The Scrum Master

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding
the Scrum Master and how they help a Scrum Team Succeed


What is a Scrum Master?

Scrum MasterA Scrum Master is a master of Scrum. They facilitate the successful use of Scrum and help guide the Scrum Team to be more and more successful using Scrum. This Scrum specific accountability involves coaching the team in self-management and cross-functionality, causing the removal of impediments to progress, facilitating Scrum events as needed or requested, and working with the Product Owner to teach them more effective ways to manage a product backlog, create transparency, and leverage empirical process control for product development.

The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They help everyone involved understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values. They serve the Scrum Team by helping them focus on creating high-value increments that meet the Definition of Done. They also help the Scrum Team and organization adopt Scrum practices and ensure that the Scrum framework is being applied effectively.

Foundational Ideas

Agile vs. Scrum

Agile and Scrum are two words often used in software development and you should be familiar with both if in that industry. While there are similar ideas at play, they do have some important differences.

Agile is an umbrella term that encompasses various frameworks, methodologies, and techniques and that list includes Scrum. Agile as a philosophy emphasizes customer satisfaction, collaboration, and the ability to respond to change and is defined in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Scrum, on the other hand, is a specific framework under the Agile umbrella that focuses on the iterative development of products and services.

One of the key differences between Agile and Scrum is the level of structure they provide. Agile is mainly just a collection of values and principles with no direction on specifically how to be agile. In contrast, Scrum provides a framework with specific accountabilities, events, artifacts and commitments that teams use to support agile delivery. This structure is very helpful for teams who are new to Agile development.

To summarize, Agile is a set of values and principles with no direction on how to work or get results. Scrum is a framework designed to develop products and services to get results and allow for change when on the wrong track. Scrum is one of many techniques that fall under the Agile umbrella.

Definition of Scrum

Understanding the Scrum Master accountability on a Scrum team should really begin with understanding a little about Scrum. SCrum is a lightweight framework designed with the specific purpose of increasing business agility by delivering solutions incrementally and always of the highest value to stakeholders. It provides a set of boundaries in the form of five events, three artifacts, three commitments, and three accountabilities, of which the Scrum Master is one.

There is a lot to the Scrum framework that is outside the scope of this article and it's recommended to read the Scrum Guide in full before diving deeper into what follows here.

  • Strong understanding of Scrum theory, practices, and rules and experience using it successfully on complex product development
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to facilitate meetings
  • A strong ability to influence without authority
  • The ability to help facilitate the resolution of conflicts
  • The ability to coach and mentor team members
  • And of course, the ability to learn and adapt quickly

If you are looking for a Scrum Master to join your team, it is important to look for someone who has the skills and experience to be successful. Choosing carefully as a good one can make a big difference in the success of your Scrum team and product as a whole.

The Scrum Master Accountability

Key responsibilities of a Scrum Master

What exactly does a Scrum Master do all day? They are accountable for ensuring that the Scrum framework is implemented effectively and that the team adheres to its values, practices, and rules. They may facilitate Sprint Events as needed or coach other Scrum Team members in their facilitation skills.

Scrum Masters may work to remove any impediments that might hinder the development team's progress, coach other Scrum Team members in removing impediments, or take a hands off approach and allow the Scrum Team to work through impediments. They act as a coach and mentor to the development team, encouraging them to be self-organizing and cross-functional. They also ensure that the team has a clear understanding of the product owner's goals and priorities and that the team is delivering value to the customer.

How the Scrum Master supports the Scrum team, Product Owner, and organization

The Scrum Master supports the Scrum Team by coaching them on Scrum practices, helping them to remove any impediments, and encouraging them to be self-managing and cross-functional. They will support the Product Owner by coaching them in effective Product Backlog Management, working with Stakeholders, and clearly articulating Product Goals.

Additionally, they support the organization by ensuring that the Scrum framework is being implemented effectively and that Scrum Teams are producing value in the form of usable Increments. They also helps to create a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging the Scrum Team to reflect on their processes and practices, often by facilitating Sprint Retrospectives or encouraging other team members to do so.

Ways the Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team and organization:

  • Teach the Scrum Team and broader organizations the benefits of Scrum and how to get the results it can deliver
  • Coach the team on better ways to deliver higher value more frequently and at higher quality
  • Advise the team on ways to improve their usage of Scrum and increase agility
  • Mentor interested individuals on how to be an effective Scrum Master helping Scrum teams be more effective
  • Facilitate Scrum Events as needed or requested

What a Scrum Master is Not

No two Scrum Masters are the same and come from a variety of backgrounds. There are many myths about them as well. Thus, it's Important to understand that no one will never be a silver bullet solving all organizational problems. Let's go over a few of the main limitations of this Scrum defined accountability.

  • They are not a project manager. They do not manage timelines, budgets, or human resources. They focus on helping Scrum Teams use Scrum effectively and to self-manage around the way it delivers high-value increments each Sprint that implement the Sprint Goal. Those who also are the team's project manager taking accountability for delivery may cause harm to the self-management abilities of the Scrum Team reducing the effectiveness of Scrum.
  • They are not the team's boss. While there are some similarities between a Scrum Master and a good people manager, they do not tell Scrum teams what to do. They help teams to self-manage and make their own decisions given the business context and boundaries.
  • They do not run all the meetings. A Scrum Master is a systems thinker always looking for big picture ways to make the Scrum Team more effective. A Scrum Master wont have much time to observe from the 10,000 foot view if they are stuck doing all the detailed tactical work all the time. A good tip here is that the first job of a Scrum Master is to do nothing and go get a donut.

Scrum Master comparisons

Scrum Master vs. Project Manager

While there are similarities between the roles of a Scrum Master and a Project Manager, there are also significant differences. The Project Manager is responsible for the overall success of the project, including managing the budget, resources, timelines, and scope. They often have a hierarchical relationship with the team members and make decisions on behalf of the team.

Scrum Masters are, on the other hand, a servant leader who facilitates the team's self-organization and empowerment. They do not have any authority over the team but instead rely on influence and coaching to help the team achieve its goals. Their focus is on the team's process and ensuring that the Scrum framework is being implemented correctly, whereas the Project Manager's focus is on the project's outcome and ensuring that it is delivered on time, within budget, and meets the customer's requirements.

Scrum Master vs people manager

The roles of a Scrum Master and a people manager are often confused with each other. Both roles are important in the success of a team, but they have different responsibilities and goals.

A Scrum Master is a facilitator and coach who helps the team learn and follow the Scrum framework with the goal of generating value and mitigating risk. They are responsible for ensuring that the team is working effectively and efficiently, and that they are following the Scrum as defined by the Scrum Guide. They also help to remove roadblocks and impediments that may be preventing the team from achieving their goals.

A people manager is responsible for the performance of their team members. They are involved in setting personal goals, providing feedback, and resolving conflicts. People managers also play a role in developing the skills and careers of their team members. They may also be responsible for salary increases and disciplinary actions.

Scrum Master vs. Agile Coach

The roles of an agile coach and a scrum master might seem similar but they have some differences worth mentioning. What follows covers the major differences:

Agile Coach

  • An agile coach is responsible for helping organizations adopt agile principles and practices.
  • Agile coaches providing guidance, training, and coaching to teams and individuals.
  • Agile coaches may work with multiple teams or even the entire organization.
  • Their focus is on generally helping the organization as a whole become more agile, not just a specific team.
  • Agile coaches may or may not teach and support Scrum.
  • Some agile coaches will apply pieces of Scrum and not use the entire framework when working with a client

Scrum Master

  • The accountability is defined in the Scrum Guide.
  • Is accountable for a Scrum Team’s effectiveness.
  • They ensure Scrum is enacted and understood.
  • They cause the removal of impediments to the team's progress
  • They ensure Scrum events are positive and productive
  • They are members of a Scrum Team
  • They serve the Scrum Team, The Product Owner, and the organization as a whole
  • They may lead, plan, teach, coach and advise the organization on Scrum adoption
  • Good ones help the team use the entire Scrum Framework, not just pieces of it

By referring to the Scrum Guide's definition of a Scrum Master, one may observe the similarity between this accountability and that of an agile coach. However, there are notable distinctions. While Scrum Masters primarily concentrate on educating teams about the Scrum framework, agile coaches may focus on implementing one or more frameworks within an organization. It is not uncommon for organizations to perceive Scrum Masters and agile coaches as hierarchical layers, with agile coaches or even Enterprise agile coaches occupying the top position. Nevertheless, Scrum does not consider the Scrum Master as a hierarchical layer nor as an entry-level position.

Scrum Master vs Product Owner

The Scrum Master and Product Owner are two key accountabilities in the Scrum framework. While they work closely together, they have different responsibilities and goals.

The Scrum Master is a facilitator and coach who helps the team learn and follow the Scrum framework. They are accountable for the efficacy of the Scrum team The are also responsible for the Scrum team following the Scrum framework to get the benefits Scrum promises. They also help to remove roadblocks and impediments that may be preventing the team from achieving their goals.

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product. They own and grow the product vision and manage the Product Backlog. They work with the stakeholders to gather requirements, prioritize the backlog, and work with the Scrum team to ensure that the product is developed according to the vision. They create and communicate Product Goals to the Scrum Team and to the stakeholders. Product Owners also represent the needs of the customer to the Scrum team.

It is important to note that these are just responsibilities and accountabilities as defined by Scrum. Company specific duties of a Scrum Master or Product Owner may vary depending on the organization and the team.

In some organizations, the Scrum Master may also have some Product Owner responsibilities. For example, they may be responsible for writing user stories or creating acceptance criteria. There is no rule in Scrum that says the same person cannot have multiple Scrum accountabilities.  However, in most organizations, the Scrum Master and Product Owner are separate people.

The best way to determine which role is right for you is to consider your skills and interests. If you are a good facilitator and coach, and you are passionate about helping teams succeed, then the Scrum Master role may be a good fit for you. If you are a good product manager and you are interested in working with stakeholders to create great products, then the Product Owner role may be a good fit for you.

Benefits having a Scrum Master

Having a Scrum Master can bring many benefits to a Scrum Team and its organization. They can help a team and its organization to be more successful in several ways.

Improved communication and collaboration

They can help the team communicate and collaborate more effectively by facilitating meetings, resolving conflicts, and encouraging team members to share ideas and feedback.

Increased productivity

They can help the team increase their productivity by removing obstacles, helping them to focus on the most important tasks, and providing them with the resources they need.

Better quality

They can help the team deliver higher quality products by ensuring that the team follows the Scrum process and by providing them with feedback on their work.

Increased customer satisfaction

They can help the team increase customer satisfaction by ensuring that the team is responsive to customer needs and by delivering products that meet or exceed customer expectations.

Improved team morale

They can help improve team morale by creating a positive and supportive work environment and by recognizing team members' contributions.

Here are some additional benefits:

  • Reduced risk: They can help reduce the risk of project failure by ensuring that the team is following a well-defined process and by identifying and mitigating risks early on.
  • Increased flexibility: The Scrum framework is designed to be flexible and adaptable, which can help teams to respond to changes in the environment or in the requirements of the project.
  • Continued learning and development: They can help team members learn and develop new skills by providing them with coaching and training.

There are numerous benefits to having a Scrum Master work with your organization to ensure proper usage of Scrum to achieve business agility goals.

Benefits of a good Scrum Master

A Scrum Master is a true leader who serves the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team to self-manage and to achieve its goals. They help the Scrum Team understand Scrum theory, practices, and rules. They also helps the Scrum Team to work effectively with other teams in larger organizations.

Here are some of the specific reasons why it is important to have a good Scrum Master on a Scrum team:

A Scrum Master is a true leader who serves the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team to self-manage and to achieve its goals. The Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team understand Scrum theory, practices, and rules. The Scrum Master also helps the Scrum Team to work effectively with other teams in larger organizations.

Here are some of the specific reasons why it is important to have a good Scrum Master on a Scrum team:

  • They can help a team to deeply understand and implement Scrum effectively. This can lead to increased productivity, improved quality, higher value increments and a better overall experience for the team.
  • They can help the team to resolve their own conflicts and to work effectively together. This can create a more positive and productive work environment. 
  • They can help the team stay focused on Sprint and Product Goals and to improve focus by avoiding distractions. This can lead to better results and a more successful and valuable product.
  • They can help the team to learn and grow. This can lead to a more skilled and experienced team that is better able to meet the challenges of the future.

A good Scrum Master can be a valuable asset to any Scrum team. By providing guidance, support, and coaching, they can help a Scrum Team be successful

Here are some of the skills one should have to succeed:

Qualities of an Effective Scrum Master

Leadership skills

They possesses a range of qualities that enable them to support the development team and ensure that the Scrum framework is implemented correctly. One key quality is strong leadership skills. They have the ability to inspire and motivate the team, providing guidance and direction when needed, while also empowering the team to make decisions and solve problems on their own.

Knowledge of Scrum principles and values

They also has a deep knowledge of Scrum principles and values. They understand how to apply them to support the team and enable them to work effectively. This knowledge allows them to coach the team on Scrum practices and help them to continuously improve their processes.

Ability to remove obstacles and facilitate team communication

Another key quality is the ability to help remove obstacles and facilitate team communication. They should be able to identify and address any impediments that are hindering the team's progress, and they should work to create an environment that promotes open and honest communication within the team. However, they should do so in a manner that encourages the team to work through their own problems, rather than being the single point of problem resolution and therefore a bottleneck to progress.

Servant-leader mindset

They should also possess a servant-leader mindset. A servant leader thinks more about helping the people they are leading than directing them or micromanaging their actions. They prioritize the needs of the team and work to support the team's goals and objectives. They are willing to serve the team by facilitating their work and removing any obstacles that stand in their way.

Effective systems thinker

They are strong systems thinkers. They understand the complexities of the system in which the Scrum team operates and takes a holistic view. They are skilled in identifying and analyzing the interconnections and interactions between the various components of the system, including the team members, the product backlog, the stakeholders, and the environment in which the team operates. This enables them to better understand how changes to one part of the system can impact the entire system.

They are able to identify and address the root causes of issues within the system, rather than just treating the symptoms. They are able to use their systems thinking skills to identify patterns of behavior or problems that are recurring and work towards finding sustainable solutions that address the underlying issues.

And lastly, they are systems thinking skills enable them to be proactive and anticipatory in their approach to leading the Scrum team and making it highly effective. They are able to anticipate potential problems and work towards mitigating them before they become bigger issues. They also use their systems thinking skills to help continuously improve the system in which the Scrum team operates, making incremental changes that improve the overall effectiveness of the team and the value they deliver to their stakeholders.

Collaborative and empathetic approach

In addition to these qualities, they should possess effective problem-solving skills. They should be able to analyze complex situations and make decisions quickly and confidently. They should also be able to collaborate with the team and encourage them to take a collaborative and empathetic approach to problem-solving.

High EQ / Ability to Read the Room

They must have high emotional intelligence and the ability to read the room. They should be able to sense team members' emotions, address any conflicts or tension, and promote a positive and collaborative environment. By communicating effectively with all stakeholders, including the developers, Product Owner, and stakeholders, they can ensure everyone is working towards the same goals. High emotional intelligence can help create a positive team dynamic and ultimately lead to successful product delivery.

A Scrum Master for you

What makes a good Scrum Master?

Many of the same qualities of a good Agile Coach can be found in a good Scrum Master. What follows are just a few:

  • Deep Expertise in Scrum. A good Scrum Master should have a deep understanding of the Scrum Framework and complimentary practices, and be able to help teams implement it effectively.
  • Ability to facilitate change. Being a Scrum Master is all about helping teams change the way they work to improve overall results, so a good Scrum Master should be able to facilitate change effectively. This means being able to help teams identify and address the challenges, and providing them the support they need.
  • Good listening skills. A good Scrum Master is a fantastic listener. They should be able to genuinely hear the concerns of team members, and help them to find their own solutions that work
  • Ability to build rapport. A good Scrum Master should be able to build rapport with the developers, Product Owner, managers, stakeholders and anyone relevant in the organization. This means being able to connect with them on a personal level, and create a trusting environment where they feel comfortable sharing their ideas.
  • Enthusiasm and motivation. A good agile coach should be enthusiastic about agile transformation and motivated to see the transformation through to success. They should be able to help teams stay motivated during the process, and keep them focused on their goals of higher value, better quality, happier customers, etc..

How to find a Good Scrum Master

Finding the right Scrum Master for your organization can be very difficult as there are many people with Scrum Master certifications but of those many people only a few are really good enough to help your organization transform. Aside from putting together a fantastic Scrum Master job description, here are some tips for finding a good Scrum Master:

  • Ask for recommendations from colleagues or friends who have worked with Scrum Masters in the past.
  • Search the web for Scrum Masters who have experience working in a similar environment to yours.
  • Interview potential Scrum Masters and ask them about their experience, skills, and approach to coaching and mentoring.
  • Get references from former employers or clients and check with them the results that were achieved.

A good Scrum Master can make a big difference in a team's success. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of finding a Scrum Master who will help your team reach its full potential.

Is my existing Scrum Master effective?

If you have a Scrum Master who exhibits the above qualities, then you likely have a good one. Here are some other things you can look for to help you determine if your Scrum Master is effective:

  • Does your Scrum Team produce increment of value each and every sprint without fail?
  • Do those increments live up to the standard created by the product's Definition of Done?
  • Are you seeing improvements in the team's ability to deliver value in small pieces at a higher level of quality?
  • Are team members more engaged and motivated?
  • Is there a better understanding of Scrum, agile principles, and complimentary practices?
  • Do they know how to use their understanding of Scrum to get results?
  • Is there a more collaborative and communicative team environment?
  • Are there fewer unproductive conflicts and overall dysfunctional behaviors?
  • Has your ability to adapt to be more inline with customer needs gone up?
  • Are you finding issues sooner in development?

If you can answer yes to most of these questions, then likely your Scrum Master is making a positive impact on your team. Here are even more signs that you have an effective Scrum Master:

  • The Scrum team is self-managing. A good Scrum Master will ensure the developers have the skills and confidence to manage themselves. This means that the team should be able to set their own goals, plan their work, and track progress toward Sprint Goals without needing a lot of handholding from the Scrum Master.
  • The Scrum team is working effectively together. A high quality Scrum Master will create a positive and collaborative environment where the team can work together effectively. They’ll work to create an environment of psychological safety. This means that the team should be able to communicate openly and honestly with each other, and they should be able to resolve conflicts without resorting to finger-pointing or blame. They’ll live the Scrum values of focus, openness, courage, commitment and respect.
  • The Scrum team is delivering value every Sprint. An effective Scrum Master will help the team to focus on producing Increments of value each and every Sprint and each increment will be the concrete implementation of their Sprint Goal.
  • The Scrum team is continuously improving. An effective Scrum Master will help the team to continuously improve their methods and their products. This means that the team should be constantly looking for ways to do things better, and they should be open to feedback from the customer and from each other.
  • Impediments are addressed. A quality Scrum Master should be focused first on a team understanding Scrum, but then should be focused on causing the removal of the impediments to their success. Impediments in any organization are numerous. A good Scrum Master with a reasonably mature team will spend a lot more time working on impediments and a lot less time facilitating events.

If you have observed the above  you can be confident that you have a great Scrum Master who is helping your team to be effective and successful.

Interviewing a Scrum Master

A good Scrum Master can make all the difference with your Scrum Team. Here are some tips for identifying an effective Scrum Master to work with you and your Scrum Team:

  • Ask about their experience. An effective Scrum Master will have experience working in an agile environment and with Scrum teams. They will be able to talk about the challenges and successes they have had in the past. Look for how they solve problems even if they were not always successful at solving them.
  • Ask about their skills, training, and any relevant certifications. An effective Scrum Master will have the skills and training necessary to succeed. Common certifications to look for include the PSM or CSM. They should be able to explain the Scrum framework clearly and succinctly and how it can be used to deliver value and mitigate risks.
  • Ask about their approach to coaching and mentoring. An effective Scrum Master will be skilled in both. They should be able to create a safe and supportive environment where the team can learn and grow.
  • Ask about their commitment to continuous improvement. Scrum Masters worth their salt will take every opportunity to get better and improve. They will be relentless in seeking out ways to improve Scrum teams, products and organizations.

Just to recap, if you are considering hiring a Scrum Master, be sure to ask about their experience, skills, training, approach to coaching and mentoring, and commitment to continuous improvement. These are all important factors in identifying an effective Scrum Master who can help your team to be successful.

Spotting a Bad Scrum Master

Not only will a bad Scrum Master have a negative impact on a team's performance but it will set a bad tone for Scrum in your organization. its common to find that when organizations fail to get the benefits of Scrum due to Scrum being poorly implemented or poorly understood, they blame Scrum. Thus it's critical to have good Scrum Masters in your organization. Here are some common symptoms of a bad Scrum Master:

  • They lack in-depth knowledge of the Scrum framework. A Scrum Master should be an expert in Scrum and be able to explain it clearly to the developers, Product Owner, and the organization as a whole. If the Scrum Master does not know the Scrum framework, they will not be able to effectively guide the team and your organization will not see results. 
  • They are not proactive. A passive Scrum Master will not challenge others in the way needed to make positive change. A Scrum Master should be proactive in identifying and resolving impediments to the team's progress. If the Scrum Master is not proactive, the team will likely struggle to meet their goals and the organization might stall in its transformation.
  • They lack communication skills. A Scrum Master should be able to communicate effectively with the team, the product owner, and other stakeholders. It’s very difficult to explain Scrum to others if you lack communication skills. If the Scrum Master is not a good communicator, it will be difficult for the team to learn and execute Scrum effectively..
  • They are not a good coach. A Scrum Master should be able to coach the team to improve their skills and performance. If the Scrum Master is not a good coach, the team will not be able to reach their full potential.
  • They are not a good facilitator. A Scrum Master should be able to facilitate meetings effectively and ensure that everyone has a chance to participate. If the Scrum Master is not a good facilitator, meetings will be unproductive and the team will not be able to make progress.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have a bad Scrum Master. In this case, you should talk to your manager or the product owner about your concerns. They may be able to help you find a solution.

Challenges of being a Scrum Master

Being a Scrum Master is a challenging and rewarding career. Scrum Masters help teams and organizations embrace Scrum and get benefits from its use. They play an essential role in helping teams deliver valuable, high-quality products and services that delight their customers. Of course, there are many challenges that Scrum Masters face in their journey to build agile organizations. Here are a few common ones:

Continuous Education.

The industry around agile development is constantly evolving, thus Scrum Masters need to always be learning and growing their skills. They need to stay up-to-date on the latest version of Scrum and evolving complimentary practices. They need to adapt their style to the specific needs of each Scrum team. They need to be a sponge of knowledge and always be applying what they learned to their existing Scrum Team

Change Resistance.

Many people are resistant to change when the don’t understand it, want it, or know how they can use it. Effective change management can be a real challenge for many Scrum Masters. They need to be able to help teams overcome their resistance to change and embrace the agile way of working.


Scrum Master & Agile Transformation

Role of the Scrum Master in Agile transformation

Scrum Masters will play a considerable role in an organization's agile transformation. Sometimes tactical and sometimes strategic. Here are some responsibilities a Scrum Master may take on in an Agile transformation:

  • Coach and mentor teams: The Scrum Master is responsible for teaching, coaching and mentoring teams on Scrum, Agile principles and complementary practices. This is an ongoing activity. 
  • Facilitate Events as Needed: The Scrum Master may assist by facilitating Scrum Events, such as Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. This involves ensuring that the events are positive and productive and that team members are engaged and collaborating effectively.
  • Remove impediments: The Scrum Master is responsible for identifying and causing the removal of impediments that are blocking the progress of the team. This involves working with team members, stakeholders, and other departments to address issues that are impacting the team's ability to deliver value.
  • Promote continuous improvement: The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting continuous improvement within the team and the organization. This involves encouraging team members to identify areas for improvement, experimenting with new ways of working, and adapting processes to improve outcomes.
  • Build relationships: The Scrum Master is responsible for building relationships with stakeholders and other departments to ensure that the team has the resources and support needed to be successful. This involves communicating with stakeholders, managing expectations, and advocating for the team when necessary.

An agile transformation is a major change for any organization big or small and having seasoned Scrum Masters on your side will make all the difference.

How a Scrum Master leads an organization through the change

Leading a major organizational change can be a complex and challenging task. With inspiration from John Kotter's 8-Step change management framework, here are some key steps and considerations for effectively leading such a change:

  1. Establish a clear vision: Define the desired outcome of the agile transformation and create a compelling vision that clearly communicates why the transformation is necessary and what the organization will look like in the future.
  2. Build a guiding coalition: Assemble a diverse team of influential individuals who are committed to the agile transformation and can help drive it forward. This coalition should include key stakeholders from various levels and departments within the organization.
  3. Communicate effectively: Develop a comprehensive communication plan to ensure that everyone in the organization understands the need for agile transformation, the vision, and the anticipated benefits. Communication should be clear, consistent, and ongoing throughout the transformation process.
  4. Create a sense of urgency: Help employees understand the importance of the agile transformation by highlighting the risks of not changing and the opportunities that lie ahead. Foster a sense of urgency to motivate employees to support and embrace the transformation.
  5. Develop a plan: Create a plan that includes specific goals, objectives, and milestones. Break down the agile transformation into manageable pieces, and encourage teams an individuals to self-select the work and hold themselves accountable for results. Ensure that the plan is flexible enough to adapt to unexpected challenges.
  6. Empower and involve employees: Involve employees in the agile transformation by seeking their input, addressing their concerns, and encouraging their participation. Empower them to contribute their ideas and take ownership of the transformation.
  7. Provide resources and support: Allocate adequate resources, such as time, budget, and training, to support the agile transformation effort. Ensure that employees have the necessary tools, skills, and knowledge to adapt to the new ways of working.
  8. Lead by example: Demonstrate your commitment to the agile transformation by embodying the desired behaviors and values. Be visible, accessible, and responsive to employee needs and concerns. Encourage and reward individuals who embrace the transformation.
  9. Monitor progress and adjust: Regularly assess the progress of the agile transformation initiative and make adjustments as needed. Solicit feedback from employees and stakeholders, and use it to refine the implementation strategy. Celebrate milestones and successes along the way to maintain momentum and motivation.
  10. Institutionalize the change: Integrate the new practices, processes, and behaviors into the organization's culture and systems. Ensure that the agile transformation becomes the new normal and is sustained over the long term.

Remember, leading a major organizational change like an agile transformation requires strong leadership skills, effective communication, and a focus on engaging and empowering employees. It's essential to be adaptable, responsive, and resilient throughout the change process.

Scrum Masters keep teams engaged

Leading a major organizational change such as an agile transformation can be a complex and challenging task. Here are some key steps and considerations for effectively leading such a change:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate the goals of Scrum and performance expectations, such as producing Increments each Sprint. Make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities within the team.
  • Make Work Meaningful: Help Scrum team members understand the purpose and significance of their work. Ensure they create and understand Product and Sprint Goals. Show them how their contributions contribute to the team's overall success and the organization's mission.
  • Recognize and Reward: Acknowledge and appreciate your Scrum Team's efforts and achievements. Recognize their accomplishments publicly and provide meaningful rewards and incentives for their hard work.
  • Foster a Positive Work Environment: Create a positive and supportive work environment where team members feel valued, respected, and comfortable. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and idea sharing.
  • Encourage Growth and Development: Support the professional growth and development of your team members. Find opportunities for learning, training, and skill development to help them enhance their capabilities and advance their careers.
  • Empower and Delegate: Trust your team members with meaningful responsibilities and empower them to make decisions and solve problems. Support self-management encouraging them to take ownership and feel a sense of autonomy.
  • Foster Team Bonding: Create opportunities for team members to connect and bond with one another. Encourage team-building activities, both formal and informal, to strengthen relationships and build a sense of camaraderie.
  • Communicate Effectively: Maintain open and transparent communication with your team. Regularly provide feedback, listen to their ideas and concerns, and address any issues or challenges promptly.
  • Lead by Example: Be an inspirational leader by demonstrating enthusiasm, dedication, and a strong work ethic. Show genuine interest in your team members' well-being and growth.

Remember that different individuals may have unique motivations, so it's important to understand your team members' individual needs and preferences. Regularly assess the team's morale and adjust your strategies as needed to keep motivation and engagement levels high.

Scrum Master as a Career

How to find a Scrum Master job

Finding a job as a Scrum Master can be challenging, but here are some tips over and above the tips we’ve already covered to help you in your Scrum Master Job Search:

  • Build your skills and knowledge: To become a Scrum Master, you need to have a solid understanding of Scrum (take Scrum “Master” seriously, a master of Scrum). Consider reading a lot. It’s also a great idea to take a Professional Scrum Master course. And don’t just pass the assessment to earn your certification, pass with high marks. Any reasonable manager would hire the “A” student when given the option.
  • Build experience using Scrum: Just knowing Scrum isn't enough. You need real-world experience using it and be able to demonstrate that experience in a job interview. Only having a theoretical background won’t get you very far in your Scrum Master job hunt.
  • Build a strong network: Attend Agile and Scrum-related events, meetups and conferences to connect with people in the industry. Join online groups and communities and participate in discussions. The stronger your network is the more likely you will find a Scrum Master job through someone that you already know that already trusts you.
  • Update your resume and online presence: Ensure that your resume and LinkedIn profile highlight your Scrum Master skills and experience. Show of any certifications you’ve earned. Make it easy to search since most recruiters are using computer based search tools to find someone. 
  • Apply for Scrum Master jobs: Check job boards, technical job websites like Dice or Monster, company career pages, and recruitment agencies for Scrum Master job openings. Be prepared to tailor your resume and cover letter to match the job requirements.

Remember that finding a job as a Scrum Master may take time and effort, so be persistent and patient and even more so if this is your first Scrum Master job you’re seeking. Remember to network, constantly build your skills, and keep applying for positions. Be ready to take one less than ideal to help build your experience and your resume!

Average salary of a Scrum Master in the USA 

The average annual salary for a Scrum Master in the United States is easily in the 6 figures ($100,000 or more) as of June 1, 2023. This salary range can vary depending on experience, location, and company size. Here are a few sources to review related to average annual Scrum Master salaries:


Glassdoor is a website where employees can anonymously share salary information. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a Scrum Master in the United States is $115,318 This salary range is based on data from over 7,000 salaries submitted by Scrum Masters.


ZipRecruiter is a job search website that collects salary data from employers. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a Scrum Master in the United States is $113,879. This salary range is based on data from over 10,000 salaries submitted by Scrum Masters.

Built In

Built In is a website that connects tech professionals with jobs. According to Built In, the average salary for a Scrum Master in the United States is $108,105. This salary range is based on data from over 5,000 salaries submitted by Scrum Masters.

Factors that Affect Salary

The salary of a Scrum Master can vary depending on a number of factors, including:

  • Experience: Scrum Masters with more experience both in terms of diversity and duration typically earn higher salaries.
  • Location: Scrum Masters in major metropolitan areas typically earn higher salaries than those in rural areas.
  • Company size: Scrum Masters at larger companies typically earn higher salaries than those at smaller companies.

How to Increase Your Salary

If you are interested in becoming a Scrum Master, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of earning a high salary. First, gain experience in a related field or one commonly associated with Scrum such as software development or agile product development. Second, get certified as a Scrum Master. A Professional Scrum Master 1 Certification is a great place to start. Third, network with other Scrum Masters and learn about the latest trends in the field or better practices you can bring back to your team to enhance the value your team can deliver.

Working as a Scrum Master

Working as a Scrum Master can be an exciting and fulfilling role that involves facilitating the implementation of Scrum within a team or organization. Like with any job, there are numerous pitfalls to avoid. Here are some aspects of what it's like to work as a Scrum Master:

  1. Facilitating Scrum Adoptions: As a Scrum Master, you will be responsible for ensuring Scrum is enacted and understood within the Scrum team and organization as a whole. This includes facilitating Scrum Events as needed or requested. They may facilitate Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Retrospectives, ensuring that they are conducted effectively and stick to the timebox.
  2. Supporting Empiricism: A Scrum Master will ensure the pillars of Scrum are well understood and present in all of the events. Those pillars are transparency, inspection and adaptation. Without these elements in place, Scrum doesn't work. A Scrum Master will spend a good amount of time ensuring the core of Scrum is alive and well to maximize the benefits the organization receives.
  3. Identifying and Removing Impediments: Scrum Masters are responsible for identifying and causing the removal of impediments or obstacles that may hinder the team's progress. This may involve working with team members, stakeholders, or other departments to address issues such as resource constraints, technical challenges, or organizational barriers. Removing impediments makes the team go faster with the same number of people.
  4. Teaching Scrum: Scrum Masters are educators who teach the principles and framework of Scrum to team members and stakeholders. This includes helping team members understand the accountabilities, events, artifacts and commitments of Scrum, and guiding them in implementing Scrum effectively.
  5. Promoting Collaboration and Communication: Scrum Masters foster a collaborative and communicative environment within the team or organization. They facilitate open and transparent communication, supporting empiricism, among team members, stakeholders, and other parties involved in the work to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.
  6. Supporting Self-Management: Scrum Masters promote self-management within the team or organization, encouraging team members to take ownership of their work, make decisions, and collaborate effectively. They provide guidance and support to enable team members to work autonomously and make collective decisions.  Self-managing teams find issues sooner and deliver more value faster than teams that rely on external management. Scrum Masters focus on protecting and supporting self-management to maximize the value Scrum provides.
  7. Continuous Learning and Improvement: Working as a Scrum Master involves continuous learning and improvement. Scrum Masters stay updated with the latest Agile and Scrum practices, seek feedback from team members and stakeholders, and continuously strive to improve their own skills and knowledge.
  8. Flexibility and Adaptability: Every day as a Scrum Master can be different, and the role requires flexibility and adaptability. Scrum Masters need to be able to adjust their approach based on the needs and dynamics of the team or organization, and be open to trying new techniques and approaches to improve team performance.
  9. Focus on results: Scrum Masters are systems thinkers with a focus on results. The context of applying Scrum and complementary practices is to improve business agility through delivering small batches of value and mitigating risk in the process. If the practices and techniques applied are not achieving these results, Scrum Masters will aim to influence the organization to alter its approach to more closely align with achieving those outcomes.

Being a Scrum Master, especially a really good Scrum Master, is a highly valuable and rewarding career. Its not the easiest job in the world, but with a new challenge everyday it will keep you on your toes and always excited to wake up in the morning.

Education required to be a Scrum Master

Unlike becoming a Lawyer or Doctor, there are no specific educational requirements to become a Scrum Master per se, but a certain level of education and experience can be helpful. Most employers prefer Scrum Masters with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Business Administration, or a related field. However, relevant work experience and Scrum certifications can also be quite helpful.

Scrum Masters need to have a deep understanding of Scrum frameworks. They should also have experience working on Scrum Teams in a variety of roles. It is also essential for Scrum Masters to have excellent communication, facilitation, and leadership skills to help teams deliver high-quality products every Sprint.

To gain the necessary skills and knowledge, you can attend training and certification programs such as the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) course with PSM 1 certification. The course covers the principles and practices of Agile product development, Scrum framework, Scrum Accountabilities, Artifacts, and Events.

Our approach to Scrum Masters

We have a long history of training and developing high-quality Scrum Masters for a variety of industries. We also offer courses that can lead individuals to earn a variety of certifications. In addition to training individuals, teams and organizations, we also provide advisory services to help with agile transformations.

We have a strong business acumen that we apply to our agile transformations. We results focused and that comes through in our training and post class advisory support.

We think holistically, and, our customers appreciate it. If you're interested in learning more about us, feel free to contact us for more information about our approach or just to start a conversation.

Robert PIeper

Robb Pieper

about the author

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services

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