So you are a Scrum Master, that don’t impress me much!

I’ve known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart
But you’ve got being right down to an art

So you got the moves but have you got the touch

Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright

That don’t impress me much

The words of Shania Twain, just the lyrics that resonated in my mind when I talked to a recently crowned CSM. I asked him about the role that he has been playing and he has to play in future. And the answer was unambiguous “ Oh, I am a team lead and guess in future too, most of my duties would remain the same. ” . So, why did you do the CSM ? “ Oh, that was mandated by the company , because we are undergoing Agile transformation and clients wants us all to be trained in Scrum “

So, is being a Scrum Master an art or just another certification/ designation that sits pretty on your LinkedIn Profile ? Is being a Scrum Master as simple as attending two days of training, giving a small objective exam and earning the coveted, yearned after certificate or is it more about changing the way people work

What does it take to be the game changer and not a paper SM ?

Well the answers are simple , but hard to adopt and implement. Here are a few which I refer to as the essentials of being an “Effective Scrum Master”

Learn the Art :

Being a Scrum Master is akin to learning an Art. You need to have the passion , the zeal to be able to identify the things which are beyond obvious. You need to understand the beauty from others perspective(stakeholder expectations . eh ?) and bring it to life and yet your art needs to be saleable to survive .

You also need to understand the art form. Get into the zest of it. Learn what is not written or obvious. Understand what is the reason and the intent behind each step and also learn how the same thing can be presented in a different form (aren’t we talking about scrum practices here ……??)

And this art cannot be learnt in two days. You need to practice, have the right critics with you, learn from the maestros and practice…..So, are you doing enough of that

Manage expectations :

The primary role of Scrum Master is of a mentor, to the teams, to the Product Owners, to the executive management and other stakeholders et al.

And, to be able to gain the trust so essential in a mentor-mentee relationship, it is important that the mentor understand the feelings, emotions, needs , ways of working and personality of the mentee and sets the dialogue rolling according to these traits and the situation at hand. So, it’s not just about learning the Scrum practices and ‘ command’ the team to follow them. A Scrum Master’s role is about People, for the people and by the people. Ah, and that makes me remember the very first manifest of the Agile Manifesto, the bible of Agile software development

“ To deliver a successful project, People and Interactions matter more over process and tools “

Transform the relationships:

Well not in the literal sense, but in the true sense. An effective scrum master understands the interpersonal relationships within the team, knows the nuances of conflict management to be able to handle conflicts , is an avid listener to be able to listen to the issues from teams & stakeholders and is a keen negotiator ,who has the right negotiation skills to be able to negotiate with and for the team, so as to maximize, the ROI both for team members as well as the clients

Understanding team roles, collective team behaviors , managing team skills sets well and making sure that team is tight cohesive unit is an essential part of a Scrum Master’s role . An effective Scrum Master will be able transform the team relationships and take them to a new level of collaboration

So, I being my journey again, to find the one who would impress me such…

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  1. LauraReplyJuly 10, 2012 at 11:40 am 

    I love your parallel with Shania’s lyrics.
    I feel the same way and unfortunately I look at the job postings of companies searching for SM and what I see is see a lot of requirements for a senior (in anything) programmer/technical lead at best (I say at best because there are also no leadership requirements) and, I quote: ‘knowledge of agile methodologies’. Besides that this does not necessarily mean you know how to fulfill a SM role, this in one requirement out of 15-20.
    So I am not surprised of people reacting the same way as your “don’t impress me much” guy when his job requirements are the same as they were before taking the CSM.
    I, myself, was in a position of just taking the CSM and asked to start writing the code!! to show something! I had to keep my ground with all my fibres sustaining that code I know how to write, I did it before and I am able to do it again; but I never was a SM and just going to a course doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know to be able to perform that role well.
    So, coming back, I look at this as an organizational impediment and disfunction. There is a failure in understanding why a CSM is needed, why one should take that class and what’s expected of him after that. For a ‘just graduated CSM’ seeing this and coaching the management layers to take care of this issue is far-far-far-stretched … for an experienced one though … that’s where you’ll see him working (and not the code :D).

  2. Bob AllenReplyJuly 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm 

    So now you are a Scrum Master — so SMELL like one.

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