Measuring the performance of an employee is never easy to do. It’s made much more difficult when we have a hard time understanding exactly what a person is supposed to be doing. In this blog post, we’ll clear up all of your questions about Scrum Masters, their accountabilities, and how to measure their performance effectively.

What is a Scrum Master Supposed to Do?

Let’s break it down. The Scrum Guide defines a Scrum Master as

“[a] true leader who serves the Scrum Team and the larger organization.”

Be careful of that “true leader” phrase. The Scrum Guide uses it correctly. Leadership doesn’t imply authority (for much more information about leadership and authority, look here and in our amazing training system, The Leadership Edge) and a Scrum Master doesn’t have any. In fact, without saying Servant Leader, the Scrum Guide pretty much sets the stage. The Scrum Master is a leader who serves others to a positive result.

The Scrum Guide goes a little further to describe the actions for which the Scrum Master is to be held accountable. They are:

  • establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization
  • the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.

In short, a Scrum Master is measured, first, by

  1. How well they serve their team and the larger organization
  2. How well they establish of Scrum (as defined by the Scrum Guide)
  3. How well they support their team improve their ability to get work done right the first time (i.e., the team’s effectiveness).

How Do You Know if the Scrum Master is Doing Their Job?

Here’s where things get subjective. It is completely dependent on how you define serving the team, establishing Scrum, and improving the team’s effectiveness. This is where I can help. Let’s break it down again.

Serving the Team and the Larger Organization

Whether or not you interpret “serving the team and the larger organization” as being a servant leader, it’s not a bad place to start. If we equate a Scrum Master with a Servant Leader, we see that a Scrum Master

  • Listens to their team and others in the organization.
  • Is empathetic.
  • Helps heal.
  • Keeps focus.
  • Anticipates needs.
  • Is dedicated to growth and improvement.
  • Brings people together.

Establishing Scrum

This one is pretty straight forward. Scrum Masters ensure that their teams and the larger organization use Scrum properly (Artisan Agility can help you with classes about Scrum and many blog posts about Scrum).

Improving the Team’s Effectiveness

Effectiveness is all about doing things right the first time. For the typical Scrum team, this means that, when the team says a Product Backlog Item is DONE, it is actually done. Few to no defects are found once the team says the word “DONE.” When a Scrum Master is working hard to improve the team’s effectiveness, they are helping the team understand how they can improve their capabilities as well as initial product quality and are always involved in making and executing improvement plans (usually through the Sprint Retrospective event and the Sprint Goal).

What and How to Measure Scrum Master Performance

Time for the bottom line. Let’s take everything I’ve talked about and put it together into something you can actually use. If you want to use it, feel free, but please, make the rollout part of a discussion. Talk with your Scrum Masters, your teams, your leadership. Make sure everything makes sense and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, that your organization is prepared to support REAL Scrum Masters that are REALLY accountable as I’ve outlined in this blog post. If your organization’s culture is not truly aligned with the accountabilities of a Scrum Master as defined in the Scrum Guide, you’re going to have a problem.

Let’s talk about establishing Scrum or, in other words, ensuring that Scrum teams are using Scrum effectively. This is a much more objective exercise, examining how the team is using Scrum. Now, we could really get carried away by trying to measure a hundred different aspects of the Scrum framework, but the easiest way is to simply pick a few basic elements of Scrum and base the fundamental measure on those elements. As the Scrum Master’s overall experience improves, additional measures could be added.

Start With the Events

For a beginner Scrum Master, focus primarily on the Scrum events. For example, we could use the following measures:

  1. Sprint Planning involves the entire team and ends with a Sprint Backlog (which, of course, contains a Sprint Goal as well as a plan for the Sprint).
  2. Daily Scrums involve the developers and either validates the Sprint Goal or results in a team discussion to make the Sprint Goal achievable.
  3. Sprint Reviews involve the entire team as well as some stakeholders and customers. During the event, the team determines high level “next steps” to move the development effort closer to the Product Goal.
  4. Sprint Retrospectives involve the entire team and result in action plans that are incorporated into the next Sprint to help improve the effectiveness of the team.

Add Measures to Improve the ScrumMaster’s Skills

As the Scrum Master’s skills improve, you can include measures that can help raise the Scrum Master’s abilities. Much of these skills can be verified with a simple survey of the team at the end of each Sprint.

  • Improving focus
    • My Scrum Master helps my team avoid interruption and stay focused throughout the Sprint.
  • Coaching
    • My Scrum Master provides coaching that helps improve my team’s performance.
    • My Scrum Master is aware of the mood of the team and takes steps to help keep all of us focused on the Sprint Goal.
    • My Scrum Master helps my team deal with disappointment and unpleasant events
  • Supporting the team
    • My Scrum Master anticipates the needs of my team and ensures we have what we need when we need it.
    • My Scrum Master knows the team’s strengths and weaknesses and works constantly to improve my team.
    • My Scrum Master creates opportunities for my teammates to get to know one another outside of a work context.

At this point, it’s just a matter of averaging survey scores and the more objective measures and then coaching your Scrum Master to hire levels of performance. For more information on proper measurement, coaching, and performance management techniques, check out The Leadership Edge training system.