Does a scrum master help identify what skills are needed and if so, how?
That’s a bit of a tricky question because yes, they likely would, but it isn’t one of the core responsibilities of a Scrum Master.
A scrum master will help the scrum team, specifically the developers, identify what skills they need and facilitate conversations around how best to acquire those skills.
The conversation around skills will be driven by how best to help the team solve the problems that lay before them and how best to create value for customers.
A scrum master involvement in the process of identifying necessary skills varies wildly.
They could be facilitating conversations that help the team identify what skills are necessary, who is best served in acquiring those skills and how to acquire those skills. It is a development team decision, not a scrum master decision, so it would be strictly limited to facilitation.
A scrum master might even be the lead on this conversation. They might recognise that there is a skills shortage or gap and decide to steer the team in the direction of discussing how a lack of skills is impacting their ability to achieve their sprint goals and igniting discussion around the topic.
They may recognise that there is a new kind of work coming down the pipeline and pre-empt any potential problems by discussing the nature of the work on the horizon and having a conversation with the team about any potential problems they anticipate in solving the problems or creating the new product increments.
It may just need awareness before the team recognise potential threats and proactively seek potential solutions to those threats.
A scrum master is invested in creating the environment where these kinds of discussions can happen and gently nudges people in the directions that best serve them as well as the team.
So, it’s natural for a scrum master to ask leading questions around the type of skills that are needed and whether the team are confident that they are in possession of the skills necessary to excel in the environment, current and future.
In a mature team environment, the developers are often the first to recognise that the nature of their work is changing and that new skills are required to meet the demands of the new work. They will often bring this up for discussion and as a scrum master, you are simply facilitating that conversation and helping the team achieve clarity around what is needed, by whom, and by when.
So, the short answer is that it isn’t on the scrum master to identify new skills necessary nor is it on them to set about deciding who needs to do what to meet the skills gap. That said, the scrum master can and does play a critical role in helping the team make decisions and can be a proactive member of this process.
If you do recognise that skills are needed and the team don’t seem to have recognised this as yet, a gentle nudge will do the trick and allow the team to focus on what is needed and within what time frames they need to acquire those skills.
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