Updated: Feb 9
Selecting a Scrum team’s SM can be the difference between success and failure of the team’s ability to adopt Scrum. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the selected SM has the correct qualities, skills, and characteristics to allow him help his team flourish in the Scrum environment. I have broken down the minimum characteristics that a good SM should have, below:
The SM is supposed to be the servant leader of the team; there is no room for personal glory, as that may trigger antagonism from the team members.
One of the main activities of an SM is to remove impediments from the team. The SM should have the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience, to remove any obstacles during the day-to-day activities.
A great educator
The SM should have the ability to educate people to work in the Scrum framework. This is not only for the team. The SM should be proactive and educate sufficient personnel in the organization. These can be people who either support the process or who want to learn about Agile and Scrum.
Focus on the team not the technical solutions
The Scrum Master is not responsible for the provision of technical solutions; his focus should be on the day-to-day improvement of his team, their working environment and continual improvement of the process.
The master of their role
I think it is obvious that a Scrum Master should be an expert in his field. A great Scrum Master will always search for new ways to improve his skills, knowledge, and practices. This will help him handle the different challenges that are common in Agile projects.
Familiar with the organization
The Scrum Master should understand the organization’s hierarchy, complexity, culture, and the key people that can help him promote the Agile agenda. A Scrum Master who is comfortable with these organizational aspects will be more efficient and effective in his work.
Can influence others
A Scrum Master that cannot influence his team will fail even before he starts. Even though an SM does not have the authority to tell people what to do, he should still have the ability to influence them, based on charisma, leadership, respect, and trust.
Has a coaching personality
One of the core responsibilities of the Scrum Master is to coach the team and any other stakeholders in all aspects related to Scrum. A great Scrum Master has the personality to work with others and coach them with passion, in a way that helps them develop as individuals and as a team.
A Scrum Master must be a well-organized person. This allows him to handle the responsibilities and day-to-day activities that are crucial to the success of the team.
Knows how to handle conflicts
As part of his job, the Scrum Master will have conflicts with team members (it just comes with the job). A true Scrum Master will know that understanding conflicts is a necessary part of the team’s growth and will know how to use them to promote his team.
A servant leader
The Scrum Master should serve the team; he should lead by example (not by title) and stick with the team during bad and good times. In the Agile manifesto, we have a specific principle to describe the idea behind the “Servant Leader”: "Build projects around motivated individuals. Provide them with an environment that supports their needs, and trust them to get the job done”.
Familiar with the product
There is a great advantage in a Scrum Master who understands the product and can share his experience with the team at critical points and who can help with the complexity and challenges of the requirements.
Respects other opinions
The Scrum Master can possess great technical skills that can help his team, but it is recommended that he not interfere with the day-to-day teamwork (he can advise and share his knowledge as long as he respects and is willing to follow the opinions of others).
A great Scrum Master allows leadership within the team to thrive and sees it as his own success.
If you really want to test how good your Scrum Masters are, just look at their team and how they work when they are not actively present. That the team can work without their Scrum Master is the best indicator for testing his work.