Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, January 16, 2017

Explaining being a scrum master to civilians.

A scrum master is a servant-leader
One of the things which make working in the 21st century so dispiriting is most people cannot easily describe the work they do.  During the middle ages, people were farmers, blacksmiths, nobles or merchants.  The roles and job descriptions were easy to understand.  Today, the work of content curators and account managers creates plenty of ambiguity and misunderstanding.  This week on the blog, I want to clarify the definition of a scrum master.

The Elevator Pitch

When I am at social functions, networking events or family gatherings people ask me what I do for a living.  I say scrum master and I get a puzzled look, and they ask me, “What kind of job is that?”

This is what I say.
“I build software and help developers and businesses develop software on time, on a budget, and with minimal bugs.”
The person nods and smiles, once this sinks in and switches to a new topic.

The Scrum Master Syllabus

When I describe the job of a scrum master, it often looks like a college syllabus.

A good scrum master is:
  • An excellent communicator with individuals, small groups, and the organization.
  • They understand the agile manifesto and principles of Agile and practice them every day.
  • They are a trainer and coach making product owners, developers better and their job.
  • They educate business leaders and stakeholders on how agile is making their business better.
  • They are good listeners
  • They have grace under pressure
  • The can educate developers on TDD and SOLID development
  • They are servant leaders
  • They ship working software regularly.
  • They make a god damn difference.
These are the signs of a good scrum master, and I try to aspire to these goals each day.

The bottom line.

Being a scrum master is a hard job.  It is also a calling of sorts closer to being a priest or pastor than a software professional.  A good scrum master can reinforce your belief and faith in agile, or they can turn into a tool of oppression.  I have never been into oppression, and I want to be someone who makes a difference.  That is why I am a scrum master and why I have such high standards for the profession.

I hope this clears up any misunderstandings.

Until next time.