2014-02-22 09.35.39What are the characteristics of an effective scrum master? Different projects, team and organizations could generate an infinite set of lists with an infinite number of attributes, but the core attributes of a scrum master are:

  • Aggressive facilitator: We defined a facilitator as someone that helps to unstick something that has stopped moving and creates an environment where progress can be made by the team. An aggressive facilitator actively looks for bottlenecks and environmental issues to maximize the delivery of value.
  • Voice of the scrum process: The scrum master must be the champion of the process.  The ability to champion requires that the scrum master be well versed in Agile processes so that the team can focus on meeting its commitments, rather than making a specific Agile technique fit the team’s need.
  • Acts as servant leader: A servant leader facilitates collaboration not only by creating a learning environment, but also by helping the team to establish a vision and goals. A servant leader builds trust in a variety of ways including providing the team with the environment needed to make decisions and self-organize.
  • High-touch people person: A scrum master needs to be a people person because teams, at their most basic level, are groups of people pursuing a common goal. The scrum master needs to connect with team members so that he/she can understand their needs, support collaboration and help break down barriers.
  • 110% self-starter: Scrum masters can’t wait to be called upon to facilitate. Scrum masters must be vigilant, observing the ebb and flow of team interactions and by helping to identify and highlight potential barriers to delivery.
  • Team first orientation: Scrum masters need to put aside many of their own needs in order to satisfy the needs of the team. Egocentric leadership tends to confuse their needs and capabilities with those of the team reducing their effectiveness as servant leaders and facilitators.
  • Empathy is the ability to share the emotions and experiences of other makes it easier to put the needs of the team first.  Without empathy, a scrum master will have difficulty building trust with and among team members making it difficult to be a servant leader and a facilitator

An effective scrum master makes the team better by prioritizing the team’s common goal. Staffing a scrum master position is more than just repurposing a project manager or business analyst, rather it is means finding an individual that can facilitate delivering value as part of team.