Top 4 Ways to Incorporate a Scrum Master Into Your Team

If you’re moving toward Agile from a traditional project management background, one of the key roles you’re going to want to fill early on is that of the Scrum Master.

Hiring this individual – if he or she isn’t already part of the organization – is an important decision. But perhaps more important is how you’re going to integrate them into a new Agile team successfully. We’re going to discuss four ways you can make that integration seamless and fast.

(Please note: The same principles can apply to onboarding a new hire to serve as Scrum Master for an established team. An exception being that the team will likely be able to assist more with the integration in that circumstance.)

1. Understand and communicate the differences between project manager and Scrum Master.

More often than not, applicants and internal candidates who are being considered for a Scrum Master role come from some kind of project management background. This makes sense, since the skill sets overlap quite a bit.

However, there are some important differences that a successful Scrum Master must understand. A hardcore project manager may be accustomed to making quick and broad-ranging decisions, planning meticulously and micro-managing when necessary to ensure that an entire project is completed within the time frame and budget allotted.

The Scrum Master’s role is really to be a facilitator who can effectively guide conversation during the daily scrum, retrospectives, and planning meetings.

Make sure the new Scrum Master won’t slow down or even demoralize a team because of a more traditional management style.

2. Stress the importance of the Scrum Master supporting the team, not pushing them.

A Scrum Master needs to keep the team focused on each Sprint and beware of arbitrarily making decisions for the team (that’s the team’s job) or in any other way pressuring them to take on more than they’ve unanimously decided can be accomplished during that Sprint.

3. Be sure all aspects of the Sprint are fully defined and everyone understands them.

Since an effective Scrum Master needs to be able to back up his team – maybe even pushing back if a Product Owner or someone else from the organization comes in with requests or demands – it’s important for the new Scrum Master and the team to be completely on the same page in their definitions of scope, ready, done, and other aspects of each Sprint.

For example, if the Scrum Master and team are disconnected about their “definition of done,” what’s to prevent uncontrolled scope creep from bloating every sprint? What will the Scrum Master do when the Product Owner appears with “just one more little thing” to tack onto the current Sprint? Without a clear vision that everyone agrees too, events could spiral downhill quickly.

4. When in doubt, rely on experience.

All other things being equal, a more experienced Scrum Master will be able to integrate faster and more effectively than someone coming from a different background or someone relatively new to Agile.

When we help organizations staff their Agile teams, we always err on the side of experience, seeking out the qualified candidate with the very best chance of hitting the ground running in filling the very important Scrum Master role.

If you’d like help locating an experienced and talented Scrum Master for one or more teams in your organization, review our Agile Professional Staffing services for more information.