The Art of Being a Scrum Master

10 October 17
2 responses

The Art of Being a Scrum Master

One of the questions I hear most often in the scrum community is ‘what makes a good scrum master‘. The answer can take hours of debate. I think it’s simple.
Michael Gerber in his book ‘the emyth revisited‘ describes the McDonald’s system to build companies: standardize everything into processes, measure everything and hire people with the lowest education possible.
The Agile Manifesto says ‘people and interactions over process and tools’.
McDonald’s = Do A, B and C and you get a hamburger with predictable quality.
Software development = Do A, B and C and it won’t work because things change.
Software development is creative work requiring smart people who collaborate well. Collaboration improves if we have someone foster interactions: the scrum master. 
So the scrum master needs to be good at fostering interactions, needs to be a team player. Most software teams consist of introverted people. The scrum master can fill the gap, being social, empathic, helping people interact.
She deeply understands scrum.
She removes impediments. This means she’s a problem solver, helping people get their stuff done.
Because a team doesn’t work in isolation, she needs to make others understand scrum. This implies educating stakeholders, product owners, users, customers. She explains scrum and coaches people to work well with the scrum team.
That’s it: team builder, coach, expert and educator.
Can you learn that from a training? Yes. Does having a certification means you’re good at this? I don’t think so. It means you’ve (probably) checked the ‘expert’ box. Becoming a master is not ‘check box A, B and C and you’re good’. The above skills are all social skills, personal competences. The only way to get good at those is through practice and continuous learning. And otherwise, you could always apply at McDonald’s.

2 Responses to “The Art of Being a Scrum Master”

  1. It’s a good read and completely agree. I’ve just recently completed my CSM course and about majority of the people who attend that course thinks that this is just another competency certification. But as it turns out there were actually people who want to attend that course just because they want to learn and they are willing to pay for it. So to compliment your article, I think intensive training also helps as a starting point and the certificate is just a “consequence” of learning.

    • Hugo Messer

      Thanks for your comment Raymond! I do believe that many people really want to learn. One interesting thing I noticed in Indonesia is that people do a scrum training, which includes a certification exam. And then they just don’t take the exam!


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