Career progression for Scrum Masters is often a topic of much discussion. Scrum Masters(SMs) can rightfully expect their organization to pay heed to it, articulate it and be supportive. However, we would say that one’s career is so precious that one should own it fully, spanning employer organizations. While organizational support is important, it would make sense in not heavily rely on it – it may or may not always be up to one’s expectations.

Self-development is an important contributor to overall career progression. And there is nothing like having your own plan for it and driving it – with some help in setting up the plan and navigating through it. Just to make it clear – we are not talking of self-development which will get you to be a CxO in the next five years. We are talking about first getting better as a Scrum Master which, in turn, will have a bearing on your long-term career progression.

So, is there a structured approach for getting better as a Scrum Master?

Yes, there is (there are probably many). We, at PM Power, have come up with an approach called the Scrum Master Development Navigator. There are six aspects to it as shown in the diagram which are further explained below:

The Scrum Master Development Navigator

1. Scrum Master Essentials

Yogi Berra, an all-time baseball great of the New York Yankees famously said, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice but in practice, there is!”. So, whether you are a new SM or already- practising SM, it would be good to assess whether your Agile practices are followed in letter and spirit. You need to reinforce your understanding of Agile paradigms and the linkage of Agile/Scum Values – Principles – Practices; know why you do what you do. That lays the foundation for SM’s self-improvement and the team getting better.

2. Scrum Master Role & Career

  • Refresh your understanding of the Scrum Master role and what it means in practice
  • Self-assess where you are as a Scrum Master today along role dimensions and where you would want to be
  • Understand what the above self-assessment indicates for your SM career; understand trends in how SMs are progressing in your organization – useful as benchmarks
  • Understand the overall skill set and specific skills you need to focus on and improve (facilitation, servant leadership, influencing, empowerment, negotiation, conflict resolution…)

3. Scrum Master & the Product

  • Understand the importance of product vision alignment for the SM and the team  
  • Work with the Product Owner and Product Management in mutually enriching interactions
  • Enable effective and efficient release planning
  • Facilitate continual product backlog refinement

4. Scrum Master & the Team

  • Understand the characteristics of high performing teams
  • Facilitate self-organization as a Servant Leader to achieve high performance
  • Ensure effective sprint planning and enable sustained achievement of sprint goals
  • Ensure that Daily Sprints, Reviews/Demo’s and Retrospectives are conducted in the spirit
  • Facilitate resolution of team conflicts and address team dysfunctions
  • Foster continuous improvement and the team’s focus on product quality enhancements

5. Scrum Master & the Organization

  • Understand the engineering organization’s goals and priorities as applicable to your team
  • Achieve continual alignment and adaptation as required with changing goals & priorities
  • Engage with key stakeholders such as Functional Managers and balance their expectations with each other and those of the team

6. Execute the action plan and prepare for the next cycle of improvement

  • Self-assess current level of effectiveness in product, team and organizational-related aspects
  • Develop a time-bound action plan and commit to executing it; share your plan with your managers & other stakeholders as appropriate and gain support
  • Sustain the improvement and personal development cycle

Well, those are the six aspects of the Scrum Master Development Navigator. By the way, this is the theme of our open program “Advanced skills for Scrum Master effectiveness” on May 18-19, 2018 (Fri & Sat). Do visit www.pm-powerconsulting.com/advanced-scrum-mastering/ for details. A limited number of seats only. Register now!

In a subsequent post, we will cover the next steps in taking the Scrum Master Development Navigator forward in terms of improved outcomes through self-development of the Scrum Master. Watch this space