3 key factors of being a great Scrum Master

Being a Professional Scrum Master I find myself helping various clients and teams on their Agile journey. And being part of those journeys I’m learning a great deal myself as well. Especially on what it takes to be a great Scrum Master. Of course I can find some answers to this question in the Scrum Guide, but it’s the experience that tunes these answers into something that really hits home. Think about it, if all it would take was just to read this 19 page document, why do so many people struggle making Scrum work for their organization. There’s obviously more to it, answering the question “What makes a great Scrum Master?”

3 key aspects for great Scrum Masters

Looking back on the past years, I’m faced with this question over and over. And like anything Agile, my answer is evolving into something more to the point every time I ponder this question.

1. Patience

The one personality trait I found most crucial to being a successful Scrum Master is patience. A trait that I found very challenging by the way. For example in earlier years I would measure my personal success also in terms of how fast teams and organizations would adopt Scrum. This pushed me into a more teacher/policeman-like Scrum Master, dictating how the Scrum framework should be enacted. Instead of helping my teams investigate, experience, examine those experiences, and eventually understand the benefits of a Scrum like approach in their own way of working.

This latter option was obviously far more effective and it requires me to respect the time it takes others to evolve and grow. It means sitting on my hands, holding my breath, allowing others their own experience as a foundation for Scrum adoption.

2. Enjoy failure

The second thing I found tremendously important in my role as Scrum Master is to enjoy failure. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, I know. But enjoy it for all the cool improvements it will reveal. By fostering an environment where you welcome failure as a productive aspect of development, you’re worth your weight in gold as a Scrum Master. Don’t get me wrong though, it is highly recommendable to fail fast rather than late, especially for the more critical aspects of your product. And that combines nicely with the notion of verifying the fundamental assumptions of your project early on.

3. Organizational awareness

There is one more thing I want to identify in what makes a great Scrum Master, and that’s organizational awareness. The Scrum Guide clearly states the Scrum Masters service to the organization and in my experience this is often an underestimated part of the Scrum Master role. The successes of my Scrum teams depended greatly on the surroundings of those teams. And changes (especially the cultural ones) to those surroundings are agonizingly hard and take more time than you would expect, no exceptions. I found it very helpful to give the surrounding organization, and its willingness to embrace change, a good portion of my time and energy in order for a smoother Scrum adoption within the team and within the organization all together.

Without a doubt the list of useful and effective Scrum Master traits is longer than these three. What’s your take on this? I’m curious to hear about your success factors of being a great Scrum Master and your agile journey (even if you’re just starting). Let me know by clicking the e-mail button below this blog!

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Dennis van Zuidam

Agile Coach & Business Consultant