Sunday, March 22, 2009

Identifying a Scrum Master for a new Scrum Project

Recently my article on "Identifying a Scrum Master for a new Scrum Project" got published on Project Perfect. I have pasted the article below with a bit modification.

We know that the Scrum Masters should posses the following skills to be effective in their roles:

  • Be a sheep dog, ensuring that the team follows the Scrum Practices properly
  • Be a servant leader
  • Impediment remover
  • Be like a parent - Take charge if the kids are going in the wrong direction.
  • Avoid command and control mentality.
  • Good facilitation skills
  • Communication and Negotiation skills: Even though these two skills are mandatory for any team member, I thought of explicitly bringing this out here.

I feel that above "skills" cannot be acquired through trainings or bootcamps and not even by reading books. However one could acquire the above "knowledge" through various sources like books, trainings and attending seminars. In order to really implement them and make it a part and parcel of life, would require dedicated practice over a period of time.

If we come across a person with the mastery in above skills, then he/she would have had:

  • A lot of experience in dealing with various situations
  • Experience working with in a multi cultured environment
  • Experience in making tough decisions under various circumstances and specifically the ones related to management

Even though imagining a person with above skills might create a picture of a serious person, I don’t mind adding another point to the above skill list as “The person should be Light Hearted”.

I have also observed that the most of the above skills are found in senior(experienced) people in the project as they would have gained experience by implementing projects in various capacities.

Now coming back to the actual point, if your project is transitioning from waterfall to Agile (Scrum), can you pick any team members from the existing waterfall team to be a Scrum Master? It is a tough decision, isn't ? . What criteria would you to pick that special person for the team ?

Even though there is no rule that only "senior" person should be picked as Scrum Master, I have observed in most of the projects that the senior most person in the team typically possess “most” of the above skills as compared to the rest in the team, and that senior most person typically is the "Project Manager".

Many “waterfall to Scrum” projects typically would pick the “Project Manager” to be a “Scrum Master” but where they fail is in identifying the missing gaps in the skills of the Project Manager that stops him becoming a true Scrum Master. The “Project Manager-Scrum Masters” continues with their old PM skills and never become a true Scrum Master and thus the project never achieves the desired results of a true scrum project.

Since, the Scrum Master need not posses deep software and technical skills, I don’t mind recommending someone from a non-software background for this job. I have seen that many great leaders come from a non-software background.