What does a seasoned and experienced scrum master do differently to a newbie scrum master?
That’s an interesting one. I guess the answer is that it depends.
The major difference lies in the question. It’s that experience. It’s that knowledge. And with that, comes a calmness to how a seasoned scrum master operates within the scrum environment.
New scrum masters are very often nervous.
They are new to the job, new to the organisation, new to the team and there is a lot that could go wrong. A lot that they could get wrong.
They are often finding their feet and are often hesitant rather than decisive.
I often see that hesitation come through in the form of inaction and too much action.
They will very often go around trying to do stuff, trying to prove their worth to the team and organisation because they are not responsible for delivering a product and they are very conscious that they are in an organisation that likely expects them to deliver something as part of their role.
They want to be seen as ‘busy’ so they will set up all the meetings, take over the task boards, and they will have a very full day doing loads of stuff, but they will achieve very little in respect of the core responsibilities and important milestones for a scrum master.
They most likely end up doing other people’s jobs for them to demonstrate that they can do stuff.
If you are a new scrum master, look around you and observe the seasoned, experienced scrum masters. You’ll notice that they aren’t busy. They aren’t running around doing random stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, those scrum masters are working, they simply aren’t doing other people’s jobs nor are they distracted from the true purpose of their role and what they need to achieve.
The reason why experienced scrum masters don’t try do work for others in the team, book their meetings, update their task boards, etc. is because that is counter to the goal of creating self-organising, autonomous teams that excel.
A scrum master is not an administrative assistant, they are instead a coach that helps the team achieve high-performance, collaboration and helps to create an environment where people can unleash their creativity and passion.
An experienced scrum master has a great impact when they do act or intervene. They are able to recognise the opportunities that really matter, and they are able to identify the potential problems to the team and deflect them before they impact the team.
They have a deep understanding of the organisation, the systems, and how the team work.
This knowledge and experience empower them to do the work that truly helps the team grow and improve. It informs their decision-making and enables them to focus on the work that will have the greatest return on investment for the team as well as the organisation.
An experienced scrum master knows exactly how to have the right conversations, with the right people, at the right time to ensure that impediments are removed and opportunities are exploited in ways that help the team achieve their goals and objectives.
An experienced scrum master has developed the kinds of relationships throughout the organisation that allow them to tackle impediments effectively and have a significant impact on the team through conversations and coaching engagements with the right people outside of the team environment.
New scrum masters do tend to be busy and my advice to you would be to slow down and calm down.
Take your time to understand the team environment, the organisation and the systems that govern these environments.
Make the effort do develop your relationships and network within the team as well as the broader organisation. Learn from the experienced scrum masters what truly matters and how to deliver on that effectively.
You aren’t able to prove your worth in a few weeks, it simply takes time and experience.
You are there to help create an environment where others can excel. Excellence for you is excellence for them. And what I mean by that is that when the team are doing well, others will recognise your value as a scrum master and value your contribution to the organisation.
Develop your agile capability
Actively seek coaching and mentoring in your new role from seasoned and experienced scrum masters within your organisation or within the agile community.
Having someone who’s walked your path and is deeply experienced in performing the role well will save you heaps of headaches down the line and help you progress in your career a lot faster than you ordinarily would.
Read as much as you can, attend courses and seminars, and research your industry to grow your knowledge of how effective scrum masters and agile coaches operate within complex environments.
This will also help with your credibility and your ability to reliably deliver on your commitments which will earn you trust and help you develop rock-solid relationships within the organisation and the broader agile community.
Trust me, if you offer to take work off of other people, they are going to give you their work. They are busy and face intense deadlines so any opportunity to delegate that work will be taken advantage of.
You need to be clear on what your role is and what the role of others is.
Mentorship and coaching will help you understand the role in more depth and help you develop a sense of mission and purpose for the role of a scrum master. It will help you understand where you can have the greatest impact and how you can best deliver value to the team and organisation.
If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Agile Coach Academy.
If you have identified coaching as a valuable skill to develop, visit our on-demand Introduction to Coaching course page.