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Scrum is an Agile development methodology, used by companies large and small all over the world. It’s a way of prioritizing feature developments, and while it’s common in software teams, it’s not exclusive to the domain of IT projects.

According to the Scrum Alliance, the Scrum Master keeps the team focused on its goal. It’s a crucial role for teams working in a Scrum environment. The individual in that position on the team helps the team apply the methodology and use the tools effectively to get the best out of it. You could say they were the linchpin in helping to keep everything on track, although it’s a slightly different role to a ‘traditional’ project manager.

So what makes a fantastic Scrum Master? Here are some of the characteristics and behaviors of people who make a huge success of Scrum mastery.

They Love Scrum

A fantastic Scrum Master lives and breathes Scrum.

They have to, and if you don’t or feel that you couldn’t, then it probably isn’t going to be the best fit for a role for you.

The reason that’s important is because they are the guardian of Scrum on the team. They need to thoroughly understand the methodology because they might be called upon to explain it to someone else.

They are the arbitrator of all things to do with process, and it might slow the team down if they have to go off and consult the manual every time someone asks a question.

On top of that, they understand that part of the Scrum Master role is making sure everyone else can do their roles, so fantastic Scrum Masters aren’t sitting in a corner pronouncing judgments on Agile processes. They are deeply embedded in the team, helping everyone get their work done and removing roadblocks so that can happen.

Hiring Tip: If you’re interviewing for a Scrum Master, watch to see if they are really excited and animated about Scrum as a methodology and the value that the Scrum Master brings. You’ll be able to tell if they could bore the plants in the office with Scrum talk all day.

They Excel In A Team Environment

Wallflowers need not apply.

Scrum Masters are highly team-focused. They don’t manage the team, but they need to read the team’s mood and be in tune with the work rhythm.

Fantastic Scrum Masters can guide the process without creating conflict. In fact, they a most likely the people you turn to in order to help resolve conflict, because you know they have the team’s interests at heart.

Having said that, they aren’t afraid to challenge either. If the Product Owner is disorganized or unhelpful, it’s going to be your Scrum Master who picks that up first and helps navigate a successful resolution, even if that does mean having the difficult conversation.

Hiring Tip: Ask for their experience working on a team outside of their current role. You’ll probably find that candidates who excel in a team environment can offer you several examples of where they have been part of a group or team doing something non-work related, like a sports team or volunteer committee.

They Lead From Within

Scrum teams are multi-disciplinary and collaborative. The hierarchical team leader isn’t the Scrum Master, but that doesn’t mean leadership isn’t required.

In Results Without Authority (Amacom), Tom Kendrick talks about three things available to leaders in positions without formal authority, such as within a team:

  • Processes
  • Influence
  • Metrics

A Scrum Master has access to all of these and knows how to use them to lead the team successfully from within.

They also understand the roles and responsibilities of people on the team, so they understand what people should be doing and how they can best help.

They are active in setting the culture of the team. While processes have a part to play in making sure that the team environment is a nice place to work, this is also a leadership job.

Hiring Tip: Ask your candidates to give you an example of how they have demonstrated leadership when they haven’t been in a formal leadership position. It’s a good opportunity to talk about what they consider leadership to be and will give you some insights into how they are going to respond in a team environment.

They Want Things To Be Better

A fantastic Scrum Master is keen to continuously learn – and help the team learn too. They are constantly looking for ways in which the team can do better. How sprints can be more effective. How the team can get more done in a day. How stand-ups can be less monotonous.

Scrum Masters should be on the alert for what isn’t working and be first to suggest that the team should try something else. That’s more likely to involve facilitating the discussion about how the team members can come up with someone that works for them than dictating the answer. Fantastic Scrum Masters facilitate more than tell.

They’ll also be the ones that remind the team when it’s retrospective time. Then they will help them build on what is working to do more of it and flush out problems.

Hiring Tip: Get your interviewees to talk about when they had the opportunity to make something better… and didn’t take it. What would they do differently next time? Hopefully, they’ll show you that they learned a lot from the experience and that they wouldn’t do the same thing again.

Fantastic Scrum Masters can help your Agile team soar to great heights, delivering quality products sprint after sprint. They help you blast through the backlog and energize the team to work successfully together.

It’s an incredibly rewarding and valued career path, so if you think that you have what it takes to be a superstar Scrum Master (or you want to hire one), get in touch and let us help you find the perfect match.

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