Mastering the Scrum Master Core Competencies

Posted By - Leigh Griffin


Scrum Master core competencies are an interesting topic. Over the past year I have immersed myself on a journey of continuous improvement as I sought my ICF certification for Coaching and made that journey a focal point of a Master’s thesis, where I looked specifically at Agile Coaching Competencies.

What struck me is the huge variety of expectations and different skills to master and it got me thinking about the expectation our teams and our clients have of us. At a practical level, my understanding of the simple definition of competency was a discovery I want to share with you.

It’s a word we have all heard at various times and the dictionary will tell you it’s the ability to do something successfully or efficiently — more importantly it’s something you can demonstrate.

That last point has a bigger meaning, as that demonstration of skills both enables and improves the efficiency or performance of a job.

What are Your Scrum Master Core Competencies?

Taking that definition, let’s look at the benefits of being aware and focusing on your core competencies as a Scrum Master. I say “your” because the Scrum Master core competencies in the Scrum Guide give the ultimate guide to what teams should expect from their Scrum Master. From facilitating collaboration, to coaching team members through to training the organization.

That’s the horizon goal, the perfect Scrum Master, executing at the highest level possible in all of those competencies. The reality is most Scrum Masters are on a journey, one that is transitioning them from being a good Scrum Master to being a great Scrum Master.

As a person you came into your role with prior skills, prior experiences and prior knowledge. That means on a scale of competency, in each of those key areas that a Scrum Master needs to operate, you might be at a different level of mastery in each.

mastering your Scrum Master core competencies can be daunting

From a self awareness perspective, seeing that perfect set of competencies is daunting and more so seeing that you have a gap can be a range of emotions from embarrassing to frightening. Seeing the level of mastery to attain those goals is, simply put, scary.

However, something I have taken from this deep dive into the world of competencies is that they represent a chance to continuously improve your performance and the role you play. Taking a very honest look at yourself and identifying where, on the perfect Scrum Master scale you fall, will allow you to identify your gaps and your opportunities.

Speaking openly, I’m not as strong on facilitating as I am on teaching or coaching. That’s allowed me to focus on where I need improvement by having the honesty to recognise it’s a skill I need to focus on and work on. What skills do you feel are weaker on your side? What plan do you have to bridge those gaps? Those are questions that should be on every great ScrumMasters personal retrospective.

Agree the Expectations the Team Will Have

As a final point, competency also acts as an expectation setter for your team; They know what to expect of you. Of course, that may be based on their understanding of the role and the competencies that are known and this could generate a gap in expectations.

It’s important therefore that the team side have an awareness of what you believe YOUR Scrum Master core competencies and hence strengths are. It helps to set their expectations for the role you can play and the benefit you can bring to them and their current challenge. Opening a conversation with your team on the topic of competencies is a wonderful retrospective topic. It can bring honesty, transparency and ultimately help generate a very safe space to openly talk about the journey of continuous improvement, which is where great Scrum Masters want to bring their teams.

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