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The Personality of a Great Scrum Master – A Recap

Hello All,

There was quite a lot of activity this week on the discussion board for this blog.  There were over 20 comments made on the article The Personality of a Great Scrum Master.  In the article I offered some suggestions as to the personality traits that a great Scrum Master should possess and suggested that it is difficult for a “traditional” Project Manager to make the shift from a “command and control” world to one of “self managed” teams.

Well, much to my surprise I had a number of readers that took issue with this latter point.  Many of the readers came from more traditional project management roles and had made the conversion to scrum.  A wide majority who commented felt that the specific characteristics that make a great Scrum Master are also the ones that make a great Project Manager regardless of the methodologies employed.  One reader commented on my suggestion that a traditional Project Manager will approach projects from a “command and control” perspective was “short sighted” and that this kind of management approach is an example of “bad project management”.  He suggested that what makes someone a good Scrum Master is “just to be a good Project Manager”.

Another reader suggested that a Project Manager’s role (whether in scrum or more traditional projects) is to remove obstacles, manage risk and issues, and foster the right environment for the team members to do their jobs and he finds it liberating NOT to create a “command and control” environment.

A third reader wrote that whether scrum or more traditional methods, the core skills of strong facilitation, planning and communication skills are the skills that we should demand from our professions “and by not doing so we only undermine the overall relevance of project management as facilitating organizational strategy.”

There were also some humorous comments (although I am not sure they were necessarily intended to be).  One reader suggested that a Scrum Master is “one that doesn’t have a PMP.” Ouch!  And of course there was the job description posted by Charlie Rex from Australia that I blogged about yesterday entitled Friday Agile Humor.

And finally, one reader brought to our attention that both Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland have publicly stated that “professional Project Managers (PMPs) make the best Scrum Masters” and that “scrum does not replace the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) but that they actually complement each other.”

Now, there were a few folks that agreed with me on the point.   “It’s a tough role for people who are used to being in charge” is what one reader suggested.  This was agreed upon by another reader who said that “the Scrum Master isn’t the typical leader person.  You are required to be more of a social chameleon.”

Another mentioned that he had been both the “traditional Project Manager” and who now travels the world training people on scrum.  He said that “even (he) has problems not going into ‘command and control’ mode.”  He suggested that it “takes constant introspection and discipline, and is something that does not come naturally to (him).”

So what do I make of all this?  Well, first of all, I am starting to figure out how to make people come out of the woodwork and post their opinions!  Seriously though, I am delighted that there was such contribution of ideas.  After all, that is what blogging should be about: collaboration of ideas that lead us to truths that further the advancement of our industry.

I still contend that traditional Project Managers that were indoctrinated in a more “command and control” environment (whether rightly or wrongly) and/or are naturally bent toward authoritative leadership will have a difficult time not being in charge.  In scrum, the team must take control of the project as a team.  In the words of one reader, The Scrum Master must “know when and who to give a nudge, not for the sake of feeling in control but to keep the team moving forward, and (he/she) must know when to let someone else hold the torch.”

But what I have learned from all of the contributors is that this is more about the individual and less about traditional project management.  Anyone that is open to new ideas, seeks new ways of operating that will ultimately lead to success, fosters a strong team environment, displays humility, and checks their egos at the door will be a successful Scrum Master.

Have a great weekend!


P.S.  There were a number of articles and sites that the readers submitted along with their comments.  Here is a partial list for your convenience.


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