What makes a ScrumMaster a “good” ScrumMaster?

I was recently asked to help form a job description for a new ScrumMaster (SM) position in a company.  So, it got me thinking about what qualities and skills make up a good SM.  I thought back on teams I have been on that had good and some not-so-good SMs.  Most of the skills that come to mind when I think of a good SM are more of the “soft” skills.  Here are the ones I came up with: 

Intimately familiar with Scrum.  Since the SM owns the process, they must be intimately familiar with how Scrum works and be able to guide a team to find solutions to help them succeed.  This takes experience.  Most SMs come fresh out of CSM training and jump into the role.  The challenge here is that they often do not have an experienced SM available to mentor and coach them.  If at all possible, hire someone with proven experience or get help from an experienced coach. 

Excellent facilitator.  SMs organize and facilitate several of the Scrum meetings.  This requires organizational and excellent facilitation skills.  If you are a SM today and are looking for help in this area, I highly recommend the Collaboration Explained class (see previous posts on this class).  Facilitation is very different from controlling meetings.   

Highly available to the team.  If your SM has a full time role elsewhere in the company and just runs in for the daily standup, they are not going to be very helpful to the team.  They need to manage impediments and be available as needed to the team to work through any roadblocks.  The SM should always know the status of the team and how things are going. 

Be quiet.  This is a tough one.  Often times, skills that make a person a good SM are the same skills that make it hard for them to keep their mouth shut.  I have seen several SMs that can’t help themselves and start telling team members what tasks to do in the daily standup or start questioning the team’s estimates during estimation sessions.  As a SM, you need to know when to keep your mouth shut and when to step in.  You are not a traditional project manager and you should not operate in a command and control style. You are a “servant leader.” 

All About the Team.  As a SM, you are always focused on the team, not on yourself.  You need to thrive in watching the team succeed and do whatever it takes to help them do so.  If you need a lot of personal recognition and praise, then a SM may not be the best job for you.  

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Book Review: Test Driven .Net Development with FitNesse

I just finished Gojko Adzic’s book called Test Driven .Net Development with FitNesse.  I have used FitNesse on .Net projects and I still learned a ton from this book.  I highly recommend it for anyone working with FitNesse on a .Net project, even if you are already comfortable navigating the waters of FitNesse.  If you have heard of FitNesse and are interesting in learning more about it and playing with it, this is the perfect place to start.  The book is geared more towards developers but is still an excellent read for analysts and testers as well.  You can download the source code behind the examples and follow along very easily.

Thank you, Gojko, for writing this much needed book!

Notes from a Recovering Crackberry Addict

I was out to lunch the other day with some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I was really looking forward to catching up and seeing them.  However, by the time the check came, I was half irritated with them both and ready to leave.  Why?  Because the entire lunch was spent with them half listening and checking their Crackberry’s every 2 minutes.   

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must first admit that I WAS one of those people about a year ago.  My Blackberry was strapped to my side 24/7.  It was the last thing I looked at before I went to sleep and the first thing I looked at when I woke up in the morning.  Every time it vibrated to let me know an email came in, I stopped what I was doing to check it out.  I just couldn’t help myself.  I was addicted.  Surely every email that came through (and there was well over 100 a day), needed my immediate attention or something awful was going to happen.  I just knew it. 

When I changed jobs last year, my Blackberry was left behind.  I almost bought a new one but decided on a simple cell phone instead with no text messaging package included.  My last day at work, I handed over my Blackberry and immediately felt 20 pounds lighter.  I was free.   

However, later that night, I swear I began to get nervous and jumpy.  I was out with friends and they all had Blackberry’s they were diligently checking every few minutes and all I had was my little cell phone that only made and received calls.  I started to panic. What if someone had sent me an email?  What if they all knew something I didn’t?  How would I know what was going on?   Maybe I needed to go and trade in my cell phone for a Blackberry or Trio the next day. 

I decided to see if I could stay Crackberry free for 1 month.  If the world fell apart during that time because of an email I didn’t answer immediately, then, I would go back and get fully connected again. As the weeks went by, I slowly started to calm down.  I was shocked to find that the world (and my job) managed to do just fine without me getting emails immediately all day long.  If there truly was an emergency at work, my co-workers knew where to find me or they could actually pick up the phone and call me if needed.  The funny thing is, they never did.  My new cell phone remained quiet. 

So, I am now the worst thing possible…I am a reformed Blackberry user (kinda like a smoker that finally quit).  I get irritated when I see people madly scrolling with their thumb and typing furiously with both thumbs.  (I will say that whoever invented the Blackberry is clearly not a woman…you try typing on that with long nails…it takes some talent!)   I challenge all you Blackberry users out there to actually turn it off for a few hours one day and see what happens.  Or if you are having a nice meal out with friends or family, leave it in the car and really participate in the analog conversation (nothing digital for an entire meal!!).   I can almost guarantee that nothing catastrophic will happen. 

If you are an employer that hands out Blackberry’s to your staff, reconsider it.  What is wrong with the old fashioned pager?  I used to carry one of those years ago for work emergencies.  And, I can honestly say, it only went off in emergencies.  People will think twice before paging you at 9pm at home but there is no reason not to send an email to someone at all hours of the day.  And, if you are like most Blackberry users, you will feel obliged to stop what you are doing and check that email no matter what time of day it is. 

Now, I realize that there are some of you out there that can carry a Blackberry and are not addicted to it.  You can actually use it in moderation.  Well, good for you.  I was not one those people (and neither are most of my friends that carry them).  So, I had to make a complete break and go cold turkey.  And, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  My husband also agrees J