Secrets of Successful Scrum Master
October 11, 2022 • 6 min to read
What does it mean to be a successful Scrum Master? What are the behaviours that can help you or stop you from serving others?
Table of Contents
The Scrum Master role is not easy. It requires patience and curiosity to learn something new every single day. Being a successful Scrum Master doesn’t mean that you are perfect and don’t make any mistakes. Of course you will make them, but you are also able to learn from them.
What I will describe today is a process and continuous journey that never ends. You cannot just become a successful Scrum Master and then stop doing anything. Be open-minded and try to avoid common mistakes that will not serve you.
Active Teacher of Scrum
Let’s start from the quote from Scrum Guide:
The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
Successful Scrum Master should be a teacher who is able to explain Scrum framework in an interesting and engaging way. You want to teach Scrum continuously on a daily basis. You really want to make sure that your team and organisation understand Scrum framework and they are able to use principles and Scrum values in their work.
Exercise - Scrum teaching
- Draw the empty version of the Scrum diagram. You can use the classic Scrum.org diagram or draw your own version.
Write all the Scrumroles, events & artifacts on sticky notes.
Ask the team members to place the sticky notes on a diagram and discuss the most important facts about the element they put on the board. Allow other attendees for additional insights and thoughts.
- Don’t correct the wrong answers straightaway. Allow the team to help out and correct misunderstandings. Let them self-organize and collaborate as a team.
*Repeat this exercise every few months to build the shared understanding of the Scrum framework and to give the opportunity for clarification.
Servant leader not a Scrum Lord
Following the Scrum Guide:
Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization
One of the really toxic Scrum Master’s antipatterns is becoming a Scrum Lord with a command and control mentality who assigns tasks and sets deadlines. You don’t want to do that!
Developers should be able to autonomously decide how they will work and what serves them well. Even if you don’t agree with their choice, give them the space to experience what they selected. They can use empiricism to inspect and adapt if whatever they implemented will not serve them.
Becoming a successful Scrum Master requires a lot of self-awareness. Whenever you try to help your team, ask yourself:
Am I serving someone else’s needs right now or my own agenda?’
You can use this question as the beginning of self-retrospection to analyse what you can do better to serve others.
You can apply the same behaviour when it comes to interactions with Product Owner or stakeholders. Before advising them what they should or shouldn’t do, listen carefully and try to understand what they need. The best way to serve other people is by addressing their needs and pain points.
Quiet Listener and Observer not a Superhero
Are you addicted to the adrenaline rush and the attention that comes whenever you solve the problem for your team? Do you like to propose solutions to fix the problems within your Scrum Team?
If the answer is yes, I must disappoint you. That’s not what a successful Scrum Master does. When you try to solve problems in your team by yourself, you focus on your personal need to become a Superhero, not on serving the Scrum Team.
To be successful in the Scrum Master role you need to calm down your ego and be a quiet listener who observes what others need.
Does it mean no action? Of course not! You still want to cause the removal of the impediments and facilitate discussions, but it requires listening and observing. Sometimes it’s better to be quiet to allow people in the room to express their thoughts and needs.
Exercise - The Power of Silence
Whenever you notice that you talk too much in meetings e.g. you ask a question and answer it straight away, because people don’t talk, pause for a moment.
Instead of answering the question by yourself, allow the power of silence to do its magic. Wait for a minute or even longer if needed. I guarantee you, someone will finally speak up, because they will start feeling uncomfortable with silence.
Listening and observing is a powerful mix of skills that will allow you to become a successful Scrum Master. People don’t speak only by words. They show a lot by their facial expression, tone of the voice or even body posture. Listen & observe others to understand what they need.
Facilitator not Scrum Secretary
In many Scrum Teams, Scrum Master acts like a Scrum Secretary by updating the statuses, taking notes or even bringing the team coffee. There is nothing wrong in bringing coffee to the team once in a while, but don’t forget what Scrum Master role is about.
Successful Scrum Master should use focus one of the Scrum Values to invest time in the most important activities. One of them is not making or bringing coffee, but facilitating discussions and stakeholders collaboration.
As it it mentioned in the Scrum Guide Scrum Master should help the team to focus on:
creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done.
It requires asking the right questions and challenging the team whenever it’s needed. Scrum Master needs to keep coaching the Scrum Team in self-management and cross-functionality by facilitating discussions and promoting empiricism.
What are the secrets of a successful Scrum Master?
- Actively teaching the Scrum Team and organisation how to understand Scrum in theory and in practice.
- Serving instead of a command and control mentality.
- Listening and observing behaviours to understand how to serve and help others instead of being a Superhero.
- Facilitating and coaching, not working as a Scrum Secretary. What do you think about these secrets? Do you agree with my perspective? If not, what would you change or add?
- Schwaber Ken; Sutherland Jeff. Scrum Guide, https://scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html. November 2020.
- Ripley Ryan; Miller Todd. Fixing Your Scrum. Pragmatic Bookshelf. Kindle Edition. January 2020.
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