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Agile & Product Management

How to showcase your value as a Scrum Master

At Zenhub, we know that effective Scrum Masters are an asset to any team. Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way and we’ve spoken to enough of you to know that this is an ongoing problem. 

In fact, 40% of the Scrum Masters we surveyed this year said they are concerned about whether their team members see their value and that they face challenges demonstrating it. 

The irony? The same survey discovered that many of the challenges teams faced with Scrum could have been avoided with a dedicated (and talented) Scrum Master. 

This puts Scrum Masters in a sticky situation, so we’re here today with some tangible strategies to help you manage and hopefully overcome this common industry problem.

Why do Scrum Masters need to show their value?

Scrum Masters have been questioned since they appeared on the software dev scene. Earlier this year, we spoke to several experts who flagged common misconceptions about this position.

If you’re a Scrum Master, you might be dealing with:

  • A lack of clarity about what exactly you do 
  • Concerns about whether you contribute to “real work” or just admin tasks
  • And even the question of whether Scrum itself involves “too much overhead” (spoiler alert: it can and often does!) 

Doubts and concerns like these tend to put extra stress and responsibility on Scrum Masters while forcing them to double down on efforts to prove their value.

Bearing that in mind, we touched base with several industry experts to pinpoint the strategies and processes to support you in that effort.

How (and why) Scrum Masters should set goals

By setting and meeting goals, Scrum Masters are better able to demonstrate and articulate what they do and how they contribute to progress in their position, across their team, and within their organization. 

But what kind of goals should you be setting? And how can you establish goals around work that is often difficult to quantify? 

Brock Argue, Co-founder & Coach at Superheroes Academy, told us he breaks his goals down into three main categories — self-improvement and team behavioral and organizational improvement.

“Each of these types of goals captures areas of accountability the Scrum Master has in their role and areas that they should focus on,” he explained.

Klaus Boedker, Owner of Inner Agility Academy, mentioned the same three pillars and stressed that self-improvement should remain at the top of the list.

“If we, as Scrum Masters, do not start with ourselves, our work for the team and the organization ends up being sub-optimal.” He also provided an example of each goal-setting category in action:

  • Emotional intelligence as a self-improvement goal
  • Storywriting skills as a team goal
  • And modifying a team’s inbound workflow for agility as an organizational goal

No matter what kind of goals you zero in on, it appears that for Scrum Masters, clearly defined objectives are especially important.

How can Scrum Masters measure their impact?

Since goal setting is critical to this role, we set out to explore how Scrum Masters can measure their impact and value. Klaus reminded us that an outward-facing view is essential.

“We Scrum Masters do not deliver value directly,” he said. “Rather, we enable value delivery by the Scrum team. When we do our job well, the team is more successful and delivers value early and often to the delight of the customer.”

This means that you can and should look to your team to measure your impact as a Scrum Master. As Brock explained, you’ll want to focus on qualitative and quantitative results.

“Qualitative results might come in the form of relational improvements the team has made, which are believed to have contributed to a better team environment and improved delivery. Qualitative results are often measured with surveys or interviews. Quantitative results would be those things that can be measured absolutely. The quantitative results I measure for teams are: Predictability, Quality, Responsiveness, and Productivity,” he tells us. 

How can Scrum Masters make sure that their value is recognized?

These strategies for driving and measuring value are great, but how can you, as a Scrum Master, ensure that your hard work is recognized?

Klaus shared a common and powerful piece of career advice. The key, he said, is owning your success.

“Don’t be embarrassed or shy about it. Be proud that you have mastered both the process side of Scrum and the people side. Share the value of the people-oriented skills you bring to the team. Share it with your manager in 1-on-1 meetings. Tell stories about it in the sprint demos. Share it with other Scrum Masters in the agile community of practice.”

Brian Link, Agile Coach at Practical Agilist, was also in the self-advocacy camp and shared some examples of how this might appear in the Scrum Master role.

“Send your manager short emails for even small accomplishments. For example, ‘Today, I facilitated a retrospective with our team and was proud to see the team has started communicating openly as I’ve been coaching them and came up with 2 great suggestions for how we might make productive changes to our agile process,’” he tells us. 

“Another example might be describing impediments you’ve removed for the team. For example, ‘Today, I worked with security to make sure the team has access to the three tools we require to properly deploy to the cloud, and I expect this sprint’s work to be deployed on schedule as a result.’”

Final thoughts: proactivity matters

Based on all of the above, it’s clear that a proactive approach is critical. By getting clear on goals, defining qualitative and quantitative measures of impact, and, of course, remembering to self-advocate, you should be able to reclaim some control.

While a great Scrum Master may be every bit as valuable as anyone else on their team, there is an extra burden of proof — and at least for now, it looks like that added effort is built into this unique job description.

Want to see how you can make measuring your impact as a Scrum Master even easier? Request a demo of Zenhub.

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