10 Tips for being a successful Scrum Master

  1. Be a servant leader:

A servant leader serves the team and focuses on building a foundation of trust with the team. He is an empathetic listener who helps the team to perform its’ best. He is humble, collaborative and a positive thinker. The Scrum Master, as a servant leader, mentors the team to adopt scrum practices. He guides the team towards self-organization. He shields the team from external disturbances and removes impediments.

  1. Facilitate scrum ceremonies diligently:

A Scrum Master always sticks to the scrum ceremonies i.e. product backlog grooming, spring planning, daily stand-up, sprint review and sprint retrospective. He encourages the team to follow the process and attend the ceremonies. As a best practice, you may want to create standing invites for the scrum ceremonies. Also, don’t cancel any of these ceremonies at any time. This will set the right expectations with your team. You should also track absences, and educate the team about the importance of participating in these ceremonies.

  1. Ensure team understands the product backlog item:

Often, product backlog items are complex and the development team does not clearly understand the work. In this situation, the development team does not feel comfortable in estimating the stories during the sprint planning meeting. In order to tackle this, a Scrum Master should encourage the development team to participate in the backlog grooming meeting which happens prior to the sprint planning. When the development team participates in discussions with the product owner to refine the backlog items, they gain better understanding of the work.

  1. Help define a clear definition of ‘DONE’:

A Scrum Master should ensure that the definition of ‘DONE’ or the acceptance criteria is clearly defined such that it comprises of an exhaustive list of items that must be completed to deliver a quality software. Whether the Definition of Done is defined at a backlog item, user story, or at a release level, a Scrum Master should help the team to include the quality checks such as code review, updating the automated test scripts, regression testing and so on.

  1. Don’t show up for daily stand-up for few days:

Often, when a Scrum Master is conducting the daily stand-up, the development team tends to have an eye contact with him while providing their updates. A Scrum Master should encourage the team to provide updates to each other and not to him. He should also help the team to become self-organizing. If he doesn’t show up on daily stand-ups for few days, it will give an opportunity to the team to self-facilitate the stand-up and provide updates to each other.

  1. Support team to commit less than the available capacity:

A Scrum Master should shield the team from unplanned activities being assigned to them. Since the unplanned work does pop-up, whether it is a high priority production incident or an urgent visit by the leadership team, the best approach for a Scrum Master is to enable the team to commit less than their available capacity. He should track all the unplanned work for each sprint and try to minimize the same. If no un-planned work appears, then he should work with the product owner to pull some product backlog items into the sprint backlog.

  1. Plan a practice demo for the team:

Before the development team provides their demo to the product owner at the end of the sprint, a Scrum Master may want to plan a practice demo with the development team. This will provide some confidence to the development team, and also help them in hashing out some of the last minute issues.

  1. Provide complete visibility:

A Scrum Master should provide complete visibility into the work occurring in the sprint via the sprint backlog, sprint burndown charts or a Kanban board. Visibility also acts as a defense against an unplanned work request. If the unplanned work is truly a high priority, this gives a platform for the Scrum Master to negotiate the work already planned for the sprint.

  1. Provide a fun environment for the team:

A Scrum Master should create a fun and lively environment for the team. Fun reduces the stress and increases team productivity. A Scrum Master should encourage activities that promote fun and collaboration such as happy hours after work, team lunches, team exercise breaks, etc. Most people dread the sprint review and retrospectives. A Scrum Master should try to make these ceremonies less embarrassing and more fun for everyone. He may bring in snacks one day, plan a quick trivia or any other creative way to lighten the environment.

  1. Keep learning:

A Scrum Master should always keep learning about scrum and other agile methodologies. He should look forward to connect with his peer scrum masters and learn from their best practices and lessons learnt. He will also benefit from making contributions to the society by participating in scrum workshops, writing articles on professional social media sites, or mentoring other scrum masters.

Hope you enjoyed reading the above tips! Please share your feedback on my Facebook page:


If you need a quick refresher on scrum roles, artifacts, ceremonies or reports, you can read my book “What Is Scrum?” available in different formats as below:

Amazon Paperback, Hardcover and Kindle

Barnes & Noble Paperback, Hardcover and Nook

Posted in Scrum

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