The Personality of a Great Scrum Master

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Hello All,

In the ezine article Scrum Impediments, the author Laszlo Szalvay, President, Danube Technologies, Inc. discusses the vital role that the Scrum Master plays in ensuring team success through the elimination of impediments to an Agile-Scrum based project.  The Scrum Master role is not the typical project manager role that we have become accustomed.  This role, rather than focusing on just the mechanics of project management, planning and execution, is geared to being the ultimate team advocate, protector of team productivity, facilitator and communicator.  This is not to say that a good project manager does not assume these roles.  It is more to say that these are of primary importance in the Scrum Master role.

But what characteristics make for a great Scrum Master?  A blog posting by Jim Trott on the website NetObjectives identifies 4 key characteristics that are present in a great Scrum Master.  He states that the Scrum Master must:

  • Be humble enough to serve the team;
  • Have a strong character and be confident enough to stay in the background, promoting the team;
  • Display a high degree of integrity and maintain a trusting relationship with all the team;
  • Be politically savvy with a strong relationship with the Product Owner, and;
  • Be able to understand both business and technical people.

It has been my experience that the more traditional project manager has a difficult time adapting to the role of Scrum Master.  Command and control is the modus operandi in traditional projects and project managers have been indoctrinated within this paradigm.  But with Agile and in particular, Scrum, self managing teams are the norm.  This requires a unique mindset.  The Scrum Master must serve the team as a coach.  They must not direct, but rather facilitate team self management.  They must function as a single voice to the business and technical community on behalf of the team.  They must protect the team from extraneous “project noise”.  They must be motivators and must always cultivate an environment of trust and good faith.  They must have the courage to stand up to the business and IT community to ensure that the principles of agile are being upheld, that short cuts or hybrid models don’t begin to emerge due to executive management pressures and that the team is shielded from politics and bureaucracy.

What has your experience been?  If you have had (or are) a particularly strong Scrum Master, what made them (or you) stand out?  If you have had the opposite experience, what were the weaknesses that should have been identified before putting the person in that position?

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Have a great day!

Pete

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