What are the traits of the most successful Scrum Masters?

By now, you are probably familiar with the concept of using a Scrum framework for managing a project.

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Agile project-management approaches such as Scrum are much more successful than traditional waterfall methods – the 2015 report by Scrum Alliance found that 62% of projects delivered using Scrum were successful. This compares to a generally agreed average of 49% using Waterfall.

The Scrum Master is the pivotal role in this framework and holds the team together. So what attributes are needed?

Trait #1: A nose for data

The best Scrum Masters will be able to use data to see why a team is not delivering as expected. They will utilise tools such as control charts, velocity charts, issue lists, and delivery graphs to tell them where things need to improve. The issues that show up may not be obvious, but will be significant enough to have an impact on the project. Scrum Masters will use the data to learn lessons for the future.

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Trait #2: Leadership/taking control

The best Scrum Masters will stop at nothing to meet their sprint deadlines. They will be prepared to escalate issues as high as they need to go if structures fail, and will even double up as DevOps leads if needed.

Trait #3 Communicator and influencer

The Scrum Master should have the confidence to go to the right channel for help when needed. They should be able to build excellent business relationships and garner significant influence at various levels. They also need to have the confidence of the business head.

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Trait #4: Technical ability

Whilst a Scrum Master is rarely also a coder, they should have a good understanding of how the different parts of the process interact. They should have at least a basic comprehension of continuous build systems, planning tools, source control, and generic software engineering.

Trait #5: Ability to spot agile patterns

Problems in project delivery often repeat themselves – even though the symptoms might vary. A top Scrum Master will be fully aware of outcomes and be able to identify common themes.