The more I work within the Scrum project framework, the more I appreciate its practical and simple concepts. I am also interested in the expertise required to be a Scrum master. Like any skill you seek to master, the path may be harder than you want and take longer than you want. I am convinced however that applying a Scrum framework during project execution saves time, more actively engages the development team and helps avoid the problems that come from inevitable requirements changes. Many of you project managers have probably been exposed to or are working with agile methodologies in your organizations. Some of you may be like myself and are seeking to become a scrum master.
Gaining skill at any task, whether making cheese, playing golf or using Scrum requires learning basic principles and developing judgment based on experience. In the olden days, people learned a profession through three levels of increasing competence — apprentice, journeyman and master. To be accepted as an apprentice, a person needed to demonstrate basic understanding and possess a willingness to work hard to improve their skills. Apprentices worked on many types of tasks and projects under the supervision of journeyman. Projects were managed by masters. The masters provided a vision of the final product, developed plans to achieve goals and offered mentoring and training to the team.
Becoming a Scrum master requires the same type of disciplined learning and practice. So, how can you learn Scrum? My advice is to first become familiar with Scrum principles. Scrum.org provides an excellent, short overview called, The Scrum Guide, to get you started.
The Scrum Guide introduces you to the three pillars of the Scrum framework — transparency, inspection and adaptation. You will also be introduced to the titles or roles of the Scrum team. For example, there is the product owner who managers the product backlog such as setting task priorities, the development team and the scrum master. The Scrum world operates within very short time frames — usually two weeks to no more than one month to complete tasks. These one month windows are called Sprints.
After scanning the Scrum Guide, I suggest reading about the experiences of Scrum practitioners. There are many good books and articles about the process, including “Agile Software Development with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle and “Agile Project Management with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber. The series of Agile/Scrum books by Mike Cohn has received favorable reviews.
After you have developed general familiarity with the Scrum terminology and philosophy, I recommend talking or listening to professionals with real world experience. A local professional organization or university may offer invited talks on Scrum. Alternatively, conferences often have workshops or presentations about Scrum. You can also use the social interaction during these professional meetings to talk with masters and project managers about their experiences.
The next thing you should do is to look for opportunities within your organization to become part of a Scrum team. After a couple projects, I think you will appreciate the flexibility and freedom of working within a Scrum framework. Identify and work under a Scrum master. Use your training experience to ask questions about how and why.
As part of your apprenticeship, I suggest you take a class taught by a Scrum master and certified trainer— usually a two day class that focuses on fundamentals, theory and practical examples of applying Scrum across a variety of development endeavors. I have just completed the Professional Scrum Master Training course myself which was led by an excellent coach/trainer, Don McGreal.
Continue to work on skills and practice techniques. Over time, I have found that experienced Scrum teams are some of the most productive professionals I have had the opportunity to work with.
If you have worked in a Scrum environment, sharing your experience and observations will help newbies become contributors more quickly.