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How to Select an Appropriate Scrum Master

The selection of a brand new Scrum team’s Scrum Master can impact the success or failure of the team’s Scrum adoption. Choose the wrong person and also the team could face the uphill struggle of trying to turn into self-organizing while under the thumb of a command-and-control style manager. Pick the correct person – matching the abilities of the new ScrumMaster with the initial requirements of the team – and the team will have an extraordinary headstart in adopting Scrum.

I had intended to use this short post to present some guidance on how you can select an suitable ScrumMaster. In preparing to do so, even so, I realized that a a lot more fundamental question requirements to be answered first: Who should choose a team’s ScrumMaster? Ought to it be the team members themselves? Should it instead be a departmental manager? The Project Management Office? Perhaps the Product Owner need to pick the ScrumMaster with whom they believe they are able to function finest?

I’d like to answer that, in all cases, the team members should choose their own ScrumMaster. Unfortunately, that is not always probable. Whether or not the team should select their own ScrumMaster is dependent largely on how far along in their adoption of Scrum the team is. In a lot of instances when a team very first adopts Scrum there are lots of parts of it they are unsure of. There are numerous parts they will struggle with and will probably be tempted to omit or weaken. New teams frequently, for instance, are tempted to conduct their daily scrums much less frequently than every day. They aren’t utilised to working closely with others and have not ventured far beyond their individual roles. Taking a team at this level and saying, “you’re self-organizing so you figure out who your ScrumMaster is” frequently leads to disaster.

Instead, these extremely new teams often benefit from a telling style of leadership. They have to be told that they’ll generate software that’s working and “done” at the end of each sprint, that they are going to meet daily, that potentially shippable indicates tested, and so on. I’m not implying that they are told this in some heavy-handed, command-and-control way. Rather, my point is that the team wants a leader/ScrumMaster who will tell them it’s not acceptable at this point in their Scrum adoption for them to experiment with the fundamental, generative rules of Scrum. These teams probably aren’t ready to pick their very first ScrumMaster.

By contrast, think about a team in which people are comfortable working with one another; where each team member could have a defined functional role but where every is comfortable and capable of stepping beyond that role for the good of the team; and where team members have a greater willingness to stick to the rules at initial. A team such as this would likely bristle at being assigned a ScrumMaster.

So, who really should choose a team’s ScrumMaster? My default position is that the decision needs to be left up to the team. Even so, a caveat to that position would be to very first ensure the team is up for the initial challenges of adopting Scrum. Don’t make it harder for them by piling this decision on them if they won’t have a framework for making the best decision or if the decision is going to be taken away from the entire team by one overly aggressive member who sees the role of ScrumMaster as a ticket to increased authority, greater power, as well as a seat on the corporate jet.

When the team isn’t in a position to choose their 1st ScrumMaster, my fallback position is that the decision belongs to the departmental manager whose neck will most be on the line for the success of the project. I prefer to steer clear of having the product owner choose the ScrumMaster simply because that has the possibility of eroding the helpful tension that ought to exist between an excellent ScrumMaster/product owner pair.


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