Tag: Scrum Master

Should I Become a Scrum Master? 10 Questions to Guide Your Decision

Should I Become a Scrum Master? 10 Questions to Guide your Decision

A common question we are often asked is, “Should I become a Scrum Master?”, in particular by individuals transitioning from traditional project management roles or those who are contemplating a shift in their career. Of course, this question hinges on multiple factors. But building on our previous blogs, What is a Scrum Master and Giving Back: considerations for a new Scrum Master, let’s delve into some questions that may aid your decision-making process.

10 Guiding Questions To Help Your Decision

Embarking on the Scrum Master journey entails nurturing a passion for people, advocating for agility, and assisting organisations in adopting an outcome-focused approach. It’s about wholeheartedly embracing continuous improvement and proactively facilitating change. As you contemplate this meaningful transition, here are ten reflective questions designed to echo the core attributes and skills integral to a successful Scrum Master.

1. Are You Prepared to Lead by Example?

A Scrum Master embodies the principles of Scrum, setting a high standard for values like commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. Leading by example fosters a positive team culture, promoting trust and collaboration, which are essential for building healthy team relationships. This trait moulds a collaborative and accountable team culture.

2. Can You Foster a Safe and Open Environment?

Creating an atmosphere where team members feel safe to express their opinions and ideas is crucial for innovation and problem-solving. Encouraging open discussions and employing coaching techniques are key to creating a psychologically safe environment, pivotal for both team performance and satisfaction.

3. How Effective Are You at Facilitating Discussions?

Clarity in discussions is crucial for maintaining a smooth flow of work and ensuring the team is aligned on their goals. As a Scrum Master, facilitating discussions to reach a consensus is part of your realm. If you’re keen on mastering the art of facilitation, the Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills (PSFS) course could be your stepping stone. It’s crafted to provide you with valuable insights and techniques, empowering you to steer your team towards consensus with ease.

4. Can You Intuitively ‘Read the Room’?

Being able to gauge team dynamics and respond accordingly is essential for maintaining a harmonious team environment. This ability is key to preempting issues, tuning into team morale, and steering interactions that nurture a positive team culture.

5. Are You Comfortable Allowing Teams to Self-Manage?

It’s essential for Scrum Masters to trust their teams to self-manage while providing the necessary support for success. This fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment among team members, which is crucial for achieving Agile principles of self-management and continuous improvement.

6. How Do You Approach Conflict and Resolution?

Conflict is inevitable, but a constructive approach towards resolution fosters a culture of growth and learning. Good conflict resolution skills are central to maintaining a positive team environment and ensuring that disagreements pave the way for better solutions, not discord.

7. Can You Embrace Failure as a Step Towards Growth?

Being comfortable with failure and viewing it as a learning opportunity is crucial for both personal and team growth. This mindset nurtures a culture of experimentation and learning, crucial for fueling continuous improvement and innovation in Agile setups.

8. Are You Committed to Genuine Care for Your Team?

Empathy and understanding are at the heart of a Scrum Master’s role, facilitating the building of trust and supporting team members in their Agile journey. Such genuine care cultivates a supportive environment where team members feel valued and are motivated to give their best.

9. Will You Stand Against Organisational Impediments?

Advocating for your team and ensuring organisational impediments are addressed is a key responsibility of a Scrum Master. Taking a proactive stance in tackling these impediments clears the way for the team, smoothing the path towards goal achievement.

10. Are You Prepared to Help Move the Shift to a New Way of Working?

Shifting to a new way of working is at the heart of a Scrum Mastery, especially in complex domains. It’s a journey from traditional control-centric approaches to an outcome-driven mindset. Here’s a snapshot of what this shift entails:

  • Letting Go of Control: Foster a culture where the focus shifts from micromanagement to trusting the team’s collective intelligence and guiding them towards common goals.
  • Educating Others: Part of the shift involves educating and aligning stakeholders, teams, and other organisational members on the new approach and its value in delivering meaningful outcomes.
  • Measuring the Right Things: It’s not just about on-time delivery anymore. Encourage a focus on delivering value, achieving goals, and promoting continuous learning and improvement.
  • Promoting an Experimentation Mindset: Encourage a mindset of exploration and adaptation in complex domains. This approach fosters a culture of experimentation, learning from failures, and tweaking strategies to meet objectives better.

By embracing these aspects, you’re not just navigating through complexity, but championing a shift towards a more effective, outcome-driven way of working.

The Value of Proper Training Aspiring Scrum Masters

It’s disheartening but true – the field is crowded with individuals claiming the title of Scrum Master without having the necessary training or even a basic understanding of the role or accountability. This has led to many organisations undervaluing the impact a Scrum Master can have.

Standing apart in such a scenario requires more than just a title. A solid grounding in Scrum principles, coupled with reputable training, can set you apart from the crowd and showcase the true value of a Scrum Master.

So, as you contemplate the question, “Should I Become a Scrum Master?”, consider how being well-prepared can not only elevate your role but also significantly contribute to your organisation’s Agile journey.

Scrum Master Salaries: A Motivating Factor?

Considering a career shift towards becoming a Scrum Master also brings the question of remuneration. The average salaries for Scrum Masters in primary markets of Europe vary based on the country.

Here’s a breakdown of the average 2023 salaries in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and France:

  • UK:
    • Average Salary Range: £45,000 to £70,000
    • Glassdoor Average: £48,003
    • Payscale Average: £61,000
    • Talent.com Average: Up to £74,000
  • Germany:
    • Average Salary: €59,554​1​.
  • Netherlands:
    • According to one source, the average salary for a Scrum Master in the Netherlands is €58,000​2​.
    • Another source states that the average salary is around €60,000 to €70,000​3​.
  • France:
    • Glassdoor indicates an average base pay of €57,468 per year in Paris​4​.
    • SalaryExpert reports an average base salary of €64,958 per year​5​.

This data suggests that Scrum Masters can expect a competitive salary in these primary European markets, with variations depending on the specific country and city.

Are You Ready to Be a Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master wears many hats – they are facilitators, coaches, problem-solvers, and advocates for their teams. The essence of a Scrum Master lies in their dedication to fostering an environment where teams can thrive, innovate, and delight their customers.

With a profound understanding of Scrum, a Scrum Master guides their team and organisation towards continuous improvement, steering the way towards delivering value seamlessly.

The demand for proficient Scrum Masters continues to soar. Are you geared up to step into this pivotal role? Your journey towards becoming a Scrum Master could begin with gaining a deeper understanding of Scrum and honing your Scrum Master skills through the Professional Scrum Master course.

Take the Leap:

Poised to transition into a role that’s rewarding both personally and professionally? Our Scrum Mastery training is your springboard to a fulfilling Scrum Master career. Embark on this enriching pathway today!

What is a Scrum Master? The True Role Revealed

What is a Scrum Master

Inspired by the disconcerting misconceptions we’ve seen recently and from Eminem’s iconic line, ‘Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?’ – we felt compelled to write this blog “What is a Scrum Master?” and ask:

May I have your attention, please?
Will the real Scrum Master please stand up?
I repeat,
Will the real Scrum Master please stand up?
We’re gonna have a problem here

We’ll be addressing a troubling trend that has caught our attention: the persistent misunderstandings about what a Scrum Master truly is and does. Despite Scrum being around for over 25 years, it’s disheartening to see that many still haven’t fully grasped its core purpose. Instead, they continue to perpetuate outdated notions, treating the Scrum Master as nothing more than a rebranded Project Manager.

Recently, we’ve encountered a slew of misleading LinkedIn posts that inaccurately portray Scrum as merely another Project Management framework. What’s more alarmingly, these posts were also promoting Scrum courses. One post brazenly asserted, ‘Discover how Scrum can empower you to become a master of project management.’ This not only perpetuates the ‘Feature Factory’ (mini-waterfall) mindset but severely undermines the fundamental purpose, values and principles of Scrum.

In this blog, we’ll look to shed light on the true essence of a Scrum Master and help clear up this misconception.

Contrary to popular belief, a Scrum Master is an accountability, not a role, within the Scrum Team. They serve as a ‘guiding mirror,’ reflecting not what the team wants to see, but what it needs to confront: its untapped potential for business agility, self-organization, and empirical decision-making.

If you’ve ever felt that your organization isn’t genuinely practising Scrum or that your Scrum Master isn’t fulfilling their true accountability, you’re not alone. Let’s clear the air and help the real Scrum Master—please, stand up!

Scrum Master

Understanding Scrum Master Accountability

Before we look at answering the question”What is a Scrum Master?” let’s quick recap on what Scrum is first. Scrum is a lightweight framework that consists of 3 accountabilities, 5 events, and 3 artefacts. One of these key accountabilities is the Scrum Master!

Prior to the 2020 update of the Scrum Guide, these were referred to as “roles.” The terminology was updated to “accountabilities” to help eliminate misunderstandings that one person could not hold more than one accountability. So does that mean we can play more than one accountability? More on this later.

Referring back to the Scrum Guide about Scrum Master accountability, it clearly defines it as the following:

The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.”

The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices within the Scrum framework.”

In this way, the Scrum Master acts as the catalyst propelling the team toward excellence, fueled by Scrum’s essence of embracing change, fostering learning, and nurturing continuous growth.

Scrum Master is not a Project Manager

One of the most pervasive misunderstandings about the Scrum Master’s accountability lies in the mistaken belief that they are simply Project Managers by another name. This misconception is not only misleading but also undermines the essence of Scrum and the unique value that a Scrum Master brings to the table.

The Scrum Master is not a Project Manager in agile clothing. They don’t manage budgets, schedules, or resources. Their primary focus is not on delivering the project on time and within scope but on fostering an environment where the Scrum Team can thrive and deliver value iteratively and incrementally.

Scrum Master vs Project Manager

AspectScrum MasterProject Manager
AccountabilityFosters Scrum adoption, team understanding, and continuous improvement within the Scrum frameworkManages the project’s scope, schedules, and budgets to meet project objectives.
Decision MakingEmpowers the team to be self-managed and encourages data-driven decisionsMakes decisions, delegates tasks, and oversees project execution.
ApproachGuides the team to embrace empiricism, value-driven outcomes, and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.Takes a directing role, manages resources, and applies established project management methodologies.
Leadership StyleServant LeadershipCommand and Control Leadership
Change ManagementEmbraces change and uncertainty.Has a defined scope and minimizes deviations from the plan.
Adaptive ApproachEmphasizes adaptability and a flexible approach to achieve desired outcomes.Follows predefined project plan to meet predetermined success criteria.

In line with the Scrum Guide’s emphasis, the Scrum Master’s accountability extends to helping everyone—both within the Scrum Team and the broader organization—understand the theory and practice of Scrum. They do this by:

  • Educating and Coaching: The Scrum Master takes on the role of an educator and coach, helping team members and stakeholders understand the principles and values that underpin Scrum. This goes beyond mere rule-following and dives deep into the philosophy of agile methodologies.
  • Facilitating Scrum Events, If Needed: Contrary to another common misconception, the Scrum Master facilitates Scrum events like Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, or Sprint Retrospectives only if needed. Their role is to ensure that these events are effective and true to the spirit of Scrum, thereby enabling the team to inspect and adapt.
  • Removing Impediments: Unlike a Project Manager, who may try to control external variables to stick to a plan, the Scrum Master focuses on removing obstacles that hinder the team’s ability to deliver value.
  • Promoting Self-Organization: The Scrum Master empowers the team to take ownership of their work, encouraging self-organization rather than dictating how things should be done.

By focusing on these aspects, the Scrum Master not only upholds the integrity of the Scrum framework but also facilitates the team’s journey toward continuous improvement and high performance. They are not there to serve the project; they are there to serve the team and, by extension, the organization in its pursuit of agility and excellence.

Can You Play More Than One Accountability?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not without its challenges and is highly dependent on context. To illustrate this, let’s consider the analogy of a Viking boat navigating through treacherous waters.

Impact if Playing Different Scrum Accountabilities
  • Product Owner (PO): Positioned at the front, the PO focuses on maximizing value and strategizing for the journey ahead.
  • Developers: In the middle, they are the heart of delivering value through completed work.
  • Scrum Master (SM): At the back, the SM supports the Developers, the PO, and the broader organization.

The Navigational Dilemma (PO and SM)

If leaning towards the PO accountability, who supports the Developers and drives organizational change? Conversely, if leaning towards the SM, who’s at the front guiding the ship to maximize value?

A Different Set of Challenges (SM and Developer)

The SM, being part of the Scrum Team, can monitor both the PO and the Developers. However, if engrossed in development, who focuses on broader organizational aspects? The effectiveness of this combination often depends on the team’s maturity and the nature of the work.

In essence, taking on multiple accountabilities is a balancing act that can dilute the effectiveness of each. For you and your team to gain a deeper understanding of accountabilities in Scrum, you may find our resource ‘Know your Scrum Accountabilities?‘ helpful.

The True Essence of a Scrum Master

Let’s delve into the core attributes, tools, and philosophies that define a Scrum Master. By understanding these elements, we can appreciate the Scrum Master’s unique position as a catalyst for change, a servant leader, and a champion and guardian of Scrum values and principles.

Characteristics of an Effective Scrum Master

These simple mantras help them avoid prescribing solutions and instead shine a light for the team to inspect and adapt.

While truly great Scrum Mastery is situational, some traits are commonly found:

  • Servant leadership
  • Influence without authority
  • Coaching mindset
  • Courage to challenge the status quo

By putting the team’s needs first and helping unlock their potential, Scrum Masters can facilitate amazing outcomes.

Embracing Servant Leadership

The Scrum Master embodies the principles of servant leadership. They focus on the growth and well-being of their team members, rather than wielding power for its own sake. For a Scrum Master to be a leader, they move away from coordinating individuals and towards coaching people in Scrum and positive team behaviour. They enable self-management within Scrum Teams.

Move Away FromMove Toward
Coordinating individualsCoaching people in Scrum
Providing answersEnabling self-management
Investing in outcomesHelping manage Product Backlogs
DeadlinesFocusing on flow and value
Prescribing solutionsImproving the Definition of Done
Fixing problemsGuiding Teams to discover what works

The 6 Stances of a Scrum Master

Scrum Masters don’t adhere to a one-size-fits-all methodology. Instead, they have a variety of intervention choices and behavioral stances, each tailored to specific situations. These 6 stances act as a heuristic guide for the Scrum Master’s decision-making process. There’s no universally ‘right’ choice—only what the Scrum Master deems most effective in the given context.

The FacilitatorHelps the team reach consensus during discussions.
The CoachHelps the team improve its practices and behaviors.
The Servant LeaderServes the team by removing impediments.
The MentorProvides guidance based on experience.
The TeacherEducates the team on Scrum principles.
The Change AgentDrives change within the organization.

For those keen on exploring further into the intricacies of these stances and their practical applications, Barry’s blog post, ‘The 6 Stances Of A Scrum Master,’ is an essential read. Additionally, our Professional Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Master II courses provide thorough insights and hands-on experience.

An illustration of these varied stances in action can be found in our Where to Start with Scrum. Is Value Stream Mapping Your Answer? blog and the real-world scenario used there.

Living the Scrum Values

The Scrum values of Courage, Focus, Commitment, Respect, and Openness are the lifeblood of the Scrum framework. These values are something the Scrum Master can fall back on to help their team. For instance, if a team is missing a Sprint Goal or Product Goal, it could be a sign that they are lacking in Focus and Commitment. The Scrum Master can then use these values as a guide to help the team realign.

Essential Scrum Master Mottos

Scrum Masters have mottos and heuristics they live by, such as:

  • Let the team decide
  • Reveal, don’t resolve
  • Ask don’t tell
  • Pull, not push
  • Art of the possible
  • Curiosity with positive intent

Scrum Master’s Essential Toolkit

The Scrum Master’s toolkit is grounded on two core tools:

  • Empiricism: Used often to bring issues to light and guide the team in problem-solving. For instance, any development bottlenecks are made visible so the team can inspect and adapt.
  • Self-Management: Empowers the team to own their tasks and overcome challenges. When an obstacle arises, the Scrum Master facilitates a discussion for the team to find their own solutions, fostering self-management.

To see an example of the use of empiricism to help teams, read our post on the Definition of Done, Where to Start?

Complementary Practices:

Besides core tools like empiricism and self-management, Scrum Masters often add additional complementary practices to their toolbox. While not part of Scrum, they may be useful in helping the team’s effectiveness and maximise the benefits of Scrum.

  • Product Owner Practices: Assist the Product Owner in maximizing value through effective goal-setting, vision alignment, and backlog management.
  • Facilitation Techniques: Essential for running effective Scrum events and resolving conflicts.
  • Technical Practices: Help Developers meet the Definition of Done and ensure high-quality deliverables.
  • Flow Practices: Optimize the flow of work, enhancing transparency and facilitating better conversations about progress.
  • And Many More: The toolkit is ever-expanding to include various practices that help maximize the benefits of Scrum.

As the saying goes: “The Scrum Master reveals, but doesn’t resolve.” Their ultimate goal is to enable collective learning and improvement, thereby unlocking the team’s full potential.

Final Thought on What Is a Scrum Master

In the spirit of Eminem’s famous lyric “Will the Real Scrum Master please stand up?” – it’s time to dispel the myths and embrace the true accountability of a Scrum Master. They are not traditional managers, project administrators, or Jira experts. They are catalysts for change, guiding mirrors that illuminate the path to business agility, self-organization, and value-driven outcomes.

A Scrum Master does this by embracing the Scrum framework and its pillars of empiricism. They engage with the tools of self-organization, Scrum values, stances, and mottos to help the team inspect, adapt, and improve. Their core duty lies in facilitating adherence to the Scrum framework, promoting continuous improvement, and empowering the team to unlock their boundless potential.

If you’re inspired to elevate your understanding of Scrum to a professional level, don’t miss our certified Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master training.

If you found this article valuable in understanding the Scrum Master Accountability, please consider sharing it. Your share could be the catalyst for someone’s agile transformation and help clear up persistent misconceptions. Thank you for reading

Giving back: Considerations for a new Scrum Master

new Scrum Master

I remember it well…as if it were yesterday. A certain day many years ago when I was told that I was to be a new Scrum Master for a team within the organisation that I was working for at the time. Yikes!!!

I didn’t know just what to expect and I certainly didn’t really know what being a Scrum Master entailed and how might be a good way to proceed in those early days and weeks.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation….maybe you have more of a say than I did about embarking on the path to being a Scrum Master. Either way, the intent of this article is to give back some of my personal thoughts and suggestions of things that might help you if you are starting on a similar journey. Things that I know now that I believe would have helped me back then. Do note that the following items are in no particular order but rather just my personal thoughts and ideas. 

  1. Read the Scrum Guide:
    Okay – I know I said these were in no particular order but I did feel that I had to begin with this one. I would openly hold my hand up at this point and state that it took me some time to realise that there was such a document that existed. Do take the time to read it….and then also keep coming back to read it again. Scrum is a lightweight framework and is purposefully incomplete. It doesn’t tell you exactly how to use Scrum in your context (remember that everyone’s context is different) but the Scrum Guide aims to inform you of the mandatory elements that make up the core Scrum framework. 
  2. Introduce yourself to the Scrum Values:
    Needless to say that due to me being unaware of such a thing as the Scrum Guide then I clearly had no idea that there were 5 core Scrum Values which underpin the framework. These core values of FocusOpennessCommitmentCourage and Respect really help build trust, take us towards Professional Scrum, and are the foundations needed for empiricism to thrive.
  3. Get to grips with empiricism:
    On the subject of empiricism then aim to understand early what it really means, why it’s so important and how the elements of Scrum support it.
  4. Know what is being inspected and adapted:
    There are 5 events in Scrum. Other than the Sprint itself which acts as a container for everything else then all 4 other events are opportunities to inspect and adapt something. Make sure you are comfortable with what is being inspected and adapted for each event. If you are clear about this then there is a much better chance you can help coach and guide your team to achieving significantly better outcomes.
  5. Listen and observe your new team:
    Watch, listen, observe and understand where they are at right now. Respect their current approaches and working arrangements.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help:
    Seek out other Scrum Masters within your company, reach out to your colleagues, check out the Scrum.org forums, and attend meetups.
  7. Help establish a team charter:
    Does your new team have some kind of team charter or team working agreements? If not then maybe this is something you can work with them to start thinking about bringing transparency to how the team would like to work with each other.
  8. Look to build an empowered self-managing team:
    Think about what you can do as a Scrum Master to help foster an environment where the Scrum Team becomes more empowered and is able to self-manage around their work.
  9. Make use of the available resources on Scrum.org:
    Check out the Scrum Master Learning Path and see what is available. There is a rich array of amazing blogs, videos, webcasts, whitepapers and a whole lot more.
  10. Begin to explore Liberating Structures:
    As a Scrum Master then over time, there will be an expectation that you are an awesome facilitator. Note that this is not just limited to the core Scrum events which you can facilitate (if needed) but also to other meetings outside Scrum which might require effective facilitation – so for example helping your Product Owner with some challenging conversations with key stakeholders. Liberating Structures are a set of microstructures that are designed to help collaboration and conversation whilst ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard.
  11. Check out the fantastic YouTube series of Your Daily Scrum videos:
    Created by fellow Professional Scrum Trainers Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller as part of Agile For Humans. There are a lot of great questions being answered so take your pick.
  12. Think about formal training:
    Enrol for a Professional Scrum Master course with Scrum.org. The concept of Professional Scrum is extremely important (see above) and as a Scrum Master you should have an excellent appreciation and understanding of just what that means and your role in supporting it.
  13. Move towards Flow Metrics:
    Anyone who knows me well would be hugely disappointed if I hadn’t included some kind of reference to Flow Metrics. I would definitely be planting this seed in the minds of all Scrum Masters both new and experienced. Utilising Flow Metrics as part of your Scrum implementation can be hugely powerful and beneficial. 

Should you find yourself in a similar situation to where I found myself all those years ago then I hope the above gives you something to consider and helps you establish some kind of path forwards.

I am clearly hugely biased but being a Scrum Master is a fantastic opportunity where quite often no two days can feel the same and you frequently will need to take different stances (or combinations of stances) depending on the situation in which you find yourself. You should expect to be continually learning and helping others continually improve.

If you do decide that you would like to come along to a Professional Scrum Master class then feel free to reach out to me at paulralton@bagile.co.uk or take a look at our course schedule. We offer both public and private courses to fit your needs.

Let me know your thoughts on the above…..what’s missing…..what else would you add for new Scrum Masters?

Over time I plan to expand on some of the above items so watch this space!