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Scrum Master Interview Question: Which Metrics Do You Use?

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Scrum Master Interview Question: Which Metrics Do You Use?

Finding out what a potential employer thinks of metrics is important. Read about the three questions you need to ask as a Scrum Master.

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I have attended many Scrum Master interviews, all with varying degrees of alignment to the actual role of a Scrum Master. Almost a guarantee to appear in every interview, however, is the question “Which metrics do you use?”

Whenever I’m asked this, my head starts spinning and my heart pounds a little faster because I’ve got to the critical moment where I learn whether this organization "gets Scrum" or doesn’t. Ok, ok, "getting Scrum" doesn’t solely rely on a thorough understanding of metrics, but the conversation following my answer at the very least says a lot about the organization’s desire to adopt Scrum correctly.

There are countless articles on which metrics are out there and what they can be used for. The problem is, they don’t really help a Scrum Master candidate answer the question “Which metrics do you use?” Once you’ve read this, I suggest going and reading some of those, if you haven’t already, which I’m sure you have! First, though, we must answer the following:

1. What is being measured?

2. Who wants the metrics (and why)?

3. Who uses those metrics?

What Is Being Measured?

If we don’t know what is being measured, how can we measure it? Does the interviewer want to know how well the Scrum Team sticks to its timeboxes? Does the interviewer want to know how many production defects exist? Does the interviewer want to know how much technical debt has accrued? Does the interviewer want to know how much value is being delivered each Sprint?

The list of things that could be measured goes on forever and so does the list of associated metrics. To provide a good answer, it’s vital that it’s clear what is being measured.

Who Wants the Metrics (And Why)?

If the Development Team from Scrum Team X wants to know what their capacity for an average Sprint is, the Scrum Master might suggest velocity be used. If the CEO for that organization wants to know the same thing, a Scrum Master might worry that velocity would act as a proxy measurement for value and coach the use of other metrics. Perhaps if a Developer’s Line Manager requested the same data, velocity might be mistakenly used as a metric of individual performance, again, something the Scrum Master would discourage.

Knowing who wants the metrics (and why) will help refine the answer to what is being measured, allowing you to select a more appropriate metric and prevent its misuse.

Who Uses Those Metrics?

Does a Scrum Master really use velocity? Probably not. It’s a metric to help a Development Team understand how much capacity it has in an iteration and a tool to help a Product Owner understand potential completion dates for particular goals or missions. A Scrum Master may coach the use of it for those reasons but he himself doesn’t necessarily use it.

Does the Scrum Master really use metrics regarding the value delivered each Sprint? No. It’s the Product Owner who is responsible for the value of the product, therefore, only the Product Owner really uses them.

Does the Scrum Master really use metrics regarding the Scrum maturity of a Scrum Team? Yes (probably, maybe, hopefully?). It’s the Scrum Master’s responsibility to serve the Scrum Team and the organization in implementing Scrum so such usage makes sense.

So, once we’ve answered what is being measured and who wants the metrics, we can understand who should use/report on them.

For example, if the request is for the value obtained from each increment, then the most suitable person to use or report on that information would be the Product Owner. Does it make sense for a Developer or Scrum Master to report to senior management on the value of each increment?

How I Answer in an Interview

In an interview, I’ve always answered this question the same way this blog is structured: asking the interviewer those three key questions. Of course, I get a mixed bag of responses and certainly not always positive. It’s risky because it’s not necessarily something the interviewer wants to be faced with; it challenges their understanding of metrics. Of course, you could always go straight to: velocity, defects, cycle time, number of releases, etc. (just Google “Agile metrics”), but are you really satisfying your role as a Scrum Master? Wouldn’t it be better to coach the use of specific metrics for specific needs and encourage specific people or teams to use them?

If you’re in the hunt for a position where your role as a Scrum Master is truly respected and understood and for a company that truly wants to move towards agility, then I suggest asking those three questions. If they're answered, be prepared with metrics and be prepared to challenge their misuse. Not only will you uncover the interviewer’s desire to adopt Scrum and an Agile way of working, but you'll demonstrate your deep knowledge of the subject.

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scrum ,scrum master ,recruitment ,metrics ,agile ,interview

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