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Mastering the Scrum


22 Nov 2016 |

Mastering the Scrum

By Annalinde Singh – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

Published 22 November 2016

Crucial characteristics of the Scrum Master

While on the job hunt previously, I came across some rather surprising job specifications in Scrum Master job adverts. It appears to be the general (mis)understanding that a Scrum Master needs to be a Development Manager, a Team Lead, a tester, and a project manager. Not to mention the five to seven years’ experience working in an Agile environment.

Sometimes we have to step back and remember that we are in South Africa – as much as we do try, and try really hard, we do tend to be a bit behind the international trends around software development practices and the more general ways in which work is done. There are very few companies in South Africa that have been operating or attempting to operate in an Agile manner for five to seven years. I suspect that some have probably been doing it, but in all likelihood not had everyone officially being applied in all the recognised Scrum roles from the beginning.

So… Imagine my puzzled face!

Ok, people who know me, know me to do this often: I digress. Moving on from my mini-outburst about job specs, one then needs to read deeper within, manage to jump through all the hoops and finally secure an interview with an actual human (despite apparent lack of experience or expertise), given said job advert’s listed requirements…

Right at the start, with a huge sigh and a *facepalm*, I see the shock and horror written on their faces as I give all the wrong answers to all the wrong questions:

  • Do you have an IT background?
  • Are you a project manager?
  • Which projects have you worked on?
  • Do you have experience in software development?
  • Have you worked in a Scrum team for more than two years?
  • What do you know about QA?

I argue that there are few things that are extremely important when hiring (or being) a Scrum Master:

  1. Attitude
  2. Mind-set
  3. Personality

Well, those are pretty much synonyms… that’s because there is one thing that is crucial regarding the Scrum Master – call it what you like, but it all runs back down to the way the person thinks about things.

My one answer is… I’ve always been a Helper. I like helping people. I like helping people figure out how to solve problems that keep them from doing their best. I like asking questions, avoiding grey areas, and I like being honest.

Super Scrum Master

Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software notes that The Leader of the Band needs to be someone who is Responsible, Humble, Collaborative, Committed, Influential, and Knowledgeable. Do you see where I’m going with this? For the largest part, that list relates to mind-set and attitude.

Tanner Wortham’s list of ten Tips to be a Successful Scrum Master centres around knowing your team, and always asking questions, as well as avoiding grey areas like “90% done”.

I let out a sigh of relief, as it seems I’m not alone in my thinking.

The role of the Scrum Master is very much behaviour-driven, not relying heavily on official qualifications or past experience.

Some fun, tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the Scrum Master that I’ve come across range from Ninja to Miracle Worker and Superhero.

Which one are you?

Ninja Scrum Master

I reckon it depends on your attitude.