If you are hiring a ScrumMaster or Agile Coach, Resume keyword searches for won’t find the right person for your teams, and your organization.

Start thinking about the work, the role, the team, and the job.

Here’s a job analysis of the role for a client I worked with. I used the job analysis template from Johanna Rothman‘s very useful book, Hiring the Best.

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 identified elimination factors. Those are the patterns of thought and behavior that eliminate a candidate from consideration.  

Obviously, you can’t ask yes/no questions for any of the characteristics on this table. But, using behavioral interview questions and auditions, you can get a good indication.

QualityR/DPreferenceR/DSkillR/DDemonstrated UnderstandingR/D Elimination Factors
InitiativeRWorking in a team environmentRTeam coachingRAgile values, principles, methods, practicesRDirective
FlexibilityRFinds satisfaction in helping others succeed.RFacilitationRTeam and group dynamicsRDefensive
OptimismRAgile practicesRWorking thru influenceDJudgmental
ResilienceRAbility to explain the "why" behind agile practicesRLow threshold for frustration
DeterminationRInterpersonal skillsR
DetachmentRInfluenceD
DiscernmentRTeam dynamicsD
SupportiveRSystem thinkingD

R = Required, D = Desirable

After I had a handle on the skills, qualities, and characteristics, I could think about the context. I considered the interactions, activities, and deliverables involved with the job.

Who interacts with this person?Team members
Product owner
Manager(s) associated with team members
Other coaches
Primary roleCoach
Secondary roleFacilitator
Secondary roleIntegration with other agile teams
Secondary roleOrganizational change agent
Management componentManage 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.
ActivitiesCoach 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
Identify impediments
Use influence skills to remove impediments
Transfer knowledge and skills to team members so the team becomes more self-sufficient.
DeliverablesIntangible
Up-to-date team radars
Impediment backlog
Knowledge transfer
Essential Qualities and PreferencesInitiative, flexibility, optimism, determination, resilience
Working in a team environment, supportive, not cowed by authority
Desirable Qualities and PreferencesDetachment, discernment
Able to navigate conflict
Essential non-technical skillsCoaching, interpersonal skills, Agile practices
Desirable non-technical skillsFacilitation, influence
Essential technical skillsDepends on which team the coach will work with
Desirable technical skillsDepends on which team the coach will work with
Minimum education
Minimum experienceOne 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 factorsThis 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 factorsPreference for directing others, defensiveness, judgmental attitude, low threshold for frustration

What you look for in an agile coach or Scrum Master will be different. Each team has different needs for coaching. One team may need more (or less) help with specific engineering practices. Another team may need more support with retrospectives or planning. The key is to approach hiring a ScrumMaster o Agile Coach as you would any other important role. ScrumMaster or Agile coach are not a plug-and-play roles. Hire based on your teams and your organization.

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