How to Measure ScrumMasters

How to Measure ScrumMasters
Numerous companies these days have either adopted or have started to adopt Scrum. And many of them sooner or later begin to think about how to measure ScrumMasters' performance. Very often, this is connected to an annual personal assessment, which is so prevalent in most organizations. And while companies have somehow learned how to measure engineers, QAs, designers and other knowledge workers, they fail miserably to measure ScrumMasters. So, in this article, I'll try to answer why it's so hard and what you can do with that.

But to answer these questions first, we should understand the type of work that a ScrumMaster does. It's easy to say that it's yet another species in the IT company like engineers or Product Managers and to start measuring keeping in mind the traditional approach. But there is a tricky difference. Let's search for similarities in other industries to understand this difference. For me, engineers and other IT specialists are similar to scientists who try to solve complex problems. And obviously, you measure them by the progress they make in trying to solve these problems.

So, what kind of similar professions do we know? For me, these are psychotherapists, professional coaches, facilitators, and teachers. What is common for all of them? First, they all work with people, and they do not produce products that you could really examine. Second, they work as potential catalyzers and multipliers for other people by helping them to become better versions of themselves (but not directly making them). And third, the way they do their jobs. Often it looks like magic - you see certain visible aspects, but a lot of it happens in a way you're not even aware of. And yes, for all of them it's tough to actually measure their effectiveness, especially by people who don't understand this magic. Hey managers, do you now see why it was so hard for you to evaluate these strange ScrumMasters? It's like measuring a psychotherapist without knowing what and how they are doing!

So, I believe now the first question is answered. You can't just measure your ScrumMaster the same way you do with others. It's just a totally different kind of job. And by measuring it the way you get used to you only bringing harm and decreasing their effectiveness. Also, you confuse the young one who doesn't know so much about this profession. In the Agile community it's called "to lose a stance", and it's a very common problem I would say.

"But how the hell should I measure them?" you would scream. "Or how the hell will I understand that I hired a senior one and will pay him adequate money?" Very valid questions! And I propose to look for answers in the same territory where we found common ground.

Let's take a look at a professional coach. You definitely can't measure them by the life success of their clients. They don't manipulate them like puppets. They only create a possibility for insights to happen and awareness to rise, but after that, it's only up to the clients to do something with that. And every psychotherapist will promise you nothing in terms of how many months or years it will take to solve your issues. We deal with humans here, and humans are too complex to make such promises.

However, many of you know that different teachers or coaches or facilitators cost different money (often VERY different) and you can even feel the difference. So how to assess it?

First, many of these professions have industry-recognized assessment systems (like the International Coaching Federation). To make it simple - more experienced ones assess how less experienced ones do their job.

Secondly, it's a continuous process of education - getting new and more advanced knowledge of how to do your job.

And thirdly, it's years of experience in the field and different kinds of challenges that a person has faced.

So how can we adopt this? Let me give you 6 simple tips:
Stop assessing your ScrumMasters if you're not more experienced than they are. Ask your ScrumMasters to collaborate to create a self-assessment tool. And accept the result no matter how crazy it looks (remember you understand this magic much less than them to be able to judge). Or invite an experienced external expert to lead this tool creation.
Use already existing industry-recognized models. For example, the Agile Coaching Competency Framework - don't reinvent the wheel - believe me the chance you get a better one is around 0%.
Use industry-recognized certificates to roadmap a ScrumMaster's growth journey and keep in mind that CSM/PSM-like trainings are only entry tickets for this profession.
Spice up your tool with good books (by the way you can take some from my 5 Books to Read for a Young ScrumMaster and 5 Books to Read for a Young Agile Leader articles).
Look for years of experience and different work environments as additional experience indicators. And use common sense - meaning a person can't be senior after just two years of doing something.
And the last one, forget about all these bullshit ScrumMaster KPIs like velocity, happiness, amount of impediments, and other similar things. And if you are still thinking about them then most probably, I have failed with this article.

Do more with less and may the force be with you!

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