Tips To Become A Great Scrum Master

Team discussing tips for scrum masters and planning in the boardroom

How do you become a great Scrum Master? Read the Scrum Master tips to find out how.

AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach

Let’s first have a look at what skills you need to be a great Scrum Master.

As the Scrum Guide explains, a Scrum Master needs to be a Servant Leader – but what does that mean? It means that Scrum Master responsibilities are always centred on serving the people. This differs from management, and it takes a divergent skillset to serve. Scrum Masters need to uphold Scrum values and help teams internalise the Scrum framework

The Role Of Scrum Masters

If we have a deeper look into the Scrum Guide, it explains how a Professional Scrum Master serves the Product Owner, Development Team, and the Organisation. These are the various stakeholders that the Scrum Master must manage simultaneously. For you to be a great Scrum Master, you need to showcase the skills and abilities relevant to the role.

We can sum up the skills as follows:

  • Mastering Scrum
  • Being an adept facilitator
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Coaching team members to collaborate
  • People skills
  • Agile mindset

  • Empathy

  • Listening

  • Observing

  • Conflict resolution to foster team work

  • Being a Scrum Trainer

  • Adaptability

  • Mentoring all Scrum team members, no matter the size of their roles

  • Being a change agent

There is no specific university that educates Scrum Masters, so how do you become one and be great at it?

Do I Need To Be A Certified Scrum Master?

As mentioned, to become an outstanding Scrum Master you need to develop and grow the above skillsets. There are multiple ways to do so, one of them is to become a Certified Scrum Master. But we also know there are hundreds of different certifications out there, so which one should you choose? And is it important to choose the right one?

What Certification Should I Do To Become A Great Scrum Master

There are hundreds of certifications out there, so which one should you choose? You will get a different answer based on who you ask, but I want to share my view based on years of experience in the field.

Think of reaching the peak of your Scrum Master role as a journey. It is not something that happens with one course and then you are done. In reality, it’s a journey based on iteration and time. If we look back on the list of skills, there are many, and no single course covers every skill.

So, where do you start? At the first skill – Mastering Scrum. A Scrum Master Certification gives you an understanding of the Scrum framework. I personally will always recommend the CSM – Certified Scrum Master from Scrum Alliance. There are multiple reasons for this.

  • Scrum Alliance is a globally recognized certification.
  • Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization, so a percentage of what you pay for your certification goes back into the agile community that Scrum Alliance supports.
  • One thing Scrum Alliance supports is User Groups all over the world. If you are based in South Africa, Scrum Alliance supports Scrum User Group South Africa (SUGSA). They offer free meetups with focus on agile topics; and access to other events which can help you on your journey to becoming a great Scrum Master.
  • To become a Trainer for the Scrum Alliance takes a lot, and it is difficult. Why is this a plus? Because when attending Scrum Alliance Certifications, you are sure it is world-class trainers giving the courses and not just a person who has done a 2-day course. Scrum Alliance Trainers are highly skilled and exceedingly experienced.

Is It Enough To Be A Certified Scrum Master To Be A Great Scrum Master?

Most Scrum Master Certifications are 2-day courses and only give you an understanding of the agile mindset and the Scrum framework. So no, being a Certified Scrum Master does not make you a great Scrum Master.

The certification is only the start of your Scrum journey. What follows matters more. Go back to the list of skills and look at what you need to grow. To become a great Scrum Master, grow your facilitation, coaching, and training skills, those are your keys to success. Understand individual team roles and be able to help team members self-organize and internalise the Scrum framework.

A course that can give you skills in facilitation, training and deeper understanding of the human brains “Training from the BACK of the room”. I did the course myself a few years ago, and it blew my mind. It is the best course I have ever done and will always be a course I recommend to Scrum Masters that want to be great.

Another part that is often forgotten in the journey is understanding other agile frameworks. You could ask, why should I understand other frameworks when I am a Scrum Master that needs to master Scrum? Because your job as a Scrum Master is to help optimize the way the people work, and you can learn a lot from studying another framework such as XP, Kanban, SAFe, etc.

SAFe even has a SAFe Certified Scrum Master certification that is a great add-on to your CSM.

Why Is It Important To Be A Certified Scrum Master

It depends on who you ask and the reason behind why you want to be certified. My view is that a Scrum Master certification does not show that you are capable or how much experience you have.

Then why get certified?

As a person who interviews a lot of Scrum Masters and gets a lot of CVs, I do not have the time to interview everyone, so the first thing I do is to look at the journey the Scrum Master has been through.

To be a great Scrum Master, your CV should show the journey you have travelled to develop the skills mentioned above. If I can see a great journey, you will get on top of the list and most probably get invited for an interview. So yes, it makes a difference to be certified, but it is not enough – it is a journey driven by passion.