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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Jan 22, 2021

In this episode, co-hosts Dan Neumann and Sam Falco discuss the topic of filling the role of a Scrum Master. In particular, whether you should follow Scrum practices and patterns as opposed to using the Scrum principles, or vice-versa. They talk about what they see most Scrum Masters doing, some of the common mistakes they may make, how to take an effective approach as Scrum Master, and share some of the lessons they have learned throughout their careers as Scrum Masters themselves.


Key Takeaways

Advice for new Scrum Masters/What Scrum Masters should be aware of:

Get feedback and act on it especially when it’s interpersonal feedback

Ask: “How can I be serving my team better?”

Build support for your team around Scrum (which may be new and uncomfortable to them)

The impulse may be to say, “I’m doing this because that is what it says to do in the book,” but that’s not a satisfying answer for anybody

If somebody asks, “Why do we have to have a daily Scrum?” Don’t just say it is because “daily” is in the title instead, ask, “What value are you not getting out of the daily Scrum?”

Whenever your team is unsure about why they are doing a particular practice, ask, “Why wasn’t this valuable?” and “How can we get more value out of it?”

Getting a Scrum certification from 2006 or 2008 isn’t sufficient; you have to continuously learn and improve as a Scrum Master new practices are constantly emerging and you have to adapt

“Let them fail” can be misconstrued as not giving someone enough support in their role and letting them fail (what it actually means is putting someone in the place to win and giving them the chance to fail)

The new Scrum Guide is an amazing resource because it strips away all of the prescriptive practices and is easier for new Scrum Masters to follow

Ask: “Is your daily scrum effective at helping you plan so that this won’t happen again?”

The Scrum Master has to guide the team in a way that’s not telling them what to do

Sometimes as a Scrum Master the best thing you can do is say nothing (which doesn’t mean sitting back and doing nothing; but actively observing, considering, and when your team asks a question, follow it up with another question [i.e. “What do you think you can do?” or “What are some options?” and allow them to figure things out])

Don’t give your team answers, this disempowers them; instead, allow them to try something on their own (they may solve the problem in a better way)

Even if a team member fails when you allow them to try something their own way, remember: you’re only one sprint away from recovering in Scrum

As a Scrum Master, there are times where you may need to step in (i.e. when you know something is going to result in something bad that will cause strife)

Upholding Scrum is a part of the Scrum Master’s accountability

The one situation in which a Scrum Master absolutely needs to step in is if there is abuse

If you feel things have gotten stale as a Scrum Master it is time to broaden your horizons and think about the different ways you can serve your team

Continue to learn and explore different options for how to build some excitement and make Agile principles and Scrum values more present

Patterns and Practices vs. Principles

Doing the practices in an inappropriate way can be harmful and the principles can really illuminate effective ways to do that

Patterns and practices are important (but equally as important is building the principles so that you’re doing them effectively at the right times)

The pattern is important but you need to understand the principle behind it and why you’re doing it so you can then adapt it

As a beginning Scrum Master, it is helpful to follow the practices but if you’re only following the rule because “it says so” or “I say so” it is not a good strategy to push forward with

As a Scrum Master, it is your job to help people become effective and figure out what patterns and practices work for them


Mentioned in this Episode: — Visit for AgileThought’s upcoming virtual events & RSVP!

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 1: “Do Scrum Well Before Scaling!”

Agile Project Management with Scrum (Developer Best Practices), by Ken Schwaber

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 54: “The Concept of Shu Ha Ri and Why It’s Important to Agile Adoption with Che Ho”

The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year (Agile Software Development Series), by Mitch Lacey

Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition, by Lyssa Adkins

Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning and Analysis, by Ellen Gottesdiener and Mary Gorman


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