5 Tips for New Scrum Masters

5 Tips for New Scrum Masters
August 21, 2019 By Michael Miller

5 Tips for New Scrum Masters

It is no trivial matter to step into the role of the Scrum Master and become the servant leader for a Scrum team. Scrum Masters need to have awareness on multiple levels and be willing to engage with an open mind, all while remaining focused on what they want to accomplish and how best to do that. Here are five tips that you can use to better position yourself to succeed as a new Scrum Master.

Tips for New Scrum Master

1. Remember the Values and Principles from the Agile Manifesto

As a new Scrum Master, it is essential to remember your training. Remember the values and the principles enshrined in the Agile Manifesto; these are the things that drive agile product development. When you make decisions about product development that align with the agile values and principles, then you can rest assured that your actions based on those decisions are firmly planted in the very heart of agile product development.

2. Identification of Issues Early

New Scrum Masters need to learn to be confident. As a new Scrum Master, you should have the awareness to know when things are not functioning as they should be and call out the process failure right then and there. A perfect example of this could be how a team practices their Scrum Events. If a Scrum team was holding its Daily Scrum on a weekly basis, then obviously something is amiss. The Scrum framework is very clear on this; it's called the Daily Scrum because it is held daily. As a Scrum Master, new or not, it is up to you to question their practice of the Daily Scrum, find out why and seek to make a change that will help them understand the importance of the Daily Scrum and the benefits that practicing it correctly will bring.

There are plenty of other examples similar to this. If Scrum teams are not adequately tracking their velocity, not holding backlog refinement meetings, or not maintaining an active and accurate Scrum board, then all of this is immediate cause for concern. And, as a new Scrum Master, it will be your job to point these things out and remedy them. Being shy or reticent will only make matters worse over time. You will absolutely have to be confident in your understanding of Scrum to identify these issue early and implement the changes necessary to help your Scrum team.

3. Push for Growth, But Make It Incremental Growth

tips for new scrum masters

All Scrum Masters want to their teams grow. As a new Scrum Master, you might get excited about a team that is ripe for growth (as in, they have a lot that needs changing). However, you need to understand that you can't force this growth to happen overnight. As the old adage goes, “If you want to eat an elephant, do it one bite at a time.” Focus on the bites.

Fix one issue at a time, both with the team and with the product. Perhaps the development team is holding Daily Scrum meetings every week and they’re not refining the backlog. Instead of tackling both issues, tackle the one you have most immediate control over - likely the Daily Scrum. Once you have the development team meeting daily for the Daily Scrum, then get with the Product Owner to address the lack of backlog refinement meetings. Take it one issue at a time.

4. Value Feedback

A Scrum Master has to value feedback.  Rarely will you get it right the very first time.  Feedback can come in the form of demos, retrospectives and other Agile events.  As a Scrum Master, you have to see both positive and negative feedback as fuel for improving the development team. No one is trying to knock you down. They are trying to build you up.  Embrace the value of feedback to make the entire development team better.

5. Don't Forget the Definition of Done!

One of the more common issues that Scrum teams have is a non-existent or weak Definition of Done. The Definition of Done is important because it is the shared definition of 'doneness' for the entire Scrum team and its stakeholders. The Definition of Done drives quality and helps reduce (or remove) technical debt over time. Prioritize the establishment of a Definition of Done that everyone understands and agrees with.

As a new Scrum Master, you are going to face many challenges early on, whether from the team, the organization, or external sources. By keeping the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto firmly in mind and identifying issues early on, you will have already avoided a handful of the most common pitfalls that plague most teams. Insist not just on growth, but on incremental growth over time. Learn to value and elicit feedback through listening, and ensure that your team has a solid and shared Definition of Done. Learning to embrace these challenges with humility, openness, and confidence early in your career is critically important and will better position you succeed not just a new Scrum Master, but throughout many years of servant leadership!

Follow this checklist to help with your new role as Scrum Master:

  1. Remember the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto

  2. Identify issues early on

  3. Push for incremental growth

  4. Value feedback

  5. Have a strong Definition of Done