So you have landed a role as a Scrum Master. Being a Scrum Master can be a fulfilling role. It can also be frustrating, especially for someone beginning their journey. I was once a brand new Scrum Master. I can say with confidence that it was not an easy start. There were challenges, the unknown, and plenty of uncertainty. Embrace these fears and face them head-on. With that said, I would like to share a few tips and tricks I have picked up in my time as a Scrum Master.
Starting/Getting into the role
You may find yourself excited to hit the ground running. Pump the breaks. Take the time to observe your teams and see how they function. Doing so lets you see where you fit in and where initial improvements can be made.
Do not bite off too much at first. Your first instinct may be to overhaul everything the team is doing. This can be too much for a team. There is a good chance there will be pushback with the stress of all that change. Take it slow and find some little changes that can be implemented. Remember, Scrum involves incremental change.
Dive headfirst into learning.
Like many professions, the role of a Scrum Master necessitates constant learning. There are many approaches to the position. Take time to learn new things coming from other professionals. You may find a new angle on a problem you have. If you choose not to pursue constant learning, you risk becoming stagnant in your approach. You begin to go through the motions and cease delivering value as soon as that happens. It does not hurt to revisit the Scrum Guide frequently.
Certification? Should you get one?
This question has the Agile community divided. On the one hand, people believe that the value of a certification is nothing. It is a few letters behind your name and does not honestly speak to your experience. Others believe it is an invaluable asset worth pursuing. I am in the thought camp of the class is the actual value of the certification. A certification class is an opportunity to learn that happens to come with some letters you can add to your name. Remember, my last tip was to dive headfirst into learning. Some companies look for certification, while others do not. In the end, the choice is yours.
Find a mentor/local community.
A community can take many forms. Many groups can be found on the internet on different social media like LinkedIn. If you took a certification course, try connecting with your classmates to form a small community of peers.
A mentor can be a little more challenging to come by. Finding one online is an option. Many online communities have Scrum Masters who are willing to be a mentor to a new Scrum Master. Next, you can look within your company. You could even try reaching out to your certification trainer, if you pursued one, to see if they can mentor you or have recommendations. It will not hurt to ask.
Be ready to get your hands dirty.
As I mentioned before, Scrum takes iteration. Part of being a Scrum Master is trying things out. Please work with your team to see what changes they would like to make. Next, begin experimenting. If something does not work, try something else. Prepare yourself for trial and error.
Helping a team grow
Work towards self-organizing.
For a Scrum Master to focus on the bigger picture of Agile and Scrum, they need to have a team that does not require a lot of hand-holding. This hand-holding can come from “running” Scrum and Agile meetings where a self-managing team could take the reigns. Per the Scrum Guide, one of the ways a Scrum Master serves their team is “Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality.”
Take a step back and see what your team does.
In the spirit of self-organizing, try taking a step back from a Daily Scrum or other meetings. Take the time to observe how your team handles it. Do they panic? Do they take charge of a challenging situation? It can be scary to take a step back. Keep in mind you have worked with a team for an exceptionally long time; they start to pick up on doing these things independently.
Establish psychological safety by first demonstrating it yourself.
Psychological safety is always on the mind of a Scrum Master. Psychological safety can be defined as:
“The belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” – Center for Creative Leadership
Demonstrating this comes in many forms. Do not put team members or others down if they ask a Scrum-related question that might seem simple. In addition, do not be afraid to ask a question where your team might be experts, but you are inexperienced. Showing vulnerability yourself lets your team know they can do the same.
Try out a monthly Agile/Scrum topic.
Use your imagination. A monthly discussion around an Agile/Scrum topic helps the team learn more and ask any questions they may have. Should you run into issues thinking of a topic, have your team devise one. This is an excellent opportunity to leverage Lean Coffee.
Working beyond the team
The Scrum Guide calls explicitly out that the Scrum Master serves the organization.
Find opportunities to teach others.
All levels of the organization can leverage the monthly Agile/Scrum topic approach. Chances are, people within your organization are interested in learning more. Do not wait for people to come to you asking to present on a topic. Find what people are interested in by doing some research.
Community of practice within an organization.
Previously I mentioned looking for a community online. Take that a step further by establishing a community of practice within your organization if there is not one already. Scrum Masters are not the only audience for a community of practice. They are meant for anyone interested in the subject matter. There may be engineers who want to learn more about Agile practices. You may have fellow Scrum Masters within your organization with the knowledge to share. Create a space where all are welcome.
Help stakeholders within your organization understand the team’s approach to Scrum.
Typically stakeholders and people outside the engineering team do not get to see the day-to-day of the team. Stakeholders need insight into the work being done. Help them learn how to best interact with the team. The value of having this connection between the stakeholders and the team is tremendous.
In conclusion, these tips and tricks are easier said than done. Try one out to see if it works for you. If not, try something else. Trial and error are something you need to become comfortable with.
Share your tips, tricks, and questions in the comments below.
Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon
The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.