Scrum Masters versus Batman: The Agile Superheros
In today’s increasingly competitive business world, we don’t have the luxury to roll out new products and projects in six weeks, let alone six months or a year, as was the case in the past.
The introduction of Agile to corporate South Africa was in part a response to this change, and with Agile came a greater responsibility to manage smaller, more nimble teams to produce quickly and more effectively. So was born the Scrum Master, a role that resembles that of a traditional project manager only in passing.
I like to think of Scrum Masters as Batman. They are gatekeepers, influencers and motivators. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Honesty, commitment and teamwork are the pillars they stand on.
Like Batman, Scrum Masters don’t get hung up on titles. They don’t care what people call them or what letters appear after their names on a business card; they’re there to get the work done, and more specifically, to help other people get their work done. In a way, they’re leader-servants, able to lead by example and open doors while doing whatever is needed – from making coffee to chairing high-level executive meetings.
As you can probably gather, it takes a specific type of person to excel as a Scrum Master. It’s not a one-size-fits-all role. When I interview people for a potential Scrum Master role, I typically look at two traits: personality and attitude.
Personality-wise, you’re either born with it or not; leaders can be good managers, but not all managers can be good leaders, and a Scrum Master is first and foremost a great leader. Having a positive attitude on and off the job is also critical because it helps to motivate and grow other leaders, and inspire the team to greater heights. Skills can be taught, but these two aspects are difficult to change if they’re not there in the first place.
If these sound like soft skills rather than hard-earned qualifications, you’re right. However, they’re just as important as the piece of paper that qualifies you to be a Scrum Master. That said, training and mentorship are critical, and you can’t rise to the level of Scrum Master without it.
In South Africa, we have long had a dire shortage of Agile skills, and so as a company, we decided several years ago to make our own. The DVT Apprenticeship and Learnership programmes take people with potential and a passion for technology, typically from underprivileged backgrounds, and help shape them into future leaders, designers, testers, consultants and, of course, Scrum Masters. These programmes are underpinned by the DVT Academy, which provides internationally certified training and mentorship resources.
A background in IT is not always necessary, although it is an advantage. Only recently we helped tutor a member of the automotive industry to the level of Scrum Master, on the one hand, to illustrate how versatile and relevant the training can be to other industries, but mainly because it was a perfect fit for what he was looking to achieve.
As a manager of a luxury vehicle agency, he was looking for new ways to run his business in an Agile fashion, to keep track of work coming in and manage the progress from delivery and implementation. He started off by applying his training using a simple, visible whiteboard in the workshop to list all the work coming in, colour coded by the mechanic assigned to do the work. This involved tracking all modifications and customisations for new cars that came into his workshop.
The whiteboard was soon full of perfectly arranged sticky notes along columns denoting pending work, weekly to-do jobs, work in progress, and jobs completed. In doing so, he quickly got a handle on who was doing what, how far they’ve progressed with their work, and where they needed help to get the job done to spec and on time.
While this is just one instance of one person’s way of applying his personality, attitude and skills as a Scrum Master, it goes back to the point that the primary function of a Scrum Master is to be a leader of teams - someone who clears any obstacles that sit in the way of the team completing their tasks to spec. In an environment where doing good work to spec quickly and continuously is the norm, the role of Scrum Master must not be underestimated or undervalued.
Do you think you have what it takes to be Batman? If so, contact us today, because the DVT Academy offers a Scrum Master Certification training course just for you. For more details visit https://www.dvt.co.za/training-courses-csm.