Top 21 Scrum Master skills

Top 21 Scrum Master skills in 2020?

The use artificial intelligence in product development and corporations is growing significantly. With the help of AI we’ll be able to automate many tasks – even the cognitive one’s to certain extent. In this rapidly evolving market, having high performing and innovative teams will be a competitive advantage for any organization. A Scrum Master who is able to help build high performing and innovative Scrum teams, and coach people can be a valuable asset for the organization. While those Scrum Masters who only perform mundane tasks, write meeting minutes, create reports and enter data in the tool will see themselves get replaced by AI bots soon.

I think irrespective of the technological advancements there will still be a need of good Scrum Masters. An effective Scrum Master can help Scrum Team deliver results that are an order of magnitude better than mediocre Scrum Teams. The responsibilities of the Scrum Master may adjust with the time. Good Scrum Masters will definitely contribute more towards improving the business agility and helping organizational system as a whole.

Below I list top 18 Scrum Master skills in 2020. I also invite you to contribute 3 top Scrum Master skills that should be part of this list.

  1. Systems Thinking
  2. Adaptability
  3. People Skills – Positive Psychology, Social Psychology
  4. Complex Problem Solving
  5. Lean Thinking
  6. Agile Mindset, Growth Mindset
  7. Creativity
  8. Empathy
  9. Asking Questions
  10. Collaboration
  11. Facilitation
  12. Rapid Decision Making
  13. Negotiation
  14. Leading and Facilitating Change
  15. Focus
  16. Performing with Flow
  17. Motivation – Intrinsic Motivation
  18. Emotional Intelligence

I need your opinion to add 3 top Scrum Master skills that’ll be valuable in 2020.

6 Benefits of Good User Stories

6 Benefits of Good User Stories

In previous two articles, we discssed:

Becoming user centric with User Stories and

How to write good User Stories

In this article, lets understand the benefits of good User Stories and how you can turn it in to competitive advantage?


Without further ado, here are the 6 benefits of good user stories.


Highest Value Delivery:

User Stories help deliver highest value by focusing on the small and immediate customer needs. The traditional product development teams may spend months on a single function such as analysis, design, implementation etc, carrying a significant amount of work in progress without deliverying anything that is directly valuable to the customer immediately.

How could you take the old school requirements approach and turn it upside down?

Agile Teams break down user needs in to small features or tasks that can be implemented and delivered from few hours to few days. Product Owner actively prioritizes these user stories in terms of user value, risk and business value to significantly increase the value delivered by a team within first few sprints.


Fosters Collaboration:

Good User Stories due to their minimalist characteristic, inharently give way to collaboration among the product development team, the Product Owner and the user of the product. While the traditional teams depend heavily on detailed documents and electronic tools, most Agile teams collaborate to plan, implement and deliver customer value. Minimal writing of the user’s needs encourage the team members to talk to the Product Owner or the user when they are ready to implement a user story.


Brings User Closer:

By focusing on delivering highest customer value with each user story, the Agile teams are compelled to regularly connect with and collaborate with users. Minimally written detail also encourages for the team members to talk to the user. The team members directly connect with the user to understand the user’s perspective, challenges, pain points and opportunities that need to be addressed. The team members also get early feedback from the user by demonstrating implemented User Stories as soon they are Done.

In case if you haven’t read yet, check out my article – Becoming User Centric with User Stories

Building Blocks of the Product:

With each customer value delivering User Story, the product is built incrementally. Building the product incrementally allows to rapidly adjust it to new direction. When sliced in smaller ideas to experiment, user stories allow for quick implementation and user feedback. With each successfully implemented feature, the product gets shaped and the value of the product keeps increasing. If the Product Owner decided to remove a not-so-popular features from the product, it becomes easy to toggle off a feature that was built as a small user story.


Boost Transparency:

Written collaboratively on index cards, User Stories increase transparency among with the team member, Product Owner and stakeholders. The index cards remain visible to everyone and allow for better collaboration and faster decision making. Improved transparency also increases the Trust within the environment. User Story also create transparency of the priorities set by the Product Owner and the customer segment / persona that is being addressed through a particular user story. If any story is has dependencies and is stuck, the impediment becomes immediately to all. Transparency reduces a lot of waste from the process and improves team’s effectiveness.

It is not uncommon for teams transitioning to Scrum, to write user stories as long documents that is stored (frozen) in an electronic document repository or a cloud based tool. Any practice that hampers the transparency effectively slows down a team and increases churn. This benefit of good user stories could be a game changer for teams new to Scrum.


Shared Understanding:

How can User Stories create shared understanding? Unlike the traditional approach where the business team writes requirements and hands over the documents to the development team to implement, the Agile approach is for the Product Owner and the Development team members to collaborate and collectively develop, refine, split the user stories.

Working collaboratively improves the shared understanding of:

a) what is expected by the user and what is feasible from technology and business perspective.

b) what is intended by the Product Owner and what is understood / implemented by the development team.


Reduced Risk:

Bonus benefit number 7. There is one more important benefit of good user stories that is Reduced Risk. Most of the times the teams are not equipped with proactive measures of reducing risk. Good user stories by creating transparency, improving collaboration, shared understanding and orienting the teams to focus on customer needs, eliminates a lot of risks.


Actionable Tip: Many times the appreciation of these benefits comes when we realise the risks of not having these benefits. Let me invite you to identify and share in comments below – 5 potentials risks for your product and team if these benefits of good user stories are missing.

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Creating cross-functional and self-organizing Teams is one of the essential element of building an Agile Organization.

Both aspects require significant effort & focus. These also don’t happen naturally, particularly in organizations led with Industrial Age style of organizational structure and management.

Scrum identifies these as essential aspects and recognizes a specific role – Scrum Master to be responsible for helping the teams and organization achieve Self Organization and improve cross-functionality.

In fact, Scrum Guide specifies it as the first aspect of the Scrum Master’s service towards the Development  Team.

The existence of organizational power and authority significantly limits the potential of self-organization, hence the Scrum Team is designed to not have any organizational authority and power by any of its members.

The Scrum Master doesn’t carry any authority and organizational power, as well as commits to serve the Team’s agenda. Any Scrum Master that doesn’t explicitly let go of authority and power, and does not commit to serving the team’s agenda, would counter to one of the primary purposes of the Scrum Master role. Such situation is not Scrum, as the organization won’t fully realize the intended benefits of implementing Scrum.

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