Oct 11th, 2020

9 Effective Tips to Be a Successful Scrum Master

Naveen Kumar Singh
Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia... Read more

Scrum Framework Growth breeds unprecedented Scrum Master demand. If you've ever considered becoming a Scrum Master, then now is the time to make your move. Professional Scrum Master (PSM-I) Training is among the most respected and globally recognized certificates for the Scrum framework.  The below tips are my experience and interaction with successful scrum masters.

Feel free to add more or write your feedback on these tips.

1. Play Another Role in the Scrum Framework

We learn more by doing. Think of a product owner's role if it makes sense or works as a developer/tester/business analyst within the development team. After all, the scrum master is just a role within the scrum framework and not a title within the organization.

I learned a lot about product ownership being a product owner rather than just knowing about it. The product owner role is challenging because you may have to deal with the stakeholders' conflicting needs and manage the product backlog effectively to maximize value.

To know more about it please feel free to join my Professional Scrum Product Owner Training workshop.

2. Coach Team on Technical Practices

You may and may not know these technical practices, but you can't run away from your responsibility. It is about practice, not coding, so not necessary for you to know coding or code to demonstrate. Still, you must know why these practices are needed and the advantages and disadvantages of these practices to be capable enough to educate your team. If you don't know where you can start, join me in my Certified Scrum Developer Training. I have specially designed this course for the scrum masters, product owners, agile coaches, and managers to learn enough to coach.

3. Prepare Strategy With the Team to Meet the Goal

Self-organization is good, but that doesn't prevent you from working with the development team. It is true that the development team is self-organized and decides how to meet the sprint goal, but at the same time, you are responsible that the team has understood the purpose of the sprint goal and coming up with a plan that helps the team. Attending daily Scrum gives you how the team is acting when they discover more information and impact the same while preparing their daily plan.

4. Gain More In-Depth Knowledge of Business

Coaching product owners on how to split stories, what value means, and prioritizing backlog items was fun when I gained business knowledge. It is not about guiding the product owner but using the same language that the business understands. Having in-depth experience in insurance, healthcare, and automotive domain enables me to have more in-depth conversations using real examples. It is not necessary to have prior knowledge, but your willingness to learn the domain broadly helps.

5. Participate as a Peer Team Member in Retrospective

The purpose of the sprint retrospective is misunderstood by many teams where the scrum master only acts as a facilitator and doesn't participate as a team member. It is a retrospective for the scrum team, not just for the development team. We review people's collaborations, the relationship among team members, processes, practices, and tools, including scrum processes for which the scrum master is accountable. Be a peer team member to see what's not working or what's working to improve by getting feedback.


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Naveen Kumar Singh

6. Be a Good Manager

The product owner owns the product backlog, release, and stakeholder management. The development team owns quality and delivery. Similarly, the scrum master owns processes and manages impediments, so be good at managing the same as a leader. Good managers are on top of things that they care about and enable transparency. Teams should know what's going on with reported impediments and what processes to follow. Managing them is not easy and sometimes needed to make tough decisions when teams break their agreed processes or impediments are not getting resolved. You can't use a self-organized team definition to defend yourself for not doing what you are supposed to do.

7. Educate Teams on Dependencies Vs. Impediments

Dependencies and impediments are two different things. Teams manage dependencies as they have technical dependencies on other teams and know what these dependencies are. Like, team A develops a shopping cart and has dependencies on Team B (developing payment methods) to integrate with, they have to coordinate themselves. Impediments are process knowledge such as conducting useful backlog refinement or estimate stories, learning about technical practices like CI/CD, TDD, or BDD, or not sure how to form a cross-functional team.

8. Don't Be a Cheerleader

It is not your job to motivate teams rather see what you should not do to demotivate them. Ice-breaker, energizer, or learning with fun is facilitation techniques, so it is OK but no need to be a standup comedian. You don't need to take food orders or serve coffee to please them. You don't need to protect the team and be a mother, but having transparent processes and transparency in work protects teams.

9. Focus on Personal Mastery

Teams respect your knowledge and not overprotective behaviors. Using keywords like help team, enable team, etc. can be replaced with sharing knowledge, mentoring the team on technical practices, and coaching product owners on specific techniques might be more useful. It is as simple as you grow your knowledge and the team's knowledge increases by default. Keep the learning always on and never over-commit or commit on behalf of the team.

Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia Pacific. He works with the software development team and product team to develop awesome products based on empirical processes.

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