Looking for the right Scrum Master to work with your Agile team? Then this post is for you. I talk about two things in this post – Why a Team Leader may not be a right fit for the job and Five Questions to ask yourself when conducting a Scrum Master interview.
In a few teams I worked with, there was a misconception – a Team Leader is the right Scrum Master. Many times, I have seen this assumption fail. The main reason is the difference in competency and skills required for a Scrum Master – from those of a Team Leader or a Project Manager.Team Leaders and Project Managers don't always make a great #ScrumMaster Click To Tweet
If a person holds a certification like CSM (Certified Scrum Master), he or she is preferred for the role. Remember, any certification introduces a person to certain skills. Whether the person is truly capable of acquiring these skills and use them in their job, is a completely different topic. It is true that they have a better chance of being the right Scrum Master. But it is not always true.Don't let a Certification bias creep in to your Scrum Master Recruitment #scrummaster Click To Tweet
Now that you are convinced (hopefully) that the current designation or certification doesn’t qualify a candidate to be a Scrum Master, let’s look at five questions.
Ask yourself these questions, if you are either interviewing an external candidate or evaluating an internal candidate. Positive answers may suggest that the candidate fits the bill.
Q1: Is the candidate a Good Listener?
What has listening to do with a Scrum Master? In fact, a lot I would say.
If you closely observe a daily standup meeting of an experienced Agile team, you may find the Scrum Master being extremely quiet. It doesn’t mean lack of participation. It means that he is listening to others and will pitch in as needed. Active listening is an important attribute to look for in a Scrum Master candidate. Do remember this question in your interviews.
Q2: Is the candidate a Good Facilitator?
Have you ever watched an Orchestra? If yes, have you paid close attention to the Conductor? He is the person who normally holds a baton and makes hand gestures to the music band. He makes sure that the tempo is set, correct entries are made by the individuals and ensures a great overall performance.
A Scrum Master plays exactly the same role in an Agile team.Scrum Master's role is similar to an Orchestra Conductor #scrummaster #agile Click To Tweet
He is reasonably detached from the team and doesn’t get the hands dirty. But, like an Orchestra Conductor, he ensures that everyone understands and move towards the common objectives. He takes the responsibility to ensure a successful delivery of the complete show.
Your interview must include some probing or questions to understand if the candidate can play this role.
Q3: Can the candidate be Passively Authoritative?
Okay, I cooked up the term – Passive Authority! It refers to someone who can be passive most of the time and let the team drive the show while making necessary minor adjustments along the way. But if things are way off the target, this person puts on the “Authority” hat. He makes assertive decisions and control individuals to set things back on track.
Agile teams are empowered and can self-organise themselves in most occasions. But when they cannot, the Scrum Master must pitch in and use his authority. In times of illness, command-and-control can be used as a medicine in sufficient dosage.Passive Authority is the art of knowing when to wear the authority hat #agile Click To Tweet
In your interview, probe for hints and find if the candidate can use his authority when demanded by the situation.
Q4: Does the candidate have Good Communication Skills?
A Scrum Master acts as an entry point into an Agile team.
He is responsible for sending out relevant information about the team progress, in suitable formats, to other stakeholders in the project. He is also responsible for acting as a filter and bringing right information into the team. Just like a filter, he must prevent the noise and less useful information from entering the team.
Good Communication skills greatly help with these responsibilities. Language skills are just one part of effective communication. Choosing the right format and applying rational thought are other important attributes to consider.
Make sure the candidate has these skills before making him the Scrum Master of your Agile team.
Q5: Can the candidate pick up subtle signals?
In a team, people don’t always speak things out. There are several ways to understand non-spoken realities: observing the body language, paying close attention to the words used, judging the attitude are some of them.
The Scrum Master must be smart enough to pick these signals. He must be able to understand the project trend and not just be a reader of metrics.A good #ScrumMaster must pick the right signals from team members #agile Click To Tweet
For example, if there are big variations in the velocity between iterations, the Scrum Master must use his mind, delve further and understand the root cause. Reporting the deviation to management team is only half job done.
So make sure to look for this attribute in your candidate.
Let me recap everything we discussed in this post.
- A Team Leader or Project Manager doesn’t automatically qualify to be a Scrum Master. The competencies and skills are very different
- Certifications can help highlight potential Scrum Master candidates. But don’t make decisions solely based on them
- Think of five questions when interviewing or evaluating a potential Scrum Master candidate
- Is the candidate a Good Listener?
- Is the candidate a Good Facilitator?
- Can the candidate be Passively Authoritative?
- Does the candidate have Good Communication skills?
- Can the candidate pick up subtle signals?
What in your opinion are other essential characteristics in a Scrum Master? Do share it as comments to this post. We are listening!