As more and more organizations are shifting to Agile, it's important to put the right individual in the right role. Many Scrum teams fail to perform to their maximum potential just because of uncontrolled impediments which eventually lead to team dissatisfaction.
It is really common for many novice teams to select someone with a large amount of technical knowledge or a senior person on the team to be their new Scrum Master. However, these should not be the only criteria and one should select a Scrum Master with specific traits. If a Scrum Master is not really being a Scrum Master then the organization will not get most out of the team.
In my opinion, there are six traits a Scrum Master should exhibit.
Scrum Master Traits
Let’s talk about traits needed from the Scrum Master.
Facilitator – Processes, such as daily stand-ups, retros, mid-Sprint reviews, and demos are one of the important aspects of staying organized. Though these processes look really straight forward and simple, it all depends on the Scrum Master and the Scrum team to make them effective. If the Scrum Master fails to provide the expected leadership, then the team will fall apart and the organization will not get what they expected out of the Scrum team. A Scrum Master should be energetic and should constantly look for opportunities to evolve processes and make them more enjoyable. If processes are followed just for the sake of being followed, it will not have any impact on the team's effectiveness.
Negotiator – A Scrum Master has to work closely with the Scrum team and the Product Owner and should exhibit excellent negotiation skills because his negotiations and decisions will have a direct impact on the Scrum Team as well as the business. A Scrum Master should not only exhibit a delivery-centric attitude and the desire to look after the Scrum team but also recognize business challenges and work closely with the Product Owner to address changing business needs. The Scrum Master should collaborate with the Product Owner about how they can assist in supporting changing business requirements.
Influencer – The Scrum Master should exhibit influencing ability. Influencing someone is an art and a Scrum Master’s job demands they have the ability to make a positive impact on the Scrum team as well as the Business team. A Scrum Master should be able to understand who to influence and when. If there are unexpected business objectives in the middle of the Sprint, he should be supportive of the team, and when the Product Owner is very demanding, he should be able to work with the Product Owner to create reasonable expectations.
Protector – Protecting the team is one of the key behaviors a Scrum Master should exhibit. It is very common in the industry that unplanned for objectives or impediments drive a Scrum team in a completely different direction. When this happens, it is easy for a Scrum team to lose sight of their Sprint goal. A Scrum Master has to protect the team and keep them focused on the Sprint goal, while also keeping the business's interests in mind.
Conflict Resolver – When there is a team, conflicts are bound to happen and I believe some of the disagreements within a team are good for a team’s overall development. If team members are challenging each other for good reasons, then such behavior may prove productive. But, if it is due to the fact that individuals are not getting along with each other, then it needs an immediate fix. The Scrum Master is a leader in the team and the first responder to these types of conflicts. If he is able to win the trust of each team member, then he can resolve the conflict without involving someone higher up the chain of command. It is really important for the Scrum Master to win the team’s trust.
Team Builder – Scrum teams are always focused on providing continuous value to the business team and it is a never ending process. There are always going to be situations when a team doesn't perform as well as they would have liked. In these situations, it is okay to recognize 'failure' and celebrate setbacks which ultimately contribute to the team’s maturity. The Scrum Master should always look for an opportunity to develop a good team culture. He has to provide a safety net, so team members can feel comfortable and take appropriate risks.
The Scrum Master role is a pivotal role for any Scrum Team. A Scrum Master should not be hired based solely on technical skill and tenure in the organization or in the team. If an individual does not display the above traits and just has strong technical skills, they will neither enjoy the role nor be able to stay productive. In the end, selecting the right person can create a winning environment for the Scrum Team as well as the business. Think, is your Scrum Master really a Scrum Master?