective influencer in the organization can make the difference between a good and great Scrum Master.

You could rent your Scrum Masters, but it’s like trying to win the lottery. Yes, you might get lucky once in a while, but more often than not, you’ve wasted time, money, and effort. You are also renting the key capabilities that you will need to continue to excel. With the number of Digital Transformation growing and competitive pressures from social, mobile, cloud and big data, no one can afford to slow their ability to deliver powerful outcomes.

So What Should You Do?

We advise our clients to set up a Community of Practice where all their Scrum Masters come together to set standards and goals for themselves and to share learning from across the teams. Together, the Community of Practice finds the answers to questions like these:

  • What is the content everyone should know?
  • What are the skills we need to make the right impacts?
  • What is our plan for amplifying our strong points and dampening or overcoming our weak spots?
  • What is our capability model as Scrum Masters in our own context?

This last question is key because it allows the individual Scrum Master to inspect and iterate on their own skills and techniques.

Creating a learning backlog for each person is critical for continued growth and their ability to make an impact on the team and the organization as a whole.

We, too, can help.

Scrum Inc. has been solving these problems for clients for years. Later this month, we are opening our intensive Coach the Coaches Workshop to the public for the first time.

This goes far beyond any Scrum Master course.

Participants will learn proven techniques and refine core Scrum Master skills. This workshop is designed for Scrum Masters looking to make the jump from good to great, or organizations looking to boot up their next great class of Scrum Masters.  



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