Posted on October 12, 2015
by Doug Klugh

The role of a Scrum Master requires skills in a variety of disciplines.  But for starters, good soft skills are a must.  A good Scrum Master must be able to communicate effectively and be able to relate well to all team members.  He/She must be able to influence others and constantly sell the value Scrum to team members and other stakeholders.  Everyone has an opinion on how Agile principles should be applied and a Scrum Master must drive his/her team along the path carved out by the organization’s processes and methods.  It’s natural for a team to deviate from this path, but a good Scrum Master will constantly make small corrections to keep the team headed in a common direction.

Experience Matters

For software development teams new to Agile, it also helps to have a Scrum Master who has a strong background in software engineering disciplines and who has significant experience in applying Agile practices across various roles.  While Scrum teams are to be self-managing, new teams often need guidance breaking old Waterfall habits and forming new Agile habits.  As an example, many team members tend to plan around activities and delivering artifacts (such as design documents) that don’t offer any (direct) value to the customer.  It is often difficult getting team members to plan around functionality and focus on delivering value to the customer.  Scrum Masters who have experience writing use cases would be well suited to coach teams on writing stories which focus on functionality.  Many Scrum teams struggle with simply defining appropriate user roles, especially within a systems development organization.

If the Scrum Master does not have experience delivering software utilizing Waterfall, as well as Agile, it will be nearly impossible for him/her to relate to the issues that the Scrum team will face.  And if the Scrum Master does not have experience delivering a particular type of software (i.e. application software vs. system software), that will also inhibit his/her ability to coach the team; even in regards to applying Scrum processes to particular software development efforts.  The bottom line is…  domain knowledge and experience should always be prerequisites for anyone fulfilling a Scrum Master role.
Agile Scrum Master software engineering Waterfall

Doug Klugh

Doug is an experienced software development leader, engineer, and craftsman having delivered consumer and enterprise firmware/software solutions servicing more than one billion users through 20+ years of leadership.

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