Scrum Master Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Scrum Certification Training and Agile Coaching

Scrum Master Focus Survey

The survey aims to compare the Scrum Master's role as described in the Scrum Guide with the reality in organizations. With that aim, I'm set out to collect the real world insights from practicing Scrum Masters, about the Scrum Master role and the focus of Scrum Masters.

If you are currently performing the Scrum Master role, please answer this survey to maintain a high relevance of the answers collected. We value candid answers based on real world facts over answers based on future aspirations or opinions.

What is a Scrum Master, How to Become a Certified ScrumMaster?

What is a Scrum Master?

Scrum Master is one of the three roles that make up the Scrum Team as described by the Scrum Framework.

The Scrum Master role is specific to Scrum and is a critical aspect in achieving the ambitious goals of helping the team and the organization be adaptable to rapidly changing customer needs through continuous inspect and adapt.

To be adaptable the organization must develop the capability to continuously seek feedback from the customers about their needs and adapt their approach to meet these needs gracefully.

The Scrum Master acts as a catalyst to this capability development within the team and the organization. Scrum Master achieves this by educating, facilitating and coaching the development team, the Product Owner, and the organization.

While the Product Owner focuses on improving the product ROI by defining what is right to build, the development team focuses on building the product right, the Scrum Master acts as a servant-leader and focuses on building a high performing team to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

Scrum Master service to the Product Owner

As per the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master collaborates with the Scrum Product Owner and serves by:

  • Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;
  • Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
  • Understanding product planning in an empirical environment;
  • Ensuring the Product Owner knows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize value;
  • Understanding and practicing agility; and,
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
Scrum Master services to the Development Team

The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Development Team to create high-value products;
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,
  • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.
Scrum Master service to the Organization

The Scrum Master according the Scrum Guide, is also responsible to serve the organization in below ways. However, most Scrum Masters fall short on serving the organization.

  • Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
  • Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,
  • Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

How to Become a Certified ScrumMaster?

The Scrum Alliance is one of the most reputed and popular certification body. The Certified ScrumMaster certification from Scrum Alliance is the most credible certification as Scrum Alliance carefully through a rigorous process wets out the Certified Scrum Trainers. This is how you can get a ScrumMaster certification:

  • Attend the 2-day Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training facilitated by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).
  • Read the Scrum Guide and review the CSM participant workbook/reading content provided.
  • After successful two days workshop, the CST recommends your name to Scrum Alliance.
  • Scrum Alliance emails you a link to take the online CSM test. [Take a mock CSM Test online]
  • Take the CSM test and get 24 (out of 34 multiple choice questions) correct answers to pass the test.
  • Upon passing the CSM test, download your Certified ScrumMaster certification from your Scrum Alliance member account dashboard. And here you are a Certified ScrumMaster 🙂

How difficult is it to become a Scrum Master?

Becoming a good Scrum Master is difficult but not impossible.

Start getting good with these Top Scrum Master Skills.

In 2018, getting a job of a Scrum Master is relatively very easy. The reason? high demand for the Scrum Master role and less supply of good Scrum Masters.

Most companies have not educated their hiring and recruitment staff to understand the role of the Scrum Master and hence many recruiters simply compare a candidate's profile against a template given to them.

In such cases, the Scrum Master's selection process would look for:

The candidate has a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification or a Professional Scrum Master (PSM) Certification.

 * Has experience working as a Scrum Master recently.

 * Can facilitate Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective meetings.

 * Can train our employees on Scrum, XP, Lean, Kanban, BDD, TDD, DevOps, (they may list every new Agile framework that comes to market)

 * Can act as an Agile Team Coach (usually they mean can tell our teams how to do Agile)


You see?

If you know your stuff, you can easily crank the interview and get in as a Scrum Master.

Who can become a Scrum Master?

In this video, I discuss 5 essential elements to becoming an effective Scrum Master.

Here, I list 10 most common Scrum Master backgrounds that I've observed the Scrum Masters I've worked with came from.

Does your Scrum Master Inspect and Adapt?

Does your Scrum Master Inspect and Adapt?

The empirical approach to product development doesn't have to be limited to the fine tuning the product direction, it's equally powerful when applied to the process of developing the product.

Sprint Retrospective meeting provides an in-built approach for the Scrum Teams to inspect and adapt. I observe in most organizations (almost 9 out of 10 times), everyone in organization is looking up to the development team to retrospect and improve their process. Most of the time the implicit desire is for the development team to deliver more features in less time.

What is almost always overlooked is if the Scrum Master is performing her job effectively in helping the Scrum Team become effective, creative and flexible - what the Scrum Team is designed to be.

Usually because the Scrum Master is the only most-Scrum-educated person available. No one (dares/) holds her responsible for improving at her own job, at what is she supposed to do.

Why most of the Scrum retrospective meetings neglect to inspect how the Scrum Master performed during the Sprint?

One common oversight is that Scrum Master by default sends the meeting invites and takes up the role of the facilitator during the Sprint Retrospective meeting. The facilitator by definition doesn't participate / contribute to the conversations as her focus is to hold the space and create structure for the participants to contribute effectively, resulting in the Scrum Master to usually escape the periphery of the retrospection.

Scrum Guide calls out the Scrum Master's service as;

Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed - Scrum Guide

One good approach to worth giving a try is, to rotate the facilitator and allow the Scrum Master to participate in the Sprint Retrospective meeting with the Scrum Team.

By rotating the facilitator, the Scrum Master also gets the chance to participate in the retrospective, reflect and share her own perspective and analysis of her performance. If she shielded the team well, if she was effective in helping the team to remove the impediments, if she did good in coaching the dev team, the product owner, as well as the organization, etc..

Does your team care and discuss if the Scrum Master performed her duties well during the sprint?

Becoming a real effective Scrum Master is tough journey. Those who are open to seek feedback and look for opportunities to continuously improve their own game, also stand chance to inspire their teams and leaders to improve.

What are your thoughts about the topic?

If you are Scrum Master, how do you ensure to inspect and adapt your own performance?

Six powerful hacks for Scrum Masters to Gain Influence without Authority

Six powerful hacks for Scrum Masters to Gain Influence without Authority

As a Scrum Master you have one of the toughest yet incredibly meaningful role to play in improving the product development environment in organizations. You don’t have any positional power and authority in the organization, as none of the development team members report in to you. Despite lack of authority and power, your role is highly dependent on enormous amount of influence to be able to educate and coach the development team, the product owner and the organization at large. High level of influence helps you become effective in delivering your responsibilities.

The lack of enough influence, could cause the Scrum Master to quickly succumb to an administrative assistant role without even realizing it.

To be effective you would need influence capital at the team level, with the product owner and at the organization level.

Like every Scrum Master you may wonder, how do I gain influence? Here are six ways to try:

  1. Scrum-Master-Influence-Invite-Team-Select-YouInvite the team to select you.

Don’t get assigned or imposed on the team. If you are interviewing for a Scrum Master position with a team that already exists invite the team members to interview you as well. If you are being transferred within an organization from one team to another, it’s easier for you to setup time with the members of the new team. Use this opportunity to let them interview you. When the team members select you to be their Scrum Master, they are much more open to your insights and coaching interventions. They’ve brought you in so they are invested in your success. Though this practice is very common in smaller companies and smaller teams, many Scrum Masters I come across in larger organizations are assigned to the teams (read: top down). This strategy always exposes you to potentially getting rejected by the team and that’s a good thing. Would you rather join a team and get rejected by them four or eight weeks later? Hey, it saves you from bigger failure and allows you to explore other opportunities immediately.

Scrum-Master-Influence-Ask-QuestionsNot yours. Not the manager’s. This may seem counter-intuitive to you. For the Scrum Team to perform well it needs to self-organize and self-manage itself. As a Scrum Master be the facilitator, so the team can craft it’s agenda and own it. The Product Owner ensures this agenda is in-line with the organization’s larger objectives and vision. The ownership and commitment increases many folds when the team has crafted the objectives, plans, improvement areas, quality standards and performance goals on it’s own. It increases the engagement and the team members hold each other accountable to high standards. When you commit to serve team’s agenda, not only the team trusts you more, they genuinely listen to you and collaborate with you.

  1. Listen Emphatically

Scrum-Master-Influence-Listen-EmpathicallyScrum exposes dysfunctions and that’s an uncomfortable position to be in for most teams. While the ideal and expected answer to such situation is to solve the dysfunctions, it’s easier said than done in most organizations. Change isn’t easy and it’s cousin resistance usually, accompanies change. As a Scrum Master open up your ears and empathetically listen to your team’s challenges, you would understand the context, dependencies, underlying assumptions, cultural biases and limitations better. When you actively and emphatically listen, you get to know the person well and build a relationship with them. The one who is talking could get better clarity about their situation and thoughts, allowing you to effectively offer your help to them.

  1. Ask questions.

How would asking questions increase my influence? you ask. Asking powerful questions and listing skills go hand in hand. Powerful questions could provoke deeper insights and challenge the person to think differently. As a Scrum Master when you genuinely ask open-ended powerful questions, without bias towards an answer, you empower the team members. It allows them to explore the options they may already have access to and find solutions for themselves. When someone identifies an approach they want to try to solve a challenge, you would not need to persuade them. Why? It’s their approach. You could simply ask them if they need your help keeping them on track. You could hold them accountable towards action and results through regular check-ins.

  1. Constantly Self Analyze.

Keep analyzing how your behavior and your service to the team, the product owner, and the organization. Seek feedback, experiment frequently, and share your learning with others. Be vulnerable, it’s ok. When you constantly self-analyze in the pursuit to improve your skills, your behavior, your own work, your team takes a note of it. The influence you gain through walking the talk would be a tremendous boost in getting team’s participation and buy-in. Guess what will be your team’s response when you invite them to analyze team’s communication, processes, behavior, and performance?

  1. Master Scrum.

Yes, it’s critical that you Master it. Learning Scrum, mastering to implement it and helping the team(s) implement it is an ongoing and cautious effort. Learning Scrum doesn’t have to stop after you attend 2 day Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training or become a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) – this is where mediocre Scrum Masters stop. Don’t stop there. Equip yourself with skills you need to thrive in your context. Experiment new ideas, facilitation techniques, activities, and games, see what works. Your mastery of Scrum will directly impact the benefits your organization could realize from implementing Scrum and that could credit a lot of influence in your account.

PS: When I got my CSP credentials, I architectured it to be an opportunity to accelerate my learning and implementing Scrum with new fervor. It gave me access to lot more resources and boosted my confidence. When I was told – this is how we do it here, I didn’t let it be that way. When I was told – oh, we can’t do that here, I didn’t accept it. I kept exposing dysfunctions and challenging the status quo. It has helped the teams, it has helped the organizations I serve and that has helped me tremendously.


Hey Scrum Masters, would you like to self-assess your level of influence? Take a 2 minute assessment here.

I didn’t intend above list to be an exhaustive one. I’m curious, what has helped you gain influence in your practice? Would you share it with me?

"How have you gained influence in your environment?"