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July 7, 2023
7 min read

8 Tips for New Scrum Masters

If you are joining a company/team as a new Scrum Master, then you might face some challenges in the first few months. Follow the tips discussed in this article to have a better and less-stressed start.
Anton Versal
Anton Versal
The best tips for New Scrum Master

The role of the Scrum Master is a lot different from the traditional project manager role with different sets of expectations. As soon as you join a team as Scrum Master, you will see the whole team looking for instant guidance and support, while many things might seem difficult to understand. You cannot master the role of Scrum Master with just certification because it's a field experience that values the post. Being a new Scrum Master will bring a lot of challenges for you in the first few months, but that is common for new Scrum Masters. You can deal with those challenges easily if you remain focused and eager to learn. To help you further, this article presents 8 tips that can help you ease the pressure as a new Scrum Master.

8 Tips for New Scrum Masters

According to Scrum Guide, Scrum Masters are "true leaders" that makes everyone understand the Scrum theory and practice. This leadership role is quite different and demands Scrum Masters to be facilitators, leaders, mentors, etc. So, how to succeed as a new Scrum Master? Below are the 8 tips you should follow:

1. Understand Your Main Duties

You should have a clear view on what are your main duties as a Scrum Master. Only then can you see what are your powers and limitations. Below are the main duties you have to do as a Scrum Master:

  1. Help the Scrum team improve practices within the Scrum framework.
  2. Keep the Scrum team on track and focused.
  3. Facilitate removing obstacles that are impacting the progress of the Scrum team.
  4. Act as a true coach/mentor to team members for cross-functionality and self-management.
  5. Host daily stand-up meetings, sprint planning meetings, sprint reviews, etc.
  6. Assist the Product Owner in product backlog management.
  7. Help develop self-organizing skills in the Scrum team.
  8. Help increase interaction between the Scrum team and stakeholders.

Overall, Scrum Master helps the Scrum team follow Scrum principles, eliminates impediments, and makes the team self-organized and responsible for what they do.

2. Know Your Team

When you join a Scrum team you have never interacted with before, you never know their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, the first interactions are not mostly helpful, commonly a handshake. Since you are going to interact a lot with this team, you should spare no time and start getting more familiar with them.

You can call a group meeting or one-on-one meeting where you can let all members introduce themselves, what they do, their position in the team, and similar other information you want to know. You can also share your background and other information that can help make the team comfortable with you. This interaction with the team must be completed as soon as possible. However, if the team is busy due to the upcoming release deadline, then you should not force the team into this extra interaction call.

3. You are not the Project Manager

There is no project manager role in Scrum because Scrum makes the team self-organizing. However, many new Scrum Masters often confuse themselves with project managers and start doing work they should not do. For example, they might start directing different members to do specific tasks, control what the team is doing, manage the team strictly, and present themselves accountable for team output.

It is not your duty to tell members what to do and how to do. Your responsibility is to coach/mentor them so that they can make their own decisions. For example, if a team is deciding whether to pick Planning Poker, T-Shirt Sizing, Async Poker, or any other estimation technique, you should not enforce your opinion, rather support the team to have a discussion and decide on their own.

As a Scrum Master, you are a "leader," not a "boss". Give your team direction so that they can make the right decision. As an example, consider that your team has taken extra work in a sprint that looks difficult to achieve. Now you should not tell them what tasks they should skip, rather you can make them think themselves by saying “what is your strategy to complete all tasks of the sprint”. This way, they can think on their own and find a way to address the issue.

4. Gain the Trust of Team Members

A Scrum Master should be a leader/coach/mentor that team members want to have. Scrum teams know that they are self-organizing and do not need someone to instruct them on what to do. However, team members do need someone they can head to if they are facing conflict or are unable to eliminate obstacles.

It is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to make the team look good and productive. And that is possible if the Scrum Master has the trust of team members. Members should feel comfortable getting guidance from you when they are stuck at some point. Similarly, you should also be able to resolve conflicts between teams before they become serious. In addition, you can reduce stress and make the team members feel valued by celebrating their successes with fun activities. In short, gain the trust of team members so that you can perform your duties effectively.

5. Build a Relationship with the Product Owner

As discussed above, one of the responsibilities of a Scrum Master is to assist the Product Owner in product backlog management. For that, you need to have a strong relationship with the Product Owner. In fact, your relationship with the Product Owner can play a huge role in enhancing the quality of the product and the productivity of the team.

Once you have stepped foot as Scrum Master, you should start building a relationship with the Product Owner. For that, schedule a meetup with the Product Owner(s) to get to know each other, how they prefer to work, their relation with stakeholders, and similar other points. Once you have a good understanding, you can collaborate effectively on the product backlog, resulting in more strategic and rewarding product backlog management.

6. Focus on Incremental Improvement/Growth

It is likely that when you are hired as a Scrum Master, the management expects you to make the team adhere to Scrum practices. Once you start interacting and learning the team's working approach, you might find plenty of areas where improvements can be made. For example, you might realize that the team is not providing its input in the backlog refinement process and the Daily Scrum meetings are not going rightly. Now it's your job to fix these issues, but they should fix issues one at a time.

You should take one issue first, make the team realize where they are lagging, and then lead them to fix the issue. Once that issue is resolved, head to the next one. This way, you are not dragging the team members into major changes instantly and gradually making them improve themselves.

7. Open to Feedback

There is a lot to learn as a Scrum Master when you are actually in the field. This means you will definitely make mistakes, but you should be open to accepting your loopholes. Therefore, you should be comfortable receiving both positive and negative feedback.

In Scrum, everyone is learning and looking to improve productivity and outcome. Therefore, if you receive bad feedback, then it is all meant to raise you up. So, set a culture of open feedback for yourself and your team to make the whole Scrum team more efficient.

8. Become an Ambassador of Agile

Scrum Master is the one that makes the whole team adhere to Scrum practices and the Agile Manifesto. It is the Scrum Master who continuously educates the team about the benefits of Agile, the need for continuous iterative releases, and similar other aspects.

However, it is common for teams to deviate from the principles of Agile/Scrum. For example, the Scrum team might be doing Daily Scrum on a weekly basis instead of daily. So, it is the job of the Scrum Master to fix such deviations and take responsibility for the full-scale adoption of the Agile Manifesto. Therefore, become an ambassador of Agile from the very first day so that the team reflects the true essence of Agile.

Wrapping Up

The Scrum Master role is a very important role in the Scrum framework. When Scrum Master performs their duties rightly, they can lead the Scrum team to glory. It is because they not only improve the Scrum team's productivity but also facilitate having more quality and timely products. However, it is not easy for any new Scrum Master to make an impact from the very first day. There will be a lot of challenges and learning areas to master. So, if you are starting your journey as a Scrum Master, then be prepared and follow the above tips to have an effective start to your journey.

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