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Oct 25, 2022

How to Be A Good Scrum Master? Here Are 10 Tips!

People often say that “Scrum is easy to understand and hard to master.” Yes, the Scrum Framework should be easy to understand, as well as the Scrum Master accountability. But that is not what I have seen. I’ve seen many Scrum Masters think that they’ve “mastered Scrum”, but what they’re doing is purely mechanical. A framework is something mechanical, and unfortunately, what some people don’t pay enough attention to when applying Scrum is to its values, pillars, and empiricism.

In one of my other articles, I focus on the fact that if your Scrum Team has no trust and transparency, there is no team – just a bunch of individuals, and that some teams give too much attention to the Scrum events and sometimes forget about what is behind them. All – yes, all – Scrum events exist to give opportunity for inspection. More than paying attention to events, artifacts, and this mechanical way of applying Scrum, you as a Scrum mater need to pay attention to people. You need to care about people. You need to push the team towards self-management and cross-functionality. You need – and you should – have a team that does not depend on you.

I cannot guarantee that you will become the perfect Scrum Master after reading this, but here are 10 tips that will make you go beyond “Scrum By the Book”, helping you become a better version of your Scrum Master accountability.

1. Ensure that empiricism and Scrum pillars are part of team mindset

Scrum is an empirical knowledge process, and you as a Scrum Master needs to ensure that empiricism is part of the team mindset. Creating psychological safety and trust among team members is essential to enable and unleash this continuous learning journey. You can help them trust you by leading by example: assuming your own mistakes, avoiding the blame game, showing them potential improvements, and fostering an evolution, not a revolution. Help them understand that all Scrum events are there to enable inspection and adaptation, and that without trust and transparency, inspection won’t be done properly, resulting in bad adaptations or no adaptation at all.

2. Scrum Team lives the Scrum values

The team needs to understand and live with the 5 Scrum values in mind: courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness. Team members must have the courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems. They focus on the work of the Sprint and the goals of the team, personally committing to achieving them. They respect each other to be capable and independent people, and the team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges that arise with performing the work.

3. Cause removal of impediments: don’t do it yourself

You are there to “cause removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress.” You’re not there to remove all the impediments yourself. Removing impediments is also part of the self-organization of the team, so you as the Scrum master will only get involved if the team is unable to deal with the impediment independently. However, don’t try to remove the impediment yourself: don’t be the super hero. Instead, help team and team members with information, point of contact, skills, and anything else that supports them to get the impediment removed. Next time you may not be there, and they will need to do it without you.

4. Help the team to become self-managing

As a Scrum Master, if you’ve already reached this goal, that’s great. If you have not, the team can still keep working and progressing to become self-managing. This is our goal as a Scrum Master: to become less needed. You need to foster self-management by teaching your team about Agile and Scrum, explaining why the events are important, and giving them the empowerment and ownership they need to make decisions and take risks. If you’re not there, they will keep making decisions, running events, talking to the Product Owner, collaborating with stakeholders, and delivering value.

5. Make your team look good – not yourself

There is no space for vanity when it comes to being a Scrum Master. You, as a leader, look good when your team looks good. Your goal is to become less and less needed, all while still remaining indispensable. You’re there to help the team, not yourself. How can you assess if you’re doing a great job? Well, take a look: how is your team doing?

There is no space for vanity when it comes to being a Scrum Master.
Raul Barth, Gladwell Academy

6. Understand your team and every individual

Don’t forget: in working as a Scrum master, you work with people. Understand how to approach team members, as each one has their own unique personality. Perhaps you are in a multi-cultural team. If this is the situation, consider that different cultures may have different ways of receiving feedback or advice. Be neutral, don’t make rash decisions. Don’t try to start a revolution – go for an evolution instead. Earn the team’s trust and respect. Lead by example, by respecting the team and team decisions, trusting team members, and creating a psychologically safe environment so that people are comfortable to voice their thoughts and feelings and engage in healthy conflicts.

7. Encourage the team to take risks

Taking risks is healthy. Not being afraid of them and understanding that uncertainty is tremendously present in many development contexts, such as software and hardware, is an important thing to have within your team. Things might not always go as you planned, and I’ll be straightforward with you here: most of the time, they won’t. Understanding the ‘why’ is more important than blaming others and yourself, as well as making you want to avoid future risks. I’m not talking about overcommitment, for example, but about accepting that we cannot refine precisely every single story, that we potentially have a set-based design model in place, and that some decisions can only be taken in a certain moment when developing the product. If your team is always delivering 100% of what has been planned, there is a big chance they have not taken risks at all.

8. Foster a culture of continuous feedback

Feedback, as well as continuous improvement, is essential in Agile and Scrum. Not only customer feedback, but team feedback, management feedback, organizational feedback, and your feedback. How can we improve, or your team improve, when we don’t have feedback? Feedback is a two-way street, and it only works if it’s constructive and continuous. Ask for stakeholder feedback during a Sprint Review, provide feedback to team members continuously, and foster an open and honest discussion in a Sprint Retrospective.

9. Be people-oriented, not process-oriented

Don’t forget that Agile is about ‘Individuals and interactions over processes and tools’, not the other way around. People do all the work, no matter the framework you use. Pay attention to people, to team members, and how they collaborate and communicate.

10. Banish the blame game

The blame game is the biggest enemy of transparency and trust. More than that, it silos the team into smaller units, instead of keeping the team as the smallest unit in Scrum. More important than “Who did that?” is “How can we fix it?” or “How can we improve it?” or “Why did it happen?” Don’t let the blame game happen in your team. People make mistakes, and if we start judging and blaming instead of looking for solutions, mistakes will keep happening but will be hidden behind a curtain of fear.

Don’t forget that Agile is about ‘Individuals and interactions over processes and tools’, not the other way around.
Raul Barth, Gladwell Academy

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Written by Gladwell Academy, We write our own content when trainers and partnering experts don't!