1 April 2016

Characteristics of a Great Scrum Master

Finding a great Scrum Master is not trivial at all. Anyone can take a course for two days, take the test and become a Certified Scrum Master. However, you are not mastered in anything. Your journey has just begun. Through my experience looking for great Scrum Masters, I came up with the following list of characteristics. This list summarizes what I am looking in a person for a great scrum master. It is important not to forget that a Scrum Master needs the knowledge of basics of Scrum, before even being considered a good one. 


I also have assigned points to each characteristic. By looking at those, you can have a better understanding of which quality has a higher weight in determining a great scrum master. 
  • Innovative / Creative Solutioner
    • A great scrum master is someone who is innovative, someone that can come up with creative solutions on the fly  depending on the situation. Someone that can understands complex situations or if he/she doesn’t understand the situation, to find out ways of understanding the situation.
  • Good Communicator / Facilitation guru
    • A Scrum Master is needed to be able to communicate his messages to the team flawlessly. He needs to be felt part of the team when communicating to the team. He needs to be more direct in communicating the message with the leaders. He need to be direct if communicating with people helping removing impediments.
  •  Team player (Lead by example)
    • Leading the team needs someone that is a good team player and know the rules of the game. You can’t be a great mentor for the team if you haven’t played in the field yourself (even if you failed while playing).
  • A good Agile Tour guide / Knowledgeable about Agile values and Principles
    • A good scrum master needs to lead people into the Agile world. Leading people needs prior knowledge of where we are getting them and how we are getting them to. What challenges might be in different paths and how to overcome it.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected (fearless)
    • In an Agile team unexpected(s) are expected. A good Agile guide needs to be prepared for those. You need to have tools in your toolbox to deal with those. 
  • Be a good psychologist  
    • As someone leading the team, the scrum master needs to be a person that listens well. The listener needs not only to hear but also observe and feel the team’s feeling. He needs to have an empathy muscle. 
  • Be comfortable making people uncomfortable
    • Scrum master is the agent of change. He/She needs to be able to sell changes inside the organization. Doing so, the scrum master needs to have people skills to make people uncomfortable.
  • Be patient
    • A good scrum master understands that change does not come fast. You can introduce a new concept or a process to people and don’t see the effect right away. A great scrum master has follow-up plans. 
  • Continuously improving
    • A great team is a team that always looking for improvements and growing all the time. Leading a team  with such great qualities, you need to live and breath that quality by yourself. 

  • Personality Qualities (A Qualities) (+45)
    • Innovative / Creative Solutioner (+13)
    • Great Communicator / Facilitation guru (+12)
    • Be a good psychologist (+5)
    • Be comfortable making people uncomfortable (+10)
    • Be patient (+5)
  • Professional Qualities (B Qualities) (+25)
    • A good Agile Tour guide / Knowledgeable about Agile values and Principles (+15)
    • Be prepared for the unexpected (fearless) (+10)
  • Personality & Professional (A + B Qualities) (20)
    • Team player (Lead by example) (+12)
    • Continuously improving (+8)

90 total


Level 5 - More than 79
(Phenomenal SM, we have to get this guy no matter what)

Example: 85
    • Innovative / Creative Solutioner (+13)
    • Great Communicator / Facilitation guru (+12)
    • Be a good psychologist (+5)
    • Be comfortable making people uncomfortable (+10)
    • A good Agile Tour guide / Knowledgeable about Agile values and Principles (+15)
    • Be prepared for the unexpected (fearless) (+10)
    • Team player (Lead by example) (+12)
    • Continuously improving (+8)

Level 4 - More than or equal to 64
(Great SM, we need to try hard to get him/her)

Example: 64
    • Great Communicator / Facilitation guru (+12)
    • Be comfortable making people uncomfortable (+10)
    • Be patient (+5)
    • A good Agile Tour guide / Knowledgeable about Agile values and Principles (+15)
    • Be prepared for the unexpected (fearless) (+10)
    • Team player (Lead by example) (+12)

Level 3 - More than or equal to 50 
(Good SM, we like to have him)

Example: 52
    • Innovative / Creative Solutioner (+13)
    • Great Communicator / Facilitation guru (+12)
    • Be comfortable making people uncomfortable (+10)
    • A good Agile Tour guide / Knowledgeable about Agile values and Principles (+15)
    • Team player (Lead by example) (+12)

Level 2 - Less that 50 and more than 25
(SM with good potentials, needs lots of help)

Example: 37
  • Great Communicator / Facilitation guru (+12)
  • Be comfortable making people uncomfortable (+10)
  • A good Agile Tour guide / Knowledgeable about Agile values and Principles (+15)

Level 1 - Less than or equal to 25

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