Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Scrum Master? [Scrum Master Series]

I recently met a Scrum Master friend who told me how he eventually figured out that the dip in performance of one of his Scrum team members was linked to a co-worker’s body odor!

Yes, a Scrum Master does everything and anything to help the team in doing what they are supposed to do – that is advancing the Sprint’s story towards completion! 

Let’s take a look at the definition of a Scrum Master. Scrum Master is a person who facilitates the Scrum team in performing their tasks. He helps resolve the team’s blockers. These blockers could be directly related to their work – such as the team struggling to decide the design approach to take to go forward, or indirectly impeding them – such as environment outages or even excessive noise coming from the neighboring team area.

In order to justify the role of a Scrum Master, the person needs to possess the following skills:


  1. Understanding of Agile and Scrum: This is the key hard skill as a Scrum Master. Having access to an Agile Coach can help gain this skill rather quickly, but if that’s not possible, observing an existing Scrum team will also help. Those are the most practical ways in my view but taking a certification such as PMI ACP or CSM is the next best thing that can help gain the required knowledge and confidence to perform the role. Joining forums where Scrum and Agile is discussed is also quite  beneficial to grasp the nuances of Scrum and Agile.


  1. Emotional Intelligence: A Scrum Master listens not only to what is being said but also to what is not said. He constantly works towards identifying the elephant in the room – team dynamics, personal constraints, process gaps – and then addressing them. He finds creative ways to change the status-quo, in creating healthy processes and achieving team collaboration.
  2. Resourcefulness: Scrum Master is not required to be a technical person. Neither is he required to be a functional domain expert. However, he should know who to approach to help address the impediments being faced by the team. He maintains a good relationships with the stakeholders and knows when and how should the topic be brought up for discussion.

Those were the general qualities of a Scrum Master. However, considering that most Scrum Masters have evolved from other roles, it is important to understand what must a person keep in mind when moving into Scrum Master shoes from a traditional PM, Tech lead, or QA Manager role.

In such a case, a mindset shift is required to not let their former experience come in the way of their new role. It requires a focus towards failing fast, creating a minimum viable product and increased team collaboration. Scrum Team can get into serious issues if this point is ignored while moving to a Scrum Master role. Some such real life examples include:

  • Scrum Master who was previously a Project Manager could push towards having and following a detailed project plan. To add to that, he may be too aggressive and demanding in his role. This will be disastrous since it is antithesis to Agile where Servant Leadership is the key.
  • Scrum Master who was earlier a Developer could take up responsibility to write the code himself. Team could get so used to him writing the code that they would ask him to fix production bugs. He would eventually get overwhelmed with work and rather than becoming a team enabler, he would end up becoming a bottleneck.
  • Scrum Master who was formerly a Test Lead could get closely involved in testing. In such a situation, the Scrum team would slowly start considering him as the quality gatekeeper and stop appreciating that the quality as a collective team responsibility.

Having said so, if you put your old wine (skills) in the new bottle (of Scrum Mastery), you can win in the role like no on else. Here are some examples of the benefits your previous experience can bring to your new role:

  • A Project Manager and a Scrum Master role have a lot in common. Whether it’s prioritization, planning, client demo, lesson learned – they are all present in SCRUM/Agile as well in the form of Backlog Grooming, Sprint Planning, Sprint Demo, and Sprint Retrospectives. Hence, your previous skills will come in handy in Scrum Master role!
  • Having a technical background will help you in the Scrum Master role to understand the language spoken by the team. You could also teach and coach the team on technical aspects such as how to design effectively, following coding standards and unit testing practices.
  • QA / testing experience can also be very favorable to you in the Scrum Master role. Test Leads or other such roles understand the end to end development process, are good at stakeholder management and causal analysis. They talk to Developers, Business, Business Analysts and traditional Production Support teams to determine and address the root causes of the issues. These are directly required in the Scrum Master role as well.


Do you agree with the above qualities as key to perform the Scrum Master role successfully. Would you like to add anything else to the list? 

On The Day Of Your PMI ACP Exam!

I am an ACP today. No, not Assistant Commissioner of Police, .. that’s for another time! For now, I am an Agile Certified Practitioner.

If you have ever taken an exam (which I am sure is the case) and if you’re like me (which I am not as sure), you know how it feels like on the D Day – Butterflies in stomach, a wish that you had managed more preparation time, what would others think if you BOMBED, sadistic thoughts to postpone the date – Kim Jong Un drops the nuclear bomb at the PMI Headquarters, a Tsunami strikes the Gurgaon Exam center, or ISIS takes the PMI’s CEO and it’s employees hostage – None of which will come true or even should. I haven’t grown much in this aspect from the lad I was in school. Back then, I would wish the worst things to happen to the teacher just to skip the test.

Finally, it dawns on you that nothing else will work and you have to face the exam. When that did for me, here’s what worked for me, and may be it’ll work for you too:

  1. Sleep in timeGiven how smart I am, I chose 8 AM on Monday as the exam time – so I could get the weekend to revise and could join office in case I was refused a leave. Neither of these things happened though. I mean I didn’t revise as much as I should have and my leave didn’t get refused. I was tempted to study all night like back in college days but I am glad that better sense prevailed and I slept at 10 PM. You should too.
  2. Start in timeGoogleMaps suggested it’d take an hour to reach the Exam Center. I started an extra half an hour earlier. I listened to the Audio CD of Slumdog Millionaire on the way to the exam center – something different to relax and energize me. I am glad I didn’t listen to any more of the Cornilius Fischner’s Agile PrepCast audios along the way. I had had enough of that in the last several preparation months.
  3. Mugging up won’t help: They didn’t have any question that expected me to remember the terms. Each question was a thought-provoking and interesting one. If you have worked on Agile projects and more importantly, if you have an Agile mindset, you don’t have much to worry.
  4. What to carry to Exam centerJust a Govt ID Proof with your photo on it. The lazy bum I am, I had not printed the Appointment confirmation email. I couldn’t expect any Xerox shops to be open around 8 AM (the time of my test). Thankfully, my wife reminded me that this was Digital age, and that I shouldn’t worry about the print out. I didn’t and neither should you.
  5. What they’ll let you in withThey’ll not let you take anything inside, well, except the bare essentials – You know what I mean – no jackets, not even handkerchiefs, pencils.. nothing! There’s heavy frisking including a metal detector scan, so be mentally prepared. They asked me to pull up the jeans and lower the socks in front of the camera. I was wondering if I’d be arrested should they find something during the search operation. They examined my glasses thoroughly to check if it was a Google glass or some E-equivalent. All they let you in with is a) Your Locker Key and b)Your ID proof (they didn’t let me carry the ID Proof holder also, so you know how serious this is!). Besides, expect them to give you a) 2 sharpened pencils b) Enough sheets of paper for rough work and you can ask for more (although I didn’t use even half of it. You are not allowed to write on the rough sheets until Test Start button is pressed. No room for vomiting what you mugged before the test starts!) c) A calculator d) Voice cancellation headset.
  6. During the Test, toolsFinally, I was in. I went through the instructions carefully. Three key things I loved and you should note to make use of: a) MARK questions for REVIEW b) STRIKE THROUGH answer choices to eliminate seemingly wrong answers and to focus on the seemingly correct ones c) HIGHLIGHTER to emphasize the important sections especially in longish questions (even answer choices. any text on the screen.) Best part is that all these three features are sticky which means they’ll remain selected as you move forward to other questions.
  7. Managing time during the testI completed all 120 questions in 2 hours and 10 minutes. That’s about a minute per question. That left me 50 minutes to revisit the questions MARKED FOR REVIEW. I think I had close to 40 questions marked which took me 47 minutes. I changed quite a few responses when I revisited the MARKED questions. I used the remaining few minutes to recheck few more questions. You must answer all the questions in the first pass though. There isn’t any negative marking and so leaving any answer blank is foolish.

When I submitted the test, it had few questions asking for a feedback of the examination and test content. After that, I pressed the ‘submit for evaluation‘ button, … It took a few seconds to process the results (which seemed much longer). I used this time to write HARI OM on the rough sheet that was given to me. It always does the trick! Soon after, I saw the following appear on the computer screen:


I couldn’t stop smiling and raised my hand to grab the attention of the Center staff (who constantly monitor the exam takers on CCTV cameras) to help me get out.

Please do share your thoughts and any questions you may have regarding the ACP Examination. I’ll respond as soon as I am back from celebrating this little win. Until next time, Adios!

Agile 101

Howdy, Middle Manager? College lad turned Middle IT Manager. A lot has changed since then… and a lot hasn’t!

Then: You wore a cross locket, less for The Almighty, more for Style. A baseball cap, less for the Sun, more for Style! An earring, which was for nothing but…. Style!

Then and Now
Then and Now

Now: Look at your LinkedIn profile. Well combed hair. Style of dressing. Close shave. Clearly, one thing that still hasn’t changed is.. Style!

Actually, there is one more thing that hasn’t changed: Problems. They were there then, and are here now. 

Then: Your biggest problem: What if my girlfriend dumps me?

Now: What if my company sacks me?

Then: I should leave her before she leaves me. Otherwise, my confidence and chances of finding another girl would go down the drain.  

Still, you couldn’t muster the courage and kept waiting. She broke off with you first!

Now: I have to get on to working on a project that’s my kind. Otherwise, my confidence and chances of finding another project would go down the drain.

Then: Everyone in the college said, “All the good looking girls are already taken.

Now: “All the good projects are already taken.

Then: Others girlfriends- Hot and happening! Yours- Whatever is available!

Now: Others projects- Smoking! Scrum, BDD, Big Data, IoT! Yours: Whatever is available: Data Migration. Legacy system. Waterfall Development Model! (Shhh.. Calling it waterfall is below the belt attack. Let’s settle for Hybrid. That sounds respectable!)

Then: She had to be stylish. And it wasn’t about the physical beauty. It was more than that. In fact, you had a complete Style Manifesto. (see table below)

Now: Projects have to be Agilish, my kinda’ agilish! Today’s Agile Manifesto. (again, see the table below)

Then: This Godforsaken college is not the end of the world!

Now: Your office is not the end of the world!

Then: You joined the Salsa classes, not because you wanted to become a dancer. You joined Alliance Française de Delhi, not for your love for French!

Now: What are you going to do now? Well, don’t expect me to have all the answers in one short article. 

But Congratulations! If you have read so far, you have well understood and hopefully even memorized Agile Values. This is especially helpful if you’re planning on taking the PMI’s Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) exam. Take a small quiz and know for yourself:

  1. In Agile Manifesto, what is valued more than ‘Processes and tools’ (Hint: Direct interactions with her rather than through common friends i.e. tools)
  2. Agile projects require no documentation: True of False? (Hint: While we value the items on the right – emails and phones, but we value the items on the left – Chemistry more)
  3. Which of the following Agile Manifesto philosophy endorses team empowerment? (Hint: Sense of blossoming together i.e. Customer Collaboration over Contract negotiation)
  4. What is valued more than comprehensive documentation in Agile Manifesto? (Hint: Chemistry or Working Software)
  5. In the Agile Manifesto what is on the higher side of the value chain than following a plan driven approach? (Hint – Flexibility or Responding to change.)
  6. What are the four values from the Agile Manifesto (Hint: Recall your Style Manifesto)

Agile Values and their descriptions (The Agile Manifesto) is taken from official Agile Alliance site. I will look forward to your thoughts and questions on these topics.