Perhaps you are thinking of pursuing a career as a Scrum Master. Yes, why not? The job is in great demand and it pays well too. The most important reason for becoming a Scrum Master is that it is the right job for your skills, personality, and interests.
Who is a Scrum Master? Can the Scrum process be implemented in any type of project and in any industry?
A scrum master is a professional who guides a team through an agile project management process. To achieve the best outcomes, a scrum master facilitates all communication and collaboration between leadership and team members.
Today, Scrum is a sought-after project management philosophy fit for any industry. The key lies in proper tailoring of the framework to suit the project’s needs and to execute it effectively.
According to glassdoor.com, the average base salary for a Scrum Master is $93,285 per year. Here is a list of a few companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Adobe, Cognizant, Nokia, Accenture, Wipro, HCL, Infosys, JPMorgan Chase, etc. who hire for this position.
Now, if you are determined to ace your next interview as a Scrum Master, the following Scrum Master interview questions and answers will fast-track your career. To relieve you of the worry and burden of preparation for your upcoming interviews, I have compiled a list of interview questions for Scrum Master with answers prepared by industry experts. Being well versed with these commonly asked Scrum Master interview questions will be your very first step towards a promising career as an Agile Coach/Scrum Master.
Q 1. What is Scrum?
Ans: Scrum is a process framework meant to help teams in an organisation develop projects in an iterative, incremental manner. The above process is organised in cycles of work called Sprints.
These cycles are usually two weeks, and they are timeboxed. This means the job ends on a specific date whether the work has been completed or not. They are never extended.
At the beginning of each sprint, the team chooses one of the project’s tasks from a prioritised list. They agree on a common goal of what they believe they can deliver at the completion of the sprint, something that is tangible and realistic. During the sprint, no additional tasks are added.
The team meets every day to review their progress and adjust the steps needed to complete the remaining work. At the end of the sprint, the team reviews the work cycle with the stakeholders and shows the end product. With the feedback they get, they plan the next sprint.
Scrum emphasises obtaining a working product at the completion of each sprint. If we are talking about software, it means a system that is integrated, tested, end-user documented, and shippable.
Q 2. Who is a Scrum Master and what are his/her responsibilities at work?
Ans: The Scrum Master is responsible for supporting and promoting Scrum. He/she assists the team in meeting their goals. The Scrum Master helps to manage project risks and mentor the team as a coach. The Scrum Master is also known as the servant leader, as they provide collaboration and motivate their team to deliver their best.
Q 3. What is a “user story” in Scrum? How will you help in picking up the good user stories for the team members?
Ans: As a Scrum Master, one of your key responsibilities is to help the team pull up the backlog for a sprint that is already prioritised and pull items that are placed and sorted as per the priority. Once the team is able to identify items that can add value from the pile of requirements, the Scrum Master can help the team to convert them into good user stories.
A good user story has a well-defined description and acceptance criteria. It should be a job that can be delivered in a sprint and involves minimum dependencies. The team has to develop and test within the boundaries of the sprint along with providing the estimates. In short, good user stories should follow the INVEST principle.
- Independently held
- Negotiable – Describes the functionality that can be negotiated between the team and the Product Owner
- Valuable – Provides value to the customer
- Estimable – Too big or too vague = not estimable
- Small – Can be done in a sprint by the team
- Testable – Good acceptance criteria
The scrum master can help the team in creating good user stories during the backlog refinement or sprint planning so that the team can pick them up for the commitment.
Q 4. What are the three main roles involved in the Scrum framework?
Ans: A Scrum framework has three main roles:
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- Scrum team
Q 5. Will the Scrum team be involved in the product discovery process also, and if so, how?
Ans: During the early phases of the product development lifecycle, it really helps if the scrum team is made part of the discovery process. You should understand that agile talks about the early involvement of the teams with the stakeholders so that both parties are on the same page in regard to the development. Let’s look at some of the advantages of early involvement:
- The development teams identify the technical challenges in implementation early in the process, hence, can help in reforming the requirements along with the customer.
- The team along with the product owner also start sharing a common understanding of what is to be built. Sometimes, the teams can help the product owner in identifying the requirements which might have been missed.
- They share a mutual understanding of what is to be built. It also helps the teams to stay committed and confident, they tend to build an ownership of their work and most importantly it boosts up the morale of the team.
- To facilitate this, the scrum master can start involving the teams in early discussion of the product where the requirements are still at a high level. The team together with the product owner can build up the product backlog.
Q 6. What kind of information would you require from the Product Owner to provide the team with an update on the product and market situation?
Ans: The teams working on a product need to know the integrity of the project and the customer. The product owner should help the team understand ‘Why are we building it?’, ‘What purpose is it going to serve?’.
Such questions help the team to understand their customer. The product owner has to convey the value that will be added if the product is delivered on time. Conversing the market situation helps teams to understand how the product management works and the criticality for time to market. It also helps to steer the team in a different direction at the end of every sprint, the product owner can help the team in understanding how the customer is going to consume the product.
Q 7. What are the three main artefacts of the Scrum process?
Ans: The artefacts of Scrum are:
- Product Backlog
- Backlog for Sprint
Q 8. What is the difference between waterfall and Agile Scrum change management?
Ans: In Waterfall, change management is based on the plan, the change tracker and the release plan based on which the consultants deliver their work. In Agile, there is no change management plan. Work delivery is accounted for based on the definition of the product backlog.
Q 9. What are the main tools used in a Scrum project?
Ans: The tools used are:
- Version One
- Target process
- Vivify Scrum
- Quick Scrum
- Pivotal Tracker
Q 10. What are the major advantages and disadvantages of using Scrum?
Ans: The major advantage – With early feedback, as well as the production of the Minimal Viable Product to the stakeholders, would be the main advantage of using scrum.
The disadvantages of using Scrum are :
- The daily Scrum meetings require frequent reviews and a substantial number of resources.
- A successful project relies heavily on the maturity and dedication of the whole team.
- The uncertainty of the product, the changes, and frequent product delivery remain present during every Scrum cycle
- It relies on significant change.
Q 11. What do you understand by Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in Scrum?
Ans: An MVP is a product with just the minimum required features to be shown to the stakeholders and be eligible to ship for production.
Q 12. What is the term velocity in Scrum?
Ans: Velocity calculates the total effort the team has put into a sprint. The number is obtained by adding all the story points from the previous sprint. It is a guideline for the team to understand the number of stories they can do in a sprint.
Q 13. What are the most common risks in a Scrum project?
Ans: The common risks are:
- A scope creep
- Timeline issues
- Budget issues
Q 14. How can a Scrum Master track the progress of a sprint?
Ans: Scrum Masters can track the sprint progress by using the burndown chart. The vertical axis shows the amount of work remaining while the horizontal one shows the number of sprints.
Q 15. Is cancelling a sprint possible? Who can cancel a sprint?
Ans: A sprint can be cancelled before the sprint timebox limit ends. Only the Product Owner can cancel the sprint.
Q 16. How is the estimation in a Scrum project done? What are the techniques used for estimation?
Ans: Estimation in a Scrum project is done using relative Agile estimation techniques:
- The T-shirt Estimation Technique
- The Planning Poker Estimation Technique
- The Estimation by Analogy Technique
- The Disaggregation Estimation Technique
Q 17. What does DoD mean? How can this be achieved?
Ans: The Definition of Done is presented by a list of tasks that define the work’s quality. It is used to understand whether an activity from the Sprint backlog is completed.
Q 18. How can you determine agile practices are working for your organization, and which of these would demonstrate your efforts are succeeding?
Ans: There is no standard definition of ‘agile success’ that can be used to measure an organization’s agility. Every organisation must develop its own criteria. Increasing team velocity is usually not considered to be a meaningful indicator.
However, although they are indirect, there are various indicators that may be useful in determining success:
- The Scrum team is able to generate a good ROI for the business.
- The improved organisational agility allows for pursuing market opportunities successfully, which previously would have been considered futile.
- There has been a reduced allocation of resources to low-value products.
- Lead time, from validated idea to shipped product, has now decreased.
- The cycle time for hypotheses validation will decrease, speeding up the product discovery process.
- There is improved team happiness, exhibited by reduced churn and an increase in the number of referrals from team members.
- There is increased competitiveness in the war for talent, which can be demonstrated by an increase in the number of experienced people willing to join the organization.
- There is improved software quality that can be demonstrated by measurably less technical debt, fewer bugs, and less time spent on maintenance.
- There is greater respect among stakeholders for the product delivery teams.
- Stakeholders are increasingly participating in events, for example, during the Sprint Review.
Q 19. As a Scrum Master, when should I not act as a facilitator?
Ans: Although a Scrum Master is said to facilitate the team to produce the best results, workshop facilitation is sometimes a different matter. A workshop facilitator must be independent of the topics being discussed and should not contribute facts or opinions to the conversation.
In most general product development workshops, if he/she has the skills, the Scrum Master may facilitate the workshop. However, if the workshop is to discuss something like modifying the Scrum process, the Scrum Master does have important things to contribute and should not facilitate that workshop.
Q 20. As a facilitator, how do I prepare for a workshop?
Ans: The following facilitator activities are required when preparing for a workshop –
1. Identify the Workshop Owner – Each workshop must have an owner; the person who needs the group decisions. For example, for a requirement gathering workshop, the owner would most likely be the Product Owner.
2. Establish the Workshop Objectives – You can treat a workshop like a mini product development; the Vision is the overall reason for the workshop; the objectives are the first decomposition of the vision.
The Vision: To decide which are the products to promote.
- Decide the products in scope
- Evaluate the relative value of the products
- Establish a prioritized list of products to promote
3. Establish the Participants – The Workshop Owner should give a list of required workshop participants and/or direct the facilitator to a person who can provide that information
4. Establish by when the workshop must be run – All decisions are time-sensitive. It may be that some proposed participants may not be available at specific times. The date and time of the workshop must be chosen to be within the cut-off date and to maximize the number of proposed participants
5. Establish the type of workshop to be run – Workshops can be run as participants sit around a horseshoe-shaped table to an ‘Open Space’ where participants are free to roam a room with separate areas for discussion on specific topics.
6. Arrange the workshop venue – A workshop venue must be chosen and booked to suit the number of proposed participants and the workshop type
7. Establish any pre-workshop participant reading materials – It may be useful for proposed participants to have some information pertinent to the workshop before the workshop begins. Although you, as a facilitator, will give them access to these materials, do not expect every participant to have read them!
8. Invite the participants to the workshop – Send invitations to the proposed participants with the following details:
- The reason for the workshop
- The Workshop Owner
- The workshop Objectives
- The date, time and venue for the workshop
- The proposed participants; this may be the distribution list on the email; it gives proposed participants to suggest other participants and/or to suggest replacements for themselves
9. Arrange for refreshments to be available
10. Prepare the workshop space
11. Point of Process – If a participant feels that the group discussion is not following the correct procedure or a discussion has gotten off-topic, they may make this hand gesture and say out loud “Point of Process.”
Q 21. As a Scrum Master, how will you approach standups with distributed teams?
Ans: The daily stand-up meeting helps the team in the development of the team’s commitment towards the sprint goal. Hence, all agile teams should meet at regular intervals, so that everyone is talking in the same language.
When the teams are co-located or distributed, there is just a small difference in how scrum events are conducted. They use video conferencing for sprint board sharing and there are multiple platforms like Skype which can be used to bring together the teams. Here, the Scrum Master can come up with creative ways of working with distributed teams, like coordinating across time zones, building a relationship when everybody is not in the same office, working together among different development cultures.
Q 22. Do you think it is necessary to check the team health in a retrospective? If so, how would you do it? How can you prevent extreme weariness at retrospectives?
Ans: A sprint retrospective is an opportunity to inspect and adapt the process to check the team’s health.
When the Scrum teams follow the same pattern of the retrospective sprint by sprint, it does induce weariness among the teams. The Scrum Master needs to be creative enough to try out different patterns, sometimes changing the location also works. Some of the teams opt to go out for lunch and have a discussion over there, it not only helps to collaborate but also provides a safe environment to discuss.
Q 23. How will you make the team deliver action items on time?
Ans: To make the retrospective effective, the team should identify the action items. This gives a platform to the team to start a conversation, but only identifying will not serve the purpose. The action items should be targeted for closure and the scrum master should take steps in realizing this goal. For every action item, there should be an owner, teams should refrain from assigning multiple owners to a single item as the idea of ownership dilutes. The scrum master should manage the repository of action items on a tool or an excel which is accessible to all the team members. Having a backlog of action items also helps as then the team can actually prioritize.
In the retrospective meeting, the team should go through the items from the last retrospective and talk about their status, in that way everyone can keep track of where they are and what more is required to achieve the goal of closure. Few organizations use retrospective tracker where the action items are categorized into – priority, ownership, status, description, identified on, type. Working on the actions items gives the team a boost that they are moving forward towards improvement and also it enhances the sense of ownership.
Q 24. A Scrum Master has a list of open impediments which is growing without proper resolutions. The Scrum Master consults with the Development Team on the problem. Is it right?
Ans: Yes. The Scrum Master is one of the roles from the Scrum team which is responsible for ensuring the team is adhering to the Agile values and principles. The Scrum Master is the team facilitator. Along with that, the SM is responsible for clearing the obstacles, protecting the team from external interruptions and distractions that hinder the project goal.
Q 25. How does a Scrum Master increase the productivity of the Development Team?
Ans: By facilitating their decisions and removing impediments. Scrum Master does not manage the Development Team. It is the responsibility of the Development Team to manage its own efforts. However, the Scrum Master helps them by facilitating their decisions and removing impediments and protecting them from external distractions.
Q 26. As a Scrum Master, what do you need to do when you find the organization or an individual is breaking one or more of the Agile Principles?
Ans: Here is a list of misinterpretations or breaking of the Agile Principles and also the suggested ways to fix these problem(s):
1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
The concern – Some people focus on the ‘happy customer’ aspect of this Principle and will do whatever the customer asks. This may make the customer happy in the short term but the real value to the customer is delivering valuable increments of the product as early and continuously as possible.
The fix – ensure the development team and customer agree on a regular Sprint and Release Schedule and ensure that they keep to it.
2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
The concern – Some Agile teams understand the word “welcome” here as permission to forget about any requirements management at all. What is the easiest way to welcome change? Obviously, just get rid of any required documents! However, this principle does not mean abandoning any requirements management process.
The fix – Ensure that the Product Owner maintains an ordered Product Backlog and that all change requests are handled by the Product Owner; the PO will decide if the change is justified and if it is whether the request is important enough to interrupt the current Sprint or whether it is placed on the Product Backlog in the appropriate business value position.
3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale
The concern – There may be some Development Team members that think this Principle applies at the Development Team level but does not apply to themselves individually. It is difficult to imagine how these people think that the team will deliver without their individual contribution!
The fix – Ensure that all Development Team members attend Release and Sprint Planning workshops and contribute effectively. Additionally, ensure that all Development Team members attend the daily Scrum; it will soon become obvious if an individual’s progress on their chosen activities is less than ‘optimal’.
The Scrum Master should engage any ‘miscreant’ Development Team member in individual mentoring to discover what the underlying problem is that is causing the problem and help the person to improve.
4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project
The concern – Working together doesn’t mean working without clearly defined rules and processes. Some teams interpret this Principle as the legalization of chaos; they think that, since we work together, we do not need to define roles, we should not document requirements and we should not care about responsibilities.
This is clearly nonsense; Agile requires that all the responsibilities necessary for successful product development must be identified and an individual or group of individuals take on one or more of those responsibilities.
The fix – As a Scrum Master, for new Scrum Teams, ensure that a workshop is held with the Scrum Team and key stakeholders to define all the necessary responsibilities and ensure that all the responsibilities have been accepted by one or more people appropriately.
Do not allow individuals to ‘quote’ their named role job specification in an attempt to avoid responsibilities; if they have the knowledge and capacity to fulfil a responsibility outside of their job specification, then they could accept that responsibility.
5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done
The concern – It may be difficult for some ‘managers’ and ‘supervisors’ in the early stages of an Agile transition to ‘let go of the reins’; they are used to assigning low-level tasks to individuals and monitoring their work closely; their implies a lack of trust on their part in the ability of individuals and teams. Agile teams should be self-organising and self-managing.
The fix – As a Scrum Master, you must closely monitor the activities of ‘managers’ and ‘supervisors’ and if these activities are disruptive to the Development Team, then you must mentor the individual ‘miscreants’ to explain the Agile philosophy and Principles to them how their ‘interruptions’ are causing delays in development progress.
6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is a face-to-face conversation
The concern – Face to face does not necessarily mean that all people contributing to the conversation are in the same room; some people believe it does and use this to avoid Agile when all people cannot be in the same room.
However, technology has moved on since the Agile Principles were written; today, communicating by video conference and desktop sharing facilities is commonplace.
Video-conferencing is preferred over teleconferencing because with the latter, you lose the ability to observe body language, an important part of any communication.
The fix – As a Scrum Master, if communication with remote people is needed, whether within the Development Team or with stakeholders, encourage the use of video-conferencing at a time that is suitable to all the people in different time-zones.
7. Working software is the primary measure of progress
The concern – This principle states that working software is the primary measure of progress; it is not the only metric we can use to analyze product development.
The Development Team measure and use their Velocity to help them plan; the business (Product Owner) measures the benefit achieved from released increments.
The fix – As a Scrum Master, you need to ensure that the Development Team and Product Owner agree on the metrics that are to be used. You must help to ensure that the metrics are measurable, relevant and are of value.
You need to make sure that collecting any metric may have the effect of changing peoples’ behaviour; for example, if the number of lines of code per day was to be measured, developers may use verbose coding practices thus reducing progress and technical quality.
The focus of any metric chosen must be its contribution toward the overall business value accruable from the product increments being delivered.
8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely
The concern – This principle focuses on the well-being of all involved with product development but it must not be forgotten that the prime focus of product development is to deliver value to the ‘customer’; the Development Team cannot just keep working at a comfortable pace if they are not meeting the ‘value deadlines’ set by the ‘customer.
The fix – As the Scrum Master, you need to ensure that the Development team estimate the Product Backlog Items and agree with the Product Owner what is possible in a fixed time and what is included in the Product Backlog MVP; ensure that the Product Owner is aware of his/her responsibility to measure the rate of delivery of business benefit.
9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility
The concern – This principle means that there must be technical ‘rules’ in place that must be checked for in each developed requirement source code before it can be considered “Done” and allowed to be reviewed by stakeholders. If these rules are not in place or they are not checked for, then the quality level will decrease resulting in an unhappy ‘customer’ and reduced progress as required rework is done.
The fix – As the Scrum Master, encourage the Development Team, Product Owner and technical advisors to agree on what the technical and design quality criteria are and how they will be checked for; the agreement forms the “Definition of Done” (DoD) that each requirement and increment will be checked against before it is reviewed by stakeholders.
10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential
The concern – To some developers, it is tempting to ‘future proof’ their work, adding functionality that may be or known to be needed later. This results in slowed progress and potential work when the perceived later need does not transpire.
The fix – Ensure that there are some DoD criteria that check for future-proofing in the required source code. This will encourage developers to: ‘Only do today what is essential to do today’
11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
The concern – We say that the Development Team should be self-organising for the work that they do during sprints but they are subject to constraints such as the overall technical architecture to work within; set by corporate tech architects. The Development Team can ask for amendments to the technical architecture but they have no control over it.
The requirements – the requirements are the Product Owner’s responsibility; the Development Team can suggest changes to the Product Backlog but they only have control of how the agreed requirements are implanted.
The design – There may be corporate design standards in place; again, the Development Team can suggest design changes but only have control over how the agreed designs are implemented.
This principle is not just about the Development Team; the self-organizing concept applies to the wider group of business and technical stakeholders that must work closely together so that the product can provide the best business value.
The fix – As the Scrum Master, you must analyze any constraints that the Development Team have to work with and ensure that adequate processes are in place whereby requested changes are speedily analyzed and accepted or not.
12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly
The concern – This principle is embodied in the Scrum ‘Inspect and Adapt’ Pillar and is enacted through the Sprint Retrospective event. The Sprint Retrospective is not just about discussing what is wrong but also what is good and maybe the team should do more of it.
At the start of an Agile Transformation, the team may ‘find’ many things that are ‘wrong’; the long list may be seen by some to be time-wasting and others as demotivating; ‘how are we going to address all these problems?’. Because of this, many teams give up on the Retrospective!
The fix – The discovery of good and bad things during a Retrospective should be time-boxed to maybe 15 minutes when the major points will be discovered. There are many Retrospective Games that can be played by the team members to make the discovery more enjoyable.
An important part of the Retrospective is that the team prioritize the issues and plan how to resolve the top 1 or 2 issues in the coming Sprint.
Progress on issue resolution can be done during the daily sprint and the overall success of the improvement plans is checked at the start of the next sprint retrospective.
Q 27. One of the Agile Manifesto values says “People over processes”. Here the Scrum master’s role which enforces “the process”- is it not a contradiction?
Ans: Though Scrum mentions the Scrum Master role as the person enforcing the process, it is important to understand what exactly does the enforcement mean and what its boundaries are.
Here, enforcement does not mean forcing the team to follow the process, but it implies putting in practice the core entities of the Scrum to help the teams be successful. The Scrum Master is the facilitator helping the teams reach their goal. During facilitation, the Scrum Master will use Scrum practices and would encourage the team to follow the scrum values.
Again, it is important to mark that we are talking about encouragement and not forcing. This role will be a collaborative effort and not a directive one. From time to time, the scrum master will try to show the benefits of adopting the processes and help the team acquire an understanding of the scrum processes which is like showing the right path but it is up to the team if they want to walk through it. The scrum master will also be acting as a coach for the team to help with outshine in the agile journey and be successful.
Q 28. What sort of person do you need to be a great Scrum Master?
Ans: The following is a quite comprehensive list of attitudes and skills that contribute to being a great Scrum Master; of course, you do not have to meet this entire list to be a great Scrum Master; consider it as some inspiration on areas you might want to research.
- Involves the team with setting up the process. A great Scrum Master ensures the entire team supports the implemented Scrum process.
- Understands team development. A great Scrum Master is aware of the different phases a team will go through when working as a team.
- Understanding principles are more important than practices.
- Recognizes and acts on team conflict. A great Scrum Master has read the book ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team’ by Patrick Lencioni. He/she, therefore, recognises team conflict in an early stage, can apply different activities to resolve it, and even better, he/she knows how to prevent conflict.
- Dares to be disruptive. A great Scrum Master understands some changes will only occur by being disruptive. He/she knows when it’s necessary and is capable to be disruptive enough to enforce a change, but without causing irreparable damage.
- Is both dispensable and wanted. A great Scrum Master has supported the growth of teams in such a manner they don’t need him/her anymore on daily basis. But due to his/her proven contribution he/she will get asked for advice frequently.
- Let the team fail (occasionally). A great Scrum Master knows when to prevent the team from failing but also understands when he/she should not prevent it. The lessons learned after a mistake might be more valuable than some good advice beforehand.
- Encourages ownership. A great Scrum Master encourages and coaches the team to take ownership of their process, task wall and environment.
- Is RE-TRAINED. A great Scrum Master recognizes himself in the acronym made up by Geoff Watts, RE-TRAINED:
- Resourceful: is creative in removing impediments
- Enabling: is passionate about helping others
- Tactful: is diplomacy personified
- Respected: has a reputation for integrity
- Alternative: is prepared to promote a counter-culture
- Inspiring: generates enthusiasm and energy in others
- Nurturing: enjoys helping teams and individuals develop and grow
- Empathic: is sensitive to those around them
- Disruptive: breaks the status quo, help create a new way of working
- Has faith in self-organization. A great Scrum Master understands the power of a self-organizing team. Attributes of self-organizing teams are that employees reduce their dependency on management and increase ownership of the work.
- Values rhythm. A great Scrum Master understands the value of a steady Sprint rhythm and does everything to create and maintain it. The Sprint rhythm should become the team’s heartbeat, which doesn’t cost any energy. Everyone knows the date, time and purpose of every Scrum event.
- Knows the power of silence. A great Scrum Master knows how to truly listen and is comfortable with silence. He/she is aware of the three levels of listening and knows how to use them.
- Observes. A great Scrum Master observes his team with their daily activities. He/she does not have an active role within every session; for example, the daily Scrum is done by the team itself.
- Share experiences. Great Scrum Masters share experiences with peers. This might be within the organisation, but also seminars and conferences are a great way to share experiences and gather knowledge.
- Has a backpack full of different retrospective formats. A great Scrum Master can apply lots of different retrospective formats. This ensures the retrospective will be a fun and useful event for the team. He knows what format is most suitable given the team’s situation.
- Can coach professionally. A great Scrum Master understands the power of professional coaching and has mastered this area of study. Books like Coaching Agile Teams and Co-Active Coaching don’t have any secrets for him/her. He/she knows how to guide without prescribing.
- Has influence at an organizational level. A great Scrum Master knows how to motivate and influence at tactical and strategic levels.
- Some of the most difficult impediments a team will face occur at these levels, therefore it’s important a Scrum Master knows how to act at the different levels within an organization.
- Prevent impediments. A great Scrum Master not only resolves impediments, but he also prevents them.
- Isn’t noticed. A great Scrum Master isn’t always actively present. He/she doesn’t disturb the team unnecessary and supports the team in getting into the desired ‘flow’. But when the team needs him/her, he/she is always directly available.
- Forms a great duo with the Product Owner. A great Scrum Master has an outstanding partnership with the Product Owner. Although their interest are different, the Product Owner ‘pushes’ the team, the Scrum Master protects the team.
- Allows leadership to thrive. A great Scrum Master allows leadership within the team to thrive and sees this as a success of their coaching style. They believe in the motto “leadership isn’t just a title, it’s an attitude”; it’s an attitude everyone in the team can apply.
- Is familiar with gamification. A great Scrum Master is able to use the concepts of game thinking and game mechanics to engage users in solving problems and increase users’ contribution.
- Understands there is more than just Scrum. A great Scrum Master is also competent with XP, Kanban, and Lean. He/she knows the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks of every method/framework/principle and how & when to use them.
- Leads by example. A great Scrum Master is someone that team members want to follow. He/she does this by inspiring them to unleash their inner potential and showing them the desired behaviour
- Is a born facilitator. A great Scrum Master has facilitation as his/her second nature.
Q 29. What is the ‘frames of reference’ and what are the challenges Scrum Master face during integrating multiple ones?
Ans: Frames of reference are everywhere.
So why is this important to you? When people are communicating the words and ideas that they express come from their own frame of reference and the potential for miscommunication is high if the frames of reference of the listener are not similar to that of the listener.
As a Scrum Master/Facilitator you need to be aware of different peoples’ frames of reference when they are communicating so that you can spot possible misunderstandings in listeners. The participants in product development workshops will all have their own frames of reference from business and technical and even between people within the same skill set depending on their individual experience. Listen for jargon and abbreviations in conversation and ensure that all listeners know what the speaker is talking about.
Without a facilitator, at some point, the participants will agree to almost anything, any half-baked, unrealistic, mediocre compromise, just as long as it will get them out of the room.
One way to help workshop participants gain an understanding of each other’s ideas is to encourage them to ask direct questions of one another and listen carefully to the answers.
However, there are some challenges to this ‘simple’ approach:
- Some participants fear that asking questions might seem confrontational or rude
- Many people cannot cope with the ambiguity of unstructured inquiry and dialogue for very long
- It is hard for everyone to tolerate the poor behaviors and emotional turmoil that occurs when people feel misunderstood.
Q 30. As a Scrum Master, how do you ensure that the ‘Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation’ Scrum pillars are being implemented by the team?
Ans: Scrum prescribes four formal events for inspection and adaptation, as described in the Scrum events section of the Scrum Guide; as a Scrum Master you should attend the events and ensure the team is following the ‘Transparency, Inspect and Adapt’ processes:
1. Sprint Planning: Inspect the average Team Velocity over the previous 3 or 4 Sprints, ensure that the velocities have been Transparent to the team and ensure that the team Adapt the Velocity to be used for planning the Sprint
Inspect the Product Backlog (PB) and ensure that it is up to date, that it is transparent to all stakeholders and that the team adapts the PBI estimates if necessary
2. Daily Scrum: Inspect the team board and adapt the plan for the next day ensuring changes are transparent to all the team. inspect the impediments board and adapt plans to resolve impediments if necessary
3. Sprint Review: Inspect the increment and adapt the product backlog if necessary, making sure that any changes are transparent to all stakeholders. Inspect the release plan and adapt it if necessary, making sure that any changes are transparent to all stakeholders
4. Sprint Retrospective: Inspect the process that has been followed and make plans to adapt the process if necessary, making sure that any changes are transparent to all team members.
Scrum has always been a hands-on business, and to be successful in this, a candidate needs to have a passion for the job and be ready to get his/her hands dirty. While the basic rules are simple, getting a group of individuals with different backgrounds, levels of engagement, and personal agendas to form and perform as a team is a complex task. The larger the organization, the more management levels there are, the more likely failure is lurking around the corner.
The questions may not be suited to turn an inexperienced interviewer into an agile expert. But in the hands of a seasoned practitioner, they support figuring out which candidate has been working in the agile trenches in the past.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can talk to the interviewer about your background and experience as a scrum master. You can also share what excites you (and what you think makes you a good fit) about the job position you are applying for. It will, without a doubt, boost your chances of getting hired.
Do basic research of the company (structure, their agile processes/ practices) long before you step through the door or boot up your video-conferencing software for the interview.
Here are a few tips to become a scrum master with no experience in the job position :
1. Practice the Scrum framework in other roles. Companies hiring Scrum masters often look for Scrum knowledge, but this may come from outside a traditional role.
2. Build your network.
3. Develop relevant skills.
4. Explore certification options.
5. Highlight transferable skills.
Scrum Master is a role that someone with a job title fills. Normal practice is that the person playing the role of project manager plays the Scrum Master’s role as well.
You can take up a Certified Scrum Master Training program offered by the Henry Harvin Agile and Scrum Academy, and explore more opportunities in this field of work.