JD Duarte


Jose Duarte on the key characteristics of a successful Scrum Master

Being a Scrum Master requires a great deal of knowledge, talent and experience. With the right set of skills, though, that individual can be a highly useful and resourceful member of a team. Jose Duarte, a successful businessman, entrepreneur and Scrum Master from Costa Rica, explains, what makes a Scrum Master successful.

A successful Scrum Master guarantees that the whole group is behind the executed Scrum process and makes sure that the daily Scrum is planned for a time that is convenient for all members. He or she understands the different phases a team may go through when working in a group, and understands Tuckman’s team development stages – forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

“A true Scrum Master understands that principles take precedence over practices,” explains Duarte. “If the team doesn’t have a solid understanding of the agile principles, every practice it tries to implement will be useless.” To that end, it’s important that everyone involved has an in-depth understanding of the principles.

A Scrum Master sets out to be problematic. An incredible Scrum Master knows that some changes are only possible if he or she disrupts the flow and knows when it’s time to make a change. However, he or she also knows how to implement the change without causing permanent damage to the system.

It’s necessary to be both wanted and irrelevant to find success as a Scrum Master. Duarte explains, “An extraordinary Scrum Master supports the growth of teams in a way that they don’t need him or her on a daily basis. However, because of his contributions, he will frequently be sought out for advice. He evolves from being a daily coach to becoming a mentor an advisor.”

A Scrum Master gives the group the freedom to fail – on occasion. He or she recognizes when to step in and prevent a team from failing, but knows how to step back and not prevent it. Sometimes, the lessons learned from making mistakes lead to greater future success.

One of the most positive traits of a successful Scrum Master is the ability to believe in self-organization. A self-organized team understands their roles and doesn’t have to depend on management to own all of the processes.

The power of observation is always a key to success. An outstanding Scrum Master can observe the team as they conduct their daily activities and doesn’t need to participate in every session. The daily Scrum can be led by itself without the Scrum Master’s involvement,” asserts Duarte, “with the Master only keeping an eye on things. This allows him to stay involved and make sure everything is on track, but gives more control to the group.”

The Scrum Master must have an impact at the organizational level. He or she knows how to motivate and keep things flowing appropriately at the strategic and tactic levels, which is where the most difficult obstacles usually occur. A successful Scrum Master will know how to act, and react, at all levels to maintain fluidity.

Lastly, a successful Scrum Master can mentor expertly. An extraordinary Scrum Master comprehends the intensity of expert instructing and has aced this region of study. Books like Coaching Agile Teams and Co-Active Coaching don’t have any mysteries for him or her; they realize how to direct without prescribing and knows how to help the team members better understand themselves. This way, they are able to better ascertain their true potential.