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What are the skills required to be a successful ScrumMaster?

The ScrumMaster not only removes impediments, facilitates collaboration of the Scrum Team during the Agile product development but also serves the entire organization. The ScrumMaster ensures proper communication, and provides guidance to the Development Team, the Product Owner and the entire organization.

A ScrumMaster is at the nexus of the Scrum Team and the organization. Some ScrumMasters serve as the Scrum Team’s facilitator, mentor, coach or a teacher at times; and also as an organizational Agile Coach. Read further to know about the skills required and challenges faced by a ScrumMaster.

Skills required for a ScrumMaster

Good knowledge of Scrum framework 

A ScrumMaster knows the Scrum framework inside out and knows the strengths and vulnerabilities of the framework. Hence, ScrumMasters teach Scrum to the Scrum Team, customers, organization, users and other stakeholders. They also realize what is the right way to implement Scrum. 

A ScrumMaster knows how to tackle and overcome obstacles from experience in a practical environment. They apply their learnings quickly in their own Scrum Team, and also expand the learnings to other teams in the organization thus reducing the need to re-invent the wheel. 

Servant Leadership

The ScrumMaster must cultivate a servant leadership kind of leadership rather than ‘Command & Control’ way of working.

As per Wikipedia, Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader’s main focus is the thriving of their company or organizations. A Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

The ScrumMaster serves the Scrum Team by removing the high priority blockers so that the Scrum Team can move forward and develop great products and services.

The ScrumMaster serves the organization by planning for organizational Scrum adoption, sharing good practices with other Scrum Teams, coaching leaders and customers – hence becoming a change agent to the entire organization.

Mindset to empower teamwork and collaboration 

A Scrum Master doesn’t rule over a team or make the decisions, but rather works as a facilitator for the Development Team, the Product Owner, senior management, and stakeholders. The ScrumMaster makes sure that the problems and the progress of every department are heard, and the entire organization works as a single unit to resolve the issues. 

However, the job of a ScrumMaster is not just to manage deadlines or tasks, but to help the Development Team determine whether they can deliver Sprint after Sprint, and work towards the shared goals. Though a ScrumMaster can represent the Development Team, they can also step-back at times to empower the Development Teams to collaborate with the Product Owner and the senior management. This fosters way to create a self-organizing Development Team eventually.

Mentor the Scrum Team

While ScrumMasters empower the team to knock blockers out with better communication, their knowledge and experience in the industry, make them appropriate to mentor the Scrum Team. This knowledge shared with the Scrum Team in turn will help negotiate with businesses, clients, and stakeholders. 

Great ScrumMasters don’t provide solutions and decisions, but teach the Scrum Team how to make the right decisions and let them handle situations by themselves. The ScrumMasters show them the mirror to enable them analyse and determine what went well and find a better alternative method for solving problems.

Coaching

As per Wikipedia, Coaching is a form of development in which the coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing guidance.

Coaching is about unlocking the potential of an individual or a team. The ScrumMaster must use Coaching as an approach to solve problems and make the Development Teams self-organizing. To become a great coach, the ScrumMaster needs to have skills such as listening, emotional intelligence, critical questioning etc.

Build Trust

A ScrumMaster knows the value of developing trust within the Scrum Team and outside the Scrum Team as well. When it comes to working with a Scrum Team, a good ScrumMaster makes sure that their team is working with someone who they can rely on, and make them feel that if something goes wrong, they have someone to approach, to be able to be protected.

A ScrumMaster creates confidence to the Development Teams about quality delivery of the work in stipulated time. This is possible by introducing appropriate technical practices within the Development Teams that would improve quality and productivity. A good opportunity to brainstorm such improvements is during Sprint Retrospectives, by having the entire Development Team and the Product Owner. 

A ScrumMaster also lets a Development Team experiment. Sometimes, this may lead to failure – due to which the Development Team and the organization are learning on a continuous basis. Fail fast – Learn faster. In the longer run, this leads to innovation, building trust, improvement in productivity, faster time to market etc.

Flexible to change

A great ScrumMaster encourages Scrum Teams to welcome changing requirements, and that could be late in the overall product lifecycle as well – of course any changes are taken outside the Sprint.

Instead of a big bang approach, the ScrumMaster coaches to work in smaller cycles, called Sprints, which allow to accept constant feedback, for a better time to market, creating high quality products that provide the best value.

Predictability

Being futuristic is an important leadership skill that the ScrumMasters could coach the Development Teams and Product Owners.

A Sprint or a product development may appear easy on the surface, but most of the time, they contain many hidden complexities and clauses. A ScrumMaster must help Product Owner to think through these complexities, communicate with groups to make sure they are identified and adapted as per the dynamics imposed by markets, users and competition.  ScrumMasters also coach Product Owners how to prioritize the Product Backlog and make it visible, make appropriate budget decisions, prioritize Product Backlog Items etc. They also help how to use Release Burndown charts to track the progress.

ScrumMasters also help Development Teams to learn how to use Sprint Burndown charts, inspect and adapt as per the progress made so far, and help make plans to achieve the remaining Sprint Goal.

References:

  1. Scrum Guide from www.ScrumGuides.org

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