I’m flattered to have been asked for advice by a few people that are new to, or aspiring to the Scrum Master role in my time.
I’d love to be able to provide a definitive checklist of tips and tricks but this is simply not practical. Every team has different needs and problems. The environment in which a team operates will differ. Every Scrum Master is different, we all have different backgrounds, experiences, ingrained culture, our own strengths and weaknesses. I dare say, if it was possible to provide a template for being a good Scrum Master that anybody could take and apply to their team and organisation, then people in the Agile community that are much smarter than me would already have done so.
Though I wouldn’t give a list of solid practices to be followed, I do believe that there are some overarching principles that are worth sharing.
1. Do whatever is needed to help the team achieve its goals. One of the jobs of the Scrum Master is to ‘remove impediments’. Another way of interpreting this could be ‘do whatever needs to be done to help the team achieve its goals’.
2. Understand that there is no template for success. What works for one team won’t necessarily work for another. It is worth spending time to get to know a team and the individuals in it and adapting your style as a Scrum Master accordingly rather than applying a set of practices. Work with the team to work out what works for them.
3. Keep learning. Scrum and Agile continues to develop with new ideas coming into the field all of the time. Don’t just restrict this to Agile either; there is a much to learn from all sorts of leadership techniques that can support what we do as Scrum Masters.
4. Engage with the community. Just as teams working collaboratively evolve the best solutions, Scrum Masters that are able to discuss and share experiences can tap into knowledge and ideas from the wider community that can be called upon.
5. Don’t restrict your agility to Scrum. Though Scrum is the most widely used approach, most teams use at least some practices borrowed from Kanban, XP or others, many without realising it. Practices are designed to solve specific problems, and the more techniques we have knowledge of – and when and why to apply them – the more we have in our arsenal when confronted with different scenarios.
6. Critique everything. Everything we and our teams do should have a purpose. If something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t appear to add value, we should be asking why we are doing it. This applies to everything from requirements, the approach to solutions, practices used, and yes, advice given by other Scrum Masters.