Sunday, February 11, 2018

How to Choose A True Great Scrum Master? | Supreme Agile

תמונה קשורה

In Scrum, the Scrum Master (SM) owns the responsibility for the process. During his day-to-day activities, the Scrum Master must ensure the team is following the Scrum Spirit, process, and the different practices of this the scrum framework.  

Selecting a Scrum team’s Scrum Master can be the difference between success or failure of the team’s ability in adopting scrum. Therefore, it is highly important to ensure the selected Scrum Master has the current qualities, Skills, and characteristics. This will assist the team to adapt to the different challenges they will face while adapting the Scrum framework.

In order to assist one to determine the most suitable person lead the team as the Scrum Master, I have prepared a list of Characteristics, Skills, and qualities that a good Scrum Master should have in his armory:


A Scrum Master main responsibility is to assist the team to become better. There is no room for personal glory. This can lead to antagonism from the team members. In addition, he should ensure the enforcement of the process is done with the collaboration of the team. This is the preferred method, rather than enforcing his agenda of how the team should be working.

Problem Solving Skills

One of the main activities of an SM is to remove impediments from the team. The SM should have the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience to remove any obstacles from the team during the Day-to-Day activities. 

A Great Educator  

The SM should have the ability to educate people to be able to work in the Scrum framework. This is not only for the team, but the SM should be proactive and educate many personnel in the organizations. This personnel can be those who either support the process or alternatively want to learn about Agile and in particular Scrum. 

Have the time to do is job 

As part of his Day-to-Day work, the SM needs to observe the team’s performance based on his areas of responsibilities. This includes Communication within the team and outside (PO), providing the environmental artifacts allowing the team to grow, enforcement of the Scrum process, etc.

This is just a partial list of the SM activities, but based on it, we can understand that the SM must be there for the team on a day-to-day basis. There are no magical solutions, the role demands a lot of investment (both within the team and externally)

Focus on the team instead of technical solutions

The SM is not responsible to provide technical solutions. Thus, he does not have to be the most technical person on the team. The main reason is that highly technical people are the team specialists. They will find it relatively difficult to focus on the process and the team. This is the main responsibility related to this role. 

Mastering is Role

I think it is obvious that a Scrum Master should be an expert in his field. A great Scrum Master will always search for new ways to improve his skills, knowledge, and practices. This will help him handle different challenges that will a raise during the Sprints.  

Familiar with the organization

The Scrum Master should understand the organization hierarchy, complexity, culture and who are the key people that can help him to promote the Agile agenda. A scrum master who controls these four organization aspects will become more efficient and effective in his work, simple as that. 

Can Influence Others

It’s very easy, a Scrum Master that cannot influence his team will fail even before he starts. Even though an SM might not have an authority to tell people what to do, he should still have the ability to influence them, based on charisma, leadership, respect, and trust. 

Has a Coaching Personality

The main role of the scrum master is to coach the team and any other stakeholders (Product Owner, Tl’s Etc.) with Agile. A great scrum master has the personality to work with others and coaching them with pleasure and in a way that should help them to grow throughout the process, (the team success should be more important for him than his own success).

Committed to Both the Team and Process

The SM represents both the team and the process. It is his job to ensure the team can work at the highest level and that the Scrum process is enforced. An SM that is not fully committed to both the team and process will simply fail to be the leader as is expected of him.


It is very simple. A great SM must be a well-organized person. This will allow him to handle all responsibilities and day-to-day activities that are crucial to the success of the team. It will enable them to perform their activities at the highest level.


SMs have some important responsibilities as the process enforcers. The bigger challenge is that they need to perform this function without real authority (By definition the Scrum Master is a leader without an authority). A great SM must understand it and always look for new ways (Practices, Tools Etc.) that can improve the team and their chances to succeed with the project goals. 

Self and Keen Learner

As an Educator, Coach or trainer, the SM should set an example for others as a keen learner. That is the minimum expectation that we want to see in the person that has the responsibility to educate people across the organization, even more than himself. 

Familiar with Human Nature

An SM should be able to remove impediments from the team that affects the team performance. In order to be able to understand the true problems of the team, the SM should know how to read facial expressions, body language. This will assist him to uncover the real problem of the team. Therefore, one of the important skills is the ability of the SM have good communications and relationships (both within the team and externally). This will assist him to promote both personal goals and the team to succeed in performing their work.

Know how to Handle Conflicts

The SM will have conflicts, it comes with the job. This is a key differentiator of a great SM from another other position. The SM understanding conflicts are a necessary part of the team growth. He will, therefore, use conflicts to improve the team and not for showing is abilities. 

Familiar with the product

There is a great advantage in a scrum master that understand the product, let us just review some of the expected benefits:
  • The scrum master can share is experience with the team once they need to make the estimations and commitments.
  • The scrum master can ensure that the team will receive user stories that meet the INVEST standards. 
  • The scrum master will gain a better understanding of the complexity and challenges of the requirements.

Possess a Single Role

The scrum master is a full-time job and therefore need to be treated with the appropriate respect. To be able to do its job with the expected standards; it is highly recommended that the chosen SM will focus on only doing its role without wearing any other hats (A classic example of this issue is a team member that facilitates as both the SM and PO). 

A facilitator

A scrum master must be a great facilitator; as the owner of the process, the SM should support the team to perform in the highest level and to create the environmental variables that will help them to do so. Knowing scrum is not enough, the scrum master should have the skills to resolve a problem that arises in the day-to-day activities and the ability to innovate new ways to help the team to increase their knowledge, practices, and efficiency. 

A Servant leader

The SM should serve the team, PO, the organization, and not himself. He should lead by example (and not by title) and stick with the team during bad and good times. In the agile manifesto, we have a specific principle to describe the idea behind the “Servant” leader:
 "Build projects around motivated individuals. Provide them an environment that supports their needs and trust them to get the job done"


  1. Great article, thank you. Many of these traits you describe are also taught in one of my favorite books, Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink. It's great to see you (knowing of the book or not) show how they apply to the Scrum Master position and the software process as a whole.

  2. thanks for sharing - really a great article.


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