The Perfect ScrumMaster Job Description

[Go here if you're looking for ScrumMaster Interview Questions *POPULAR POST*]

I was commissioned by a client to put together a ScrumMaster character profile for helping them choose good great ScrumMasters to join their team. Please do notice that no where in this job description is certification. I believe that a good great ScrumMaster is all about the character.

A high performing team, an active and involved Product Owner, and business support can help a new ScrumMaster do their job very well. Character, however, isn’t taught, it’s grown.

Top 10 Personal Skills for a ScrumMaster:

  1. Servant Leader – Must be able to garner respect from his/her team and be willing to get their hands dirty to get the job done
  2. Communicative and social – Must be able to communicate well with teams
  3. Facilitative – Must be able to lead and demonstrate value-add principles to a team
  4. Assertive – Must be able to ensure Agile/Scrum concepts and principles are adhered to, must be able to be a voice of reason and authority, make the tough calls.
  5. Situationally Aware – Must be the first to notice differences and issues as they arise and elevate them to management
  6. Enthusiastic – Must be high-energy
  7. Continual improvement - Must continually be growing ones craft learning new tools and techniques to manage oneself and a team
  8. Conflict resolution - Must be able to facilitate discussion and facilitate alternatives or different approaches
  9. Attitude of empowerment - Must be able to lead a team to self-organization
  10. Attitude of transparency – Must desire to bring disclosure and transparency to the business about development and grow business trust

Technical Skills:

  1. Understand basic fundamentals of iterative development
  2. Understand other processes and methodologies and can speak intelligently about them and leverage other techniques to provide value to a team/enterprise
  3. Understand basic fundamentals of software development processes and procedures
  4. Understand the value of commitments to delivery made by a development team
  5. Understand incremental delivery and the value of metrics
  6. Understand backlog tracking, burndown metrics, velocity, and task definition
  7. Familiarity with common Agile practices, service-oriented environments, and better development practices

*The above technical skills are nice-to-have, but not necessarily required!

 

60 Responses to “The Perfect ScrumMaster Job Description”

  1. Eric Laramée
    March 14, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Love it!

    I’d add “Political Savvy” Be able to work/collaborate/communicate effectively with upper management, stakeholders and other external dependencies.

    Cheers!

    • peter
      March 14, 2011 at 10:08 am #

      Thanks, great addition~

  2. David Bland
    March 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    “B. Understand other processes and methodologies and can speak intelligently about them and leverage other techniques to provide value to a team/enterprise”

    I think this is becoming a requirement and no longer a “nice to have”, especially for those ScrumMasters that like to brand themselves as Agile Coaches.

  3. Robb
    March 14, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    what are “F. .. turndown metrics”?

    • peter
      March 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      Corrected! “Burndown”

  4. ken ritchie
    April 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Outstanding! Peter, this is one of the best I have seen yet.

    Placing “Servant Leader” at the top is essential. And the subtext, “Must be able to garner respect from his/her team and be willing to get their hands dirty to get the job done” seems correct, but perhaps not complete enough. (Indeed, it could be that a self-serving leader would garner respect, and work hands-on, too.) What could we say, concisely, that reveals the heart of a servant leader? Perhaps, “…, while placing others’ interests ahead of their own.” [or something like that]

    For those who might not be familiar with Greenleaf’s work, it could be helpful to extend the description just enough to suggest what it is that differentiates servant leadership from other leadership styles.

    Press ON! ;-)

    • peter
      April 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

      Servant leader is crucial. It’s numba 1!

  5. Andrej
    June 3, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Great stuff! Going to print this our and put on the wall!

    • peter
      June 3, 2011 at 8:33 am #

      Oh sweet. Take a picture and send it to us!

  6. Lody
    August 2, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Today I was asked by the program manager to provide him with a summary of what we are looking for in a scrum master so that we can brief the recruitment agents and get the right candidates. Essentially a job description but not really. Thought i would have to work through the night to prepare one but alas I found your post. Love it Love it Love it. I couldn’t have done it better myself. Thank you for sharing this and for giving me back some time with the family.

    • peter
      August 2, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      Awesome! Glad I could help.

  7. Charles Bradley
    August 12, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Peter,

    I don’t know how this can be the perfect SM job description when “Strong knowledge of Scrum theory, practices, and rules” is not included. I like just about everything else you wrote, but this is a big oversight in my opinion.

    • peter
      August 12, 2011 at 11:55 am #

      Charles, thanks for your comment. Actually, I believe you DONT need to have these to be affective.

      I’ve seen project managers, BA’s, dev leads, product managers, and so forth… who have no previous knowledge of scrum and Agile be SUPER effective. Why?

      Quick learners
      Great communicators
      Great facilitators
      A people person
      Etc etc.

      So much of being a good ScrumMaster is having the initiative, assertiveness, and gumption to do that which is hard… and help a team focus and block things that impede progress.

      Can a team teach a person to be a good scrummaster? Absolutely.

      • Charles Bradley
        August 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

        Well, my experiences differ I guess. I’ve seen really poor Scrum implementations, especially from those with a PM background. They make so many “Scrum rookie” mistakes detract value from the organization and team. Of the roughly 10 close in experiences I’ve had with PM’s and Scrum, I did have one good experience. I believe this particular PM had the good qualities you describe, but she also made rookie mistakes. What separated her from the other PM’s is 1) the aforementioned good qualities, 2) that she had a very able Scrum Coach (Me, I know one shouldn’t brag about oneself, but notice I said “very able”, not “super excellent bad a–”), AND 3) she took the time to **learn** about Scrum.

        So, IMO, what you have described above is a good job description for a “Scrum Master in training”, but not a good job description for a “Scrum Master”.

        • peter
          August 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

          Fair enough. I think I may be a little biased because I helped coach those ScrumMasters in their vital roles… so… you got me there :)

          • Charles Bradley
            August 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

            Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s an excellent character profile, it just needs a couple of things to upgrade the character profile to a job description.

            The one I mentioned, Scrum knowledge. Plus, if it were a real job description, Scrum Master experienced would be preferred, but not required. (Again, assuming you have someone to mentor the SM in training)

          • ken ritchie
            August 13, 2011 at 2:59 am #

            So, then, we could add the Scrum knowledge to the *Technical Skills* inventory…where we already list “iterative” (process), “incremental” (delivery), various planning and tracking techniques, and in G. “Familiarity with common Agile practices…” (to include Scrum, of course!) The “familiarity” could be extended with “and experience.” My main point is that “Scrum” knowledge / familiarity / experience / whatever is a Technical Skill, not a Personal Skill, and the Personal Skills list stands with or without invocation of Scrum-specific behaviors. For example, in exercising “D. Assertive…” one leans on one’s knowledge of Scrum practices and the underlying principles of agility… while steering the group toward self-organization and problem-solving (via “I. Attitude of empowerment…”).

            If we were to change the process framework from Scrum to XP or FDD or whatever, as long as we stay within the envelope of collaborative agility, we see that the Personal Skills are essentially invariant across process variations. In fact, I believe that the most adept teams regularly inspect and *adapt* their methods over time, raising the bar again and again, as they Communicate, Collaborate, and Contribute while bringing each other along in a productive journey of Learning, Loving, and Leaving a legacy. Furthermore, the most *effective* “ScrumMasters” are a “master” of Scrum and a “servant” (or shepherd) to the group, and they are so influential yet subtle that the group can take credit for results and revel in the sense that “WE did it!” Take care of the team and they’ll take care of business.

            “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” –Irish proverb ;-)

  8. Paul
    September 2, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    Hi guys

    I’ve been working as a digital project manager for 3 years and now want to get certified in scrum.
    I understand the fundamentals of development but don’t feel i could actually get my hands dirty and code elements of the project. Is it a requirement that the scrum master has a more developer/coder background?

    I’m trying to understand if I should do the scrum master or product owner certifications.

    Thanks

    • peter
      September 2, 2011 at 8:09 am #

      ScrumMaster would probably be worth more for you.

    • Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
      September 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

      Hi Paul, Choosing whether to walk the SM or PO path next?
      I’ll use “moccasins” in lieu of the usual “hats” metaphor. ;-)

      Neither role requires a developer/coder background. Sounds like you have a good understanding of (and appreciation for) the various technical moccasins that your coworkers are wearing, as you have surely walked with them in your PM role for some time.

      Here are some pathway questions you can also ask yourself…

      “Which perspective,
      the product or the people,
      gets my attention first?”

      “In which paths do I feel
      most prepared to walk, today?”

      I am not suggesting any people-vs-product opposition. I’m simply recognizing that each of us may be drawn to help and contribute in various ways, investing our strengths into the group.

      One opportunity is to champion the product, as PO. Another is to champion the people who build the product. That’s your SM job.

      For the SM role, refer back to the top of this article. Also in the intro notes, Peter linked a great little piece about being a “Product Owner” (http://agilescout.com/product-owners-are-key/).

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers!

      • peter
        September 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

        Great suggestions here Ken! Thanks a ton. Hope it helps Paul! Let us know how it goes!

  9. Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
    June 18, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Thoughtful post yesterday by Mario Moreira, “Agile Adoption Roadmap: Who makes the Best ScrumMaster?”

    Read it at http://cmforagile.blogspot.com/2012/06/who-makes-best-scrummaster.html

    I agree with Mario. Do you?

    ;-)

  10. Reese
    March 21, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Peter, can I use some of this in a Job Req?

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