Get certified - Transform your world of work today


Being a First-Time Scrum Master

2 June 2016

I've always wanted to write about my experience as a first-time ScrumMaster. I take this opportunity to share that experience and my key learnings.

In general, others within the Agile community have a preconceived notion that the ScrumMaster and project manager are the same. This is absolutely not the case. The two roles are very different, and their approaches to projects are widely different. If anything, the product owner role is more closely aligned with the project manager role. In my opinion, it's one of the hardest roles a person can assume in his or her professional career. Without using the command-and-control strategy, the product owner should be able to exhibit characteristics such as responsibility, humbleness, collaboration, commitment, and influence and knowledge, to realize value for the customer.

Key learning

A ScrumMaster should act as a servant leader and help the team in its journey toward becoming a high-performing, self–organizing, and self-managing team, thereby delivering continuous value to the stakeholders. A ScrumMaster is not someone who simply facilitates Scrum process/events and makes the team answer three questions in the Daily Scrum. The role is more than that, and I learned some of its other aspects the hard way.

My experience

My initial sprints as a ScrumMaster were like throwing a person who doesn't know how to swim into a rough sea. I was bombarded with:
  • Team issues (such as the blame-game, inflated egos, etc.) as we transitioned from a conventional organization to a flat organization.
  • Pressure from stakeholders to deliver more.
  • Comparisons with other teams across the globe, working on the same backlog.
And our retrospectives used to be long and hard-fought battles rather than discussions about how to improve. The team always fought based on past incidents. Luckily, I had few deep-sea divers in the form of coaches to help me swim in these choppy waters.

Getting answers for a smoother transition

Based on my learning and experience, I have framed a few questions that you should ask yourself to render service at various levels.

Organizational-level questions

  • What are the next steps in coaching the organization to get more benefits from Scrum/Agile?
  • Which audiences require different coaching?
  • What is on the radar of the wider ScrumMaster Community of Practice?
  • Organizations tend to incorrectly assign duties to the ScrumMaster. What are the next steps in refocusing those duties on other roles in Scrum?

Team-level questions

  • What are the next steps in helping the feature team be more self-managing/organizing so they can make their own decisions?
  • What is on my feature team's improvement backlog right now?
  • What are my feature team's next steps for achieving a higher degree of technical excellence?
  • What things should I not do so that the team can become more self-organizing?
  • What are my next steps in teaching/coaching the feature team to understand and enact Scrum?

Product owner-level questions

  • What are the next steps in helping the product owner understand and enact Scrum/Agile tools and techniques, such as user stories?
  • What are the next steps in coaching the product owner to realize value?

ScrumMaster-level questions

  • To help my organization grow while on its Agile path, what are my next steps for my learning and self-improvement?
  • Am I working at a sustainable pace? Do I need to coach others on what that means?
  • What are the things that I should not do so that the Scrum team can become more self-organizing (repeated for emphasis)?
  • What else do I need to focus on?


I had good coaches and mentors who were with me during the journey. The coaches and the books I read helped me with course correction. But not all first-time ScrumMasters will have such a luxury. I hope that my thoughts and views will help you in some way.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3 (4 ratings)


Aart Wessels, CSM, 6/2/2016 9:06:38 AM
Fully agree with you on the fact that the ScrumMaster and Project Manager roles are completely different. Also on the fact that PO is a highly senior role.
I don't agree on the fact that you see the PO role closer to the Project Mnagers role. In general, I see the Project Manager as one of the customers. They request certain products and services for the end users, and have a position paralel to those. The PM will be able to provide the PO, and in some cases the Team, with valuable input not provided by the end users and domain experts.
Javier Alvarez, CSM, 6/6/2016 12:39:33 PM
Traditional Business Managers (sponsors) try to assign the PM role to the Scrum Master, which is horrible.
If they are looking for role similarities on Scrum with a PM, the PO has more in common with a PM, than a SM. I think that's what It meant.

You must Login or Signup to comment.

The community welcomes feedback that is constructive and supportive, in the spirit of better understanding and implementation of Scrum.


Newsletter Sign-Up