Scrum Master Interview Questions: How to Make Your Scrum Master Fail

TL; DR: Scrum Master Interview Questions on How to Make Your Scrum Master Fail

Scrum has proven time and again to be the most popular framework for software development. Given that software is eating the world, a seasoned Scrum Master is nowadays in high demand. And that demand causes the market entry of new professionals from other project management branches, probably believing that reading one or two Scrum books will be sufficient. Which makes any Scrum Master interview a challenging task. A good starting point, though, is to ask a candidate to walk in the shoes of an imaginary opponent trying to make the Scrum Master fail by culturally accepted means.

Suppose you are looking to fill a Scrum Master (or agile coach) position in your organization. In that case, you may find the following interview questions helpful to identify the right candidate. They are derived from my sixteen years of practical experience with XP and Scrum, serving both as Product Owner and Scrum Master, and my training experience as a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org. Also, I have interviewed dozens of Scrum Master candidates on behalf of my clients.

So far, this Scrum Master interview guide has been downloaded more than 22,000 times.

Scrum Master Interview Questions: How to Make Your Scrum Master Fail — Age-of-Product.com
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Scrum 2022: Getting You Started as Scrum Master or Product Owner

TL; DR: Scrum 2022 — Getting You Started as Scrum Master or Product Owner

Probably, you are considering how to further your Scrum Master career or Product Owner career in 2022. Maybe, I can support you in that regard with a set of articles, documents, and LinkedIn polls I authored that proved to be the most popular in 2021. They range from Product Owner and Scrum Master interview questions to a variety of Scrum anti-patterns to the most engaging polls on seemingly simple questions on “agile” in general and Scrum in particular. All articles feature free ebooks that delve into the problems and provide hands-on advice on how to solve them. Good luck with Scrum 2022—just stick to first principles!

Scrum 2022: Getting You Started as Scrum Master or Product Owner — Age-of-Product.com
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How to Sabotage A Scrum Master — 44 Anti-Patterns from the Trenches

TL; DR: How to Sabotage A Scrum Master — 44 Anti-Patterns from the Trenches to Avoid

One of my favorite exercises from my Professional Scrum Master classes is how to best sabotage a Scrum Master as a member of the middle management. The exercise rules are simple: You’re not allowed to use any form of illegal activity. So, outsourcing the task to a bunch of outlaws is out of the question. Instead, you are only allowed to use practices that are culturally acceptable within your organization.

Read on and learn more on how to best sabotage a Scrum Master from the exercise results of more than ten PSM I and PSM II classes. (I slightly edited the suggestions for better readability.)

How to Sabotage A Scrum Master — 44 Practices from the Trenches — Age-of-Product.com
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Download the 66 Scrum Master Interview Questions to Identify Suitable Candidates

Welcome to the Download Page for the “66 Scrum Master Interview Questions” PDF

Our ebook “66 Scrum Master Interview Questions” is available in its fifth edition. Learn about ten topical areas essential for an assessment of candidates for Scrum Master positions.

47 Scrum Master Interview Questions to Identify Suitable Candidates — Age-of-Product.com
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Join the Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — Let Us Create Transparency

TL;DR: Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — An Anonymous Poll by the Community for the Community

The purpose of this anonymous Scrum Master salary report is to create a clear, data-backed benchmark that allows everyone in the agile community to understand whether their compensation is adequate. (And yes, the report will cover Scrum Masters as well as Agile Coaches, both employed and freelancing.)

The goal is to have a sufficient number of replies – that would be at least 1,000 – by the end of November 2021 to create the report in time for January 2022. Of course, the report will be available for free.

Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — Age-of-Product.com
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Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum?

TL; DR: Agile Coaches vs. Scrum Masters

Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum? Don’t get me wrong; my LinkedIn profile states “Professional Scrum Trainer, Agile Coach, and Scrum Master,” as ‘agile coach’ is an important search term. (Many seem to confuse agile coach with Scrum Master or believe both terms can be used interchangeably. However, that should not be a reason to reduce your chances of meeting a new employer or client.)

I like to point at a scheme, though, that I have encountered several times in the past, particularly in organizations, where the people folks still believe in orchestrated career paths: The Scrum Master is a role at the team level, while the agile coach is dealing with organizational issues.

I do believe that this construct is flawed: When practicing Scrum correctly, Scrum Masters are all you ever need.

Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum? — Age-of-Product.com

🗳 Update: Join the poll and its lively discussion on agile coaches vs. Scrum Masters.

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Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — Age-of-Product.com

📈 Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022.

You can download the Scrum Master Salary Report 2019 here.

The Scrum Master Accountabilities According to the Scrum Guide

Scrum Guide 2020 reserves a lot of attention to the role of the Scrum Master; for example, including ways to support the organization in practicing Scrum:

  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption.
  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization.
  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work.
  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams.

Source: Scrum Guide 2020. (The aggregation is taken from the Scrum Guide 2020 Reordered.)

How Scrum Masters Allocated Their Time when Working with Scrum Teams

It is a fallacy to believe that the Scrum Masters’ accountabilities revolve around the Scrum team. If we were to limit their role to the Scrum team level, all we would accomplish is creating tiny islands of limited agility in an otherwise non-agile environment. (Consequently, these half-hearted approaches of agile transformations result in statements like: ‘We tried Scrum, and it did not work.’)

The fact is that Scrum Masters, when a Scrum team becomes more fluent in Scrum, allocate more time to working with the organization. Let’s take Dominik Maximini’s pyramid to visualize the work of a Scrum Master with a newly formed team and add a timeline. We can then imagine working with an experienced Scrum team by turning the original time allocation pyramid upside down. Now, Scrum Masters dedicate more time to support the organization in fine-tuning adjacent and organizational processes to meet the needs of embracing business agility.

Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum? — Age-of-Product.com

Source: Dominik Maximini. (The site lacks SSL encryption; hence I am not linking to it directly.)

If this is a plausible scenario, why would you then seek to limit the work of Scrum Masters to the Scrum team level and engage agile coaches to do the work at the organizational level? Wouldn’t it be advisable to task people with that kind of job who have a thorough understanding of the challenges Scrum teams face in daily operations? Again, what is the benefit of creating a chasm here?

The only argument I have encountered so far is a perceived career path that starts with the Scrum Master role, and if you prove worthy, you are promoted to the next level—working with management and organization—represented by the ‘agile coach.’ (Some may say that Scrum Masters often lack a proper coaching education. However, in my experience, this is also true for many ‘agile coaches.’)


The Agile Community Needs You: Join the Scrum Master Salary Report 2022

The purpose of this anonymous survey is to create a clear, data-backed benchmark that allows everyone in the agile community to understand whether their compensation is adequate. (And yes, the report will cover Scrum Masters as well as Agile Coaches, both employed and freelancing.)

The goal is to have a sufficient number of replies – that would be at least 1,000 – by the end of November 2021 to create the report in time for January 2022. Of course, the report will be available for free.

Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — Age-of-Product.com

📈 Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022.


Conclusion: Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum?

I do believe that the construct of employing agile coaches for work at the organizational level while limiting Scrum Masters to operational tasks at the Scrum team level is flawed: When practicing Scrum correctly, Scrum Masters are all you ever need.

Is your organization employing agile coaches as well as Scrum Masters? If so, please share your learnings with us in the comments.

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📖 Agile Coaches vs. Scrum Masters — Related Posts

Scrum Master Salary Report 2019

Scrum First Principles — How to Elon Musk the Scrum Guide

Download the Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide for free.

📅 Scrum Training Classes, Workshops, and Events

Date Class and Language City Price
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 May 30, 2022 GUARANTEED: Hands-on Agile 42: The Skinny on Lean Roadmapping and OKRs with Janna Bastow (English; Live Virtual Meetup) Live Virtual Meetup FREE
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 May 31-June 1, 2022 GUARANTEED: Advanced Professional Scrum Master Online Training (PSM II; English; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1.189 incl. 19% VAT
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🖥 🇩🇪 August 29-30, 2022 Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; German; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1.189 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 September 6-9, 2022 Advanced Professional Scrum Master Online Training (PSM II; English; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1.189 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 September 12-13, 2022 Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; English; Live Virtual Class) Live Virtual Class €1.189 incl. 19% VAT
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See all upcoming classes here.

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You can book your seat for the training directly by following the corresponding links to the ticket shop. If the procurement process of your organization requires a different purchasing process, please contact Berlin Product People GmbH directly.

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