I’m a Scrum Master…Now What?

The Journey Starts With a Single Step

Key Takeaways

  • Your decision to become a Scrum Master triggers the start of a journey to become the catalyst your organization needs.
  • Becoming a first-time Scrum Master requires more than just attending training or receiving a certification.
  • Agile education comes in many shapes and sizes so your training selections should align with your own learning style.

In our previous post, we walked through the journey of deciding if you should become a Scrum Master. If you have answered the call with a resounding “yes,” you are probably excited to get started. But where to begin?

Having coached numerous Scrum Masters through this journey over the past 5 years (most who were previously project managers), here is a loose approach to take with those committing to their new role:

Embrace the change. A whole new world awaits those becoming a Scrum Master, especially those who have previously been a project manager. Accept how big a deal this is. This WILL be different. This period of awakening should foster an environment of questioning many paradigms, techniques, methods, and approaches previously used. What may have been recognized and rewarded in the past will not be true in the future world of agility.

Initial coaching periods will be spent with me sharing stories of past transformational experiences to get the new Scrum Master excited about the possibilities. I will listen to the language the Scrum Master is using to see if they realize just how big their change journey will be.

Look inward. With an understanding of just how different things will be, it’s time to make it personal. During this period, the focus is on building the self-awareness muscle of the new Scrum Master. I will rarely make any statements at this time…but plenty of questions. “How would you handle [insert a future situation]?” “What are you sensing about [insert a current situation]? “Why do you think…?” This is also the time to introduce journaling to the new Scrum Master.

Sometimes I will ask the new Scrum Master to create a personal mission statement as the first entry in their journal. For example, “The reason I’m here is to foster an environment capable of building a product our customers love with a team of people who are excited about coming to work every day.”

Discover your brilliance. With internal guidance established, the focus shifts to mapping out tactical areas of development to allow your strengths and personality traits to emerge. We may identify a few skills to improve on as well. What are those things we should work on to bring your personal mission statement come life? From my perspective, any development plan is centered around you being allowed to be yourself.

As there are many materials available publicly through a quick Google search, I won’t list everything out but choose a development model you feel comfortable with. You can always check out my book (for free by signing up for the blog) and the accompanying development worksheet if you are looking for something to start with. Regardless of what you choose, make it your own.

Find a coach or mentor. Looking back, the biggest gains made in my own development have come while under the “umbrella” of a mentor. To identify good candidates for your mentor, here are 4 characteristics of the good ones. Share your mission with them. Share your development areas with them. Share what you are struggling with and your biggest concerns. Most importantly, just be yourself with them.

If you are currently working with an Agile coach, I would hold off on selecting an additional mentor as your coach should be filling the mentor role for you initially.

Educate yourself. The first thing many new Scrum Masters do is jump into formal training or obtain a certification before going through the steps in this post (or the previous post). Without going through this entire thought and awareness journey, the Scrum Master role will feel mechanical and soulless. As a Scrum Master, you are a “tip of the spear” change agent. You must believe this and taking a two-day class to become a Certified Scrum Master is not enough to equip you with what you need to be the change catalyst your organization requires.

I am often asked for recommendations about training or certifications options for new Scrum Masters or Agile coaches. So far, the only recommendation I have publicly made is for the Agile Coaching Institute although I’m sure there are other great ones out there. I am neutral when it comes to the Certified Scrum Master certification…nice if you have it but not required in my opinion. (Full disclosure, I’ve had my CSM since 2005.) Outside of Agile, development exercises centered on facilitation, presenting, team-building, conversations, psychology and improvisation would also be recommended.

The reason I would wait to select training until after finding a mentor is to allow your mentor the opportunity to share what learning experiences has worked for them and for both of you to develop a plan together. We all learn new things differently. Select an education approach based on your own learning style. Some need to see, experience and interact while others learn best with formal, curriculum-based lectures or seminars.

Engage with a community. Find other Scrum Masters or Agile coaches in your organization or area. If there isn’t one in your organization or city, start one up! Meetup is a good place to search for local area Agilists. The importance of having a safe forum for new Scrum Masters to learn and share with other like-minded practitioners can’t be overstated.

And you’re off! By now, you have been assigned to your team. Team members are staring at you waiting for you to get them started. No worries. The journey continues new week with the post “Starting Your First Sprint.”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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