As I said in an earlier column, it’s not enough to slap the tile of Scrum Master or Agile Coach on a project manager, manager, or whatever other warm body happens by. It’s also not enough to look for the keywords “CSM” or “coach” on a resume.
If you are serious about helping teams learn and thrive as self-organizing Agile teams, get serious about ScrumMasters and Agile Coaches. Start thinking about the work, the role, and the job–not just the job title.
First, I considered the qualities, preferences, and skills. Second, I thought about the sort of knowledge and understanding that’s essential for the role. Then, I thought about elimination factors, patterns of thought and behavior that would eliminate a candidate from consideration. Of course, you can’t just ask yes/no questions for any of the characteristics on this table. You have to do behavioral interview questions and auditions (see Hiring the Best if you need a refresher on interviewing and auditioning candidates).
|Quality||R/D||Preference||R/D||Skill||R/D||Demonstrated Understanding||R/D||Elimination Factors|
|Initiative||R||Working in a team environment||R||Team coaching||R||Agile values, principles, methods, practices||R||Directive|
|Flexibility||R||Finds satisfaction in helping others succeed.||R||Facilitation||R||Team and group dynamics||R||Defensive|
|Optimism||R||Agile practices||R||Working thru influence||D||Judgmental|
|Resilience||R||Ability to explain the "why" behind agile practices||R||Low threshold for frustration|
R = Required, D = Desirable
After I had a handle on the skills, qualities, and characteristics, I considered the interactions, activities, and deliverables for the job. I summarized it all here:
|Who interacts with this person?||Team members
Manager(s) associated with team members
|Secondary role||Integration with other agile teams|
|Secondary role||Organizational change agent|
|Management component||Manage his/her own impediment backlog|
|Job grade level (consider pay and message to the organization)||For purposes of pay level, look at interactions and scope.|
|Activities||Coach one or more teams.
Ensure team enabling conditions are in place.
Create or advocate for those conditions if they are not in place.
Facilitate team meetings (e.g., sprint planning, sprint demo, retrospectives, decision making meetings, etc.)
Ensure that information radiators are up to date.
Develop additional team radiators to address issues unique to the team.
Advocate for the team (e.g., block unnecessary meddling)
Help the team see their own process and improve their processes.
Coach on agile practices
Guide the team in adapting process to fit the local reality w/o losing the intent.
Coach on interpersonal and collaboration skills.
Coach on technical practices
Use influence skills to remove impediments
Transfer knowledge and skills to team members so the team becomes more self-sufficient.
Up-to-date team radars
|Essential Qualities and Preferences||Initiative, flexibility, optimism, determination, resilience
Working in a team environment, supportive, not cowed by authority
|Desirable Qualities and Preferences||Detachment, discernment
Able to navigate conflict
|Essential non-technical skills||Coaching, interpersonal skills, Agile practices|
|Desirable non-technical skills||Facilitation, influence|
|Essential technical skills||Depends on which team the coach will work with|
|Desirable technical skills||Depends on which team the coach will work with|
|Minimum experience||One year coaching a team. Two years working with an agile team|
|Demonstrated understanding of:||Coaching
Agile values, principles, methods, practices
Team and group dynamics
Working through influence
|Cultural fit factors||This is in some ways a cultural change role. The candidate must fit the desired cultural pattern, but not be so far from the current culture that he's rejected.|
|Elimination factors||Preference for directing others, defensiveness, judgmental attitude, low threshold for frustration|
Of course, what you look for in an agile coach or Scrum Master will be somewhat different. Each team has different needs for coaching. A given team may need more (or less) help with specific engineering practices. Another team may need more help with retrospectives or planning. The key is to think of this like any other job. ScrumMaster or Agile coach are not a plug-and-play roles. You need to look for fit–with your culture and with the needs of the team.