Finding a Scrum Master for a team

If you are reading this post, I assume that you are convinced or at least willing to try dedicated Scrum Master for your team. You are looking at various options: hire from outside; pick from inside; let team choose by themselves; nominate one by yourself (if you are a manager). Which one is best? How to know if person from inside is going to be the right person? Let’s go through every option.

 Hire from outside. First of all person must have passion and will to be Scrum Master. He should care about people more than anything else (but care about other things as well). Second thing is to determine his level of skills and if that is enough for what you are looking for. My rule of thumb: personality is very hard to change; knowledge and skills are easy to gain. So I don’t worry too much about knowledge gaps – they will learn it in time. On the other hands – candidate must be very well aware of what Agile is and is not. You can find a lot of links and advices what interview questions may be given with answers provided. Bare minimum I am searching for is: proper personality, good soft skills, get things done and passion for the role.

 Are you looking at picking one of your employers to become Scrum Master? That is one of the good options – candidate will know well your employees, will have connections, will know the product and the domain. If the person has proper personality and is willing and passionate about this – just give him the role. If he is able to gain respect and trust of other team members, that is going to be enough to become  a good Scrum Master in your company.

 Let’s say you decide to pick Scrum Master from inside. You have heard about technique to let team choose one, because it is Agile way, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. Self-Organizing is not about letting team do anything they want. And you may learn more about this from Mike Cohn if you like. Let’s take an example where team members are not aware what a good Scrum Master is. People who would be not aware of that most likely will not be able to identify that no one form their team would be suitable candidate. Or let’s take another example: in practice people tend to “elect” someone like them. Let’s say you have a team which tend to take decision quick (even before all requirements are being introduced), but you clearly notice that if they would spend more time analyzing problem and needs, they would be way more successful. I am quite sure they would choose fast decision maker, someone like them. In such case I would not leave this decision to the team as they will not get anywhere. Let’s put it simply like that: people are not able to take proper decision if they have missing competence. And that has nothing to do with Self-Organizing and top-down approach. I suggest to read more about levels of authority and delegation 

 Rotating Scrum Master? You can try it, but that should not be long term solution. In general I do not recommend this practice to anyone. Scrum Master is not someone who should be told to be one. It should be one who would love to be one. This practice simply tells me that no one wants to be a Scrum Master, so let’s see who will succeed best. Thanks, but no thanks. Scrum Master should be someone who is planning to be one for a while. It takes time to learn team from aside. It takes time to identify what should be improved. It takes time to figure out what is next improvement (I recommend to choose by Theory of Constraints). It takes time to experiment and actually make change happen. After each change team is changing and Scrum Master as well. After a change there is new team and Scrum Master needs time to learn it again.

 I hope that by now I helped you to identify your preference.

 You may think that Scrum Master is required only until the point when team becomes high-performance and are very knowledgeable about Agile. Maybe it is time to fire Scrum Master? Maybe you should not invest in Scrum Master at all as you are not going to need one in the end? Wrong. You will need him always. I suggest to browse internet about leading Self-Organized teams. In the end everyone has bad days and soft skills of Scrum Master are must at all times to keep up team climate.

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