My boss has given up prodding me at work to do this blog post and has now made it public on her blog … ok ok I’ll do it 🙂
I have always struggled with work titles. And as a result my bosses have always struggled to give me a title. I don’t like being labelled – it makes me feel like there is a box I need to fit in and that’s it. At my previous company I felt I didn’t fit into any traditional titles like “architect”, “project manager”, “team lead” and whenever someone asked me what my title was I’d say “S.A.M” (that’s my name by the way). That highlighted that I didn’t have a title, frustrated my bosses immensely and confused those people who didn’t know me. And that is the point of a title I suppose, its there so that those who don’t know you, know what you do at the company.
At my new job I have a new title, “Scrum Master”. It is what I was hired to do – be a scrum master – but this title has some challenges as well…
- Most people (ok – everyone besides my boss and fellow scrum masters) have no idea what a scrum master should or shouldn’t do.
- I do things that don’t fall under the Scrum Master title. So perhaps my perception/definition of title needs to change? New definition: Title doesn’t mean that’s all you do or all that’s expected of you, but it is what role you perform 80-100% of the time whilst at work. (feeling better already 🙂 )
- I don’t like being tied to a ‘methodology’. I do not follow scrum religiously and I don’t think scrum is the solution to all problems, but my title seems to imply this…
The official route …
Yes – I am certified with the Scrum Alliance (this is my official page). I am a Certified ScrumMaster and a Certified Product Owner. The CSM course is over 2 days, you pay x and get a certificate (similar for the CPO course). Thus its not worth much except that you’ve attended a course. From my tone you might realise that I’m not a big fan of the certification – but large corporations love it and it helped me get my current job, so there – I have two certifications!
So what is a Scrum Master?
First thing to do is always google … it seems many people have blogged about what a scrum master is to them and given their insights:
Some have put together a checklist of skills and attributes a person who wants to be a great scrum master should have:
- focused and meticulous
- team player
- great problem solving ability
- outstanding communication and decision making skills
- a capacity to make the team work together
- inspires and motivates
- emotionally stable and works well in stressful situations
- conflict resolution
Enabling the greater scrum team to achieve the goal of delivering awesome, working software to the client regularly.
The devil is always in the detail, so let me break this down…
Enabling – the scrum master is not there to jump in and do dev, or test or analysis work. They are not ‘part’ of the team in that sense. The scrum master is there to ensure the team knows what they need to do, and why they need to do it. We do this by assisting with creating stories, prioritising the backlog, expressing the vision, taking care of impediments, providing a safe and secure environment, promoting collaboration and communication and above all facilitating the team towards being self-organising.
the greater scrum team – this is the team (developers, analysts, testers) and others the team interacts with. Like the product owner. Occasionally if specialised skills are required for a task, it might include architects or DBA’s. At my company it includes Product Management. The scrum master needs to work with and possibly coach ALL these people, not just the team.
to achieve the goal – goals are extremely important. They give you something to aim for and they are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive). In scrum these are our stories that we commit to in a sprint as well as the sprint goal. As a scrum master I aid the Product Owner and analyst in creating these goals, I also assist the team with accepting and committing to these goals.
of delivering awesome, working software – This relates to the definition of done for the team. It implies the team owns the quality of the software they produce and they own the review of that deliverable. As a scrum master I need to help them with this ownership and the responsibilities that go along with that.
to the client regularly. – The Product Owner will accept or reject stories during the review which occurs after every sprint. As a scrum master I facilitate this interaction.
The scrum master role does not require a technical background (but it does help!). There is an element of leadership, but not management. Soft skills are essential – these include moderation, facilitation, conflict resolution and commun
ication. There is a definite coaching aspect. You will need to coach the greater team in scrum and agile ways. You might even need to coach your organisation in scrum and agile ways. For me a big part of this role is self-coaching. I need to keep up to date with what others world wide are doing in agile development. I need to share my experiences and learn from others failures and successes.
“A good ScrumMaster can work with multiple teams at once, a GREAT ScrumMaster will only work with one.”
– someone on some blog post.
I think about this quote often. I have two teams currently and I am not the best I could be. Thus their growth and development, and mine are slowed down tremendously. It is frustrating knowing you are not doing your best. I was reminded recently that I just need to take one step at a time, and eventually I will be where I want to be. Did I mention you need patience in this role?
It is up to me, and each and every scrum master out there to show how valuable we are and what a difference we can make. This blog post was step 1 – explaining what a scrum master is 🙂