Good Scrum Master - How do you learn to become a GREAT Scrum Master?
Updated: Apr 7
The title of this article is inspired from a great book which I consider the most important book after the Scrum Guide: 'Scrum Mastery' by Geoff Watts.
A GOOD Scrum Master is learning and developing himself. A GREAT Scrum Master has the power to inspire other people while doing so.
Passion If you want to be a successful Scrum Master you need to love your job; not only be passionate about it, but also inspire other people. Whoever wants to be SM is usually either inspired by someone or by the process itself. With passion you will be better prepared for the challenges that Agile learning and development prepares for you on the way.
Continuous Learning - but how do YOU learn? As a SM, you need to continually learn about the role and how other people did it. Your knowledge backpack needs to grow everyday in order to be prepared for different situations.
The most important thing I consider is to first understand how your BRAIN works and how you learn better. You can read or listen, but if your brain does not retain the information, the time you spend learning will be useless.
You can easily discover that you retain information if you underline the essence in the books, or write down the important learning, or speak loud about what you just read/listened. There are various learning patterns, you just need to find yours.
Once you found it, you need to learn every day. Same as you are learning languages, it is recommended that you study LESS every day, rather than MORE once a week. As a Scrum Master I personally spend minimum 3 hours a day (early in the morning before my kids are awake, when I commute to work, after my kids fall asleep in the night) learning outside work.
You can learn when you sit (in a bus, metro) - read a book, read articles, listen to webinars, videos. You can learn while you walk - listen to webinars, interviews, podcasts, e-books. You can learn while you do jogging - listen to webinars, interviews, podcasts, e-books. Do not forget to have also a notebook/post-its to put down important information from what you listen to.
If you manage to create a learning pattern, this learning schedule will become a piece of cake.
Experiment or practice! practice! practice! Whatever you learn from different sources you need to experiment. At the beginning I was experimenting everything I read about. Sometimes even if it did not match, it helps you get great feedback. Based on the feedback received you need to be objective and improve. I keep backlog of experiments, I feed it on a weekly basis and try things out. It is the 'Doing' that pushes you forward! You need a coach - or a couch :) Lonely wolfs die fast, so I totally advise you to get somebody to share knowledge, learning and failures. Build a community of SMs at work or outside work. Having someone with more experience to coach you is an important aspect, especially because it will help you become better in a faster agile way.
However, getting an experienced Scrum Master aka Sherpa (as I call these guys) is not an easy job. There is however a cheap way to do it. You can find great people in the Agile Community that contributed great ideas and knowledge to building a virtual online Agile Library. Here are some people who inspire me every day and if you google their names, you will find the first valuable resources to your learning journey. Journal - keep notes Document everything that is relevant and your memory does't hold. Use a note book or a digital notebook to have one single source of wisdom. Go through the notes every month to make sure the information is being retained.
Your journal could also be your storytelling repository. For Scrum Masters storytelling is an important tool and while you climb up the ladder of the "hairy shoe" (Shu-ha-ri) this is a good way to bring your stories to reach the conscious competence stage.
Conferences. Events. "Respond to Change" Agile, same as other change over time. We labeled our current way of working as Agile in 2001, so quite a while ago. Today times have changed, we have a new look into modern Agile and we need to understand that it is important to learn from other people's mistakes and not repeat them.
In this sense I kindly invite you to visit, as you can (they are expensive), to the Agile events all over the world. Some are more valuable than other, but there are always great opportunities to learn out of these events. Some of the events are recorded and soon after the event is over, you may access the full presentations, if you missed the conference.
Of course books are a great way to learn from. Reading an Agile book should be done differently as any other books. I usually read a good book 2 or 3 times, all my books are underlined and marked with signs. My first Agile book was 'Turn the Ship Around', great book, however I did not get the full essence until I read it the second time. My Agile backpack grew in the meantime and was able to understand the book better and generate new ideas.
A great opportunity to learn from books is to build a Booking Club, get people read one book and later meet to chew on it. This brings many perspectives you have never thought about before. It helps retaining and developing knowledge.
Last, but not Least - Be Agile Yourself The best way to learn Agile is to try it @home. How do you expect to teach other people to become Agile when you are not Agile? Think about this every day. How can I improve my life? Agile helps companies, why should it not help me?
Anything I missed...let me know.