September 2, 2021

Scrum Master Tips - First Day in the Job

It's hard to be a good Scrum Master. It's even harder to be a great Scrum Master! So, what sort of things should you be doing to be great? Here are some Scrum Master tips to help you get started on day one in a new job.

One of many potential Scrum Master tips - the Scrum Board

Photo by İrfan Simsar on Unsplash

The Challenges of Scrum Mastery

The work of a Scrum Master can seem overwhelming if you've never done it before. There's no playbook on what should be done or how it should be done. Much is left to the Scrum Master to work out for themselves and it's easy to see how it can quickly go wrong.

If you've just started a new job as a Scrum Master, this is even more of a challenge. How do you start off on the right foot? Here are some Scrum Master tips for day one.

Scrum Master Tips for Day One

Your first day can be a mental whirlwind so this advice is short and sweet. Something you can easily remember and centre yourself on:

Do watch, listen, and then ask questions

Don't offer solutions or make snap judgements

Here's some more detail on what I mean:

Do These Things

  • Do Watch
    • It's surprising just how much you can learn from observing others. This was a trick I learned in policing. I could almost tell at a glance whether something was amiss and it's easy to practice the skill and learn
  • Do Listen
    • Don't underestimate this one. While people will be very curious to find out more about you, your job is to find out more about the people, the team(s) and the work that they do. It's not about you, it's about them. Find out what motivates them, what excites them, what bothers them, what challenges they face.
  • Do Ask Questions
    • Listening is great but it will only get you so far. You may need to elicit more information than is being offered. Below are some questions that I have found useful. I'm sure you can think of others:
      • Who is/are the Product Owner(s)?
      • Do we have a Product Vision?
      • How many teams are working on the Product?
      • How many Product(s) are the Team(s) working on?
      • What time(s) are the Daily Scrum(s) (because you should attend)
      • Where is the Product Backlog?
      • What's our Velocity?
      • Do we have a Definition of Done?
      • Do we have an Impediment Backlog?
      • Are we applying Scrum by the book?
      • What is the biggest challenge we're facing today?
      • What is the biggest benefit we're getting from the way we're working today?
      • Do we have any metrics we currently use?
      • How can I help?

Don't Do These

  • Don't Offer Solutions
    • If you've just started, it's probably best not to jump to conclusions or solutions. While you may be aware of a great trick that may help your team, that comes later. For now, just collate your ideas and collect information.
  • Don't Make Snap Judgements
    • This can easily happen, especially after asking some of the questions I've listed above. While it's great to see some potential improvements, give yourself time to collate as much information as possible and apply your mind to the issues

Make Notes

By the end of your first day, your head will be buzzing. If you didn't take notes at the time, do so now. I've often been surprised when, some months down the road, I look back at these initial notes and see just how accurate they were. These notes are the start of your plan to help your Scrum Team(s). How you do that, well, that's the subject of other posts.