How to Write a Scrum Master Job Description

When I talk to clients and they start to get serious about their agile transformation, they soon come to the conclusion that they don’t have the right level of experience internally to lead the transition.  I usually recommend they hire an experienced Scrum Master from the market.

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Most Scrum Master job descriptions suck

Here is an example..

Team leads for large teams or managing one customer with multiple projects
Responsible for delivery of assigned module/ components /phases of a project.
Responsible for people Management, including goal setting and providing performance feedback
Responsible for Status reporting
Responsible for guiding the development team.
Responsible for estimation, planning and execution  with specific focus on requirement analysis and design
Responsible for Knowledge transfer and arriving at SLAs for steady state
Technical problem solving skills
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Employers spend a lot of time lamenting the quality of resumes and applicants, but very little time putting care and diligence into their job descriptions.  As a result, you have job descriptions that looks almost exactly like those bad resumes we get tired of looking at.  Coincidence?  Notice how the job description lists responsibilities, but not outcomes, objectives, or timelines.  This is a recipe for poor candidates.  Why?  Because every candidate, qualified or not, is going to look at the list of responsibilities and say, “Yep, I can do that.” Whether they have experience doing it or not.

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Understand the kinds of problems you’re trying to solve

I’m a big proponent of giving people problems to solve rather than solutions to implement.  Unfortunately, most job descriptions are written in terms of “duties” or “activities” rather than outcomes.  This means the annual review process is ambiguous and subjective, since all you have to go on is a list of duties.  If people did the duties, then they will expect a top review.  On the other hand, creating time-boxed, specific, measurable outcomes creates a proper stage for screening resumes, interviews, and annual performance reviews.

Put the problems you’re trying to solve in the job description.  Companies at different points of their transition have different problems to solve.  Companies early in transition will probably need someone to help the teams get off on the right foot.  Companies that have been at it for awhile may have challenges in scaling out to larger projects and programs, while companies that are relatively mature in their practices may need a Scrum Master who can help with the challenge of re-configuring the organization to work in a more lean manner.  Different stages, different problems.

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Write your job requirements as a series of timelines and outcomes, not activities and duties

This is why understanding (and prioritizing) the kinds of problems you are trying to solve is so important.  We should be able to map the problems to be solved to the objectives to be reached by the candidate.  These objectives should be SMART

  • Specific – The objectives should be unambiguous and easy to understand
  • Measurable – The objectives should be easily measurable
  • Achievable – Given the objective and the timeline, the objectives should be achievable
  • Relevant – The objectives should be relevant to the problem to be solved
  • Time Bound – The objectives should be time-bound

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Bolster the requirements with critical competencies

Critical competencies describe how you expect a new hire to fulfill the job and achieve the outcomes.  Critical competencies are important because they specify some of the constraints around how the candidate is expected to accomplish the outcomes.

For example, if your company is a small company that does not have a change management team, and the candidate is expected to be an internal change agent, but has only worked at large companies with internal change teams, he needs to understand that a critical competency for the job would be:

Influence – Able to influence, persuade, and “sell” at all levels of the organization.

This would be important because if the candidate was used to having a change management “team” and only had the competency of driving change management from the strategic level and not getting down into the details, they would not be a good fit for a smaller organization that does not have a dedicated change management team.

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Add cultural competencies to ensure organizational fit

Cultural competencies work at two levels.  They define the skills and behaviors required for a job, and they reflect the broader demands of your organizational culture.  According to “The Who“, 1 in 3 CEOs say that not evaluating cultural fit was one of the biggest reasons for hiring mistakes.  People who don’t fit fail on the job, even when they are perfectly talented in all other respects.  Is your company’s culture formal or informal?  Are decisions made based on analysis and data or gut feel?  While some people might think “Work hard play hard” sounds great, others may think, “Oh geez… I have to work 12 hour days with these people then go out for drinks with them too?”  Cultural fit is very important.

Finally

If we expect to get highly competent candidates, we need to do a better job of writing the kinds of job descriptions that will motivate highly competent candidates to apply.  Get rid of the “must be able to work in a fast paced environment” and add some things that really matter to the task at hand.

Click here to get a Free Example Scrum Master Job Description

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