Scrum Masters in Black
I’ve been asked a lot about how to recruit good Scrum Masters. There is a shortage of experienced Scrum Masters in South Africa and as a result many companies are looking to hire people without experience but who are a good fit for the role. The tricky part is identifying what those people look like. Then I rewatched Men in Black… This is going to sound weird, but in the first part of the movie, Tommy Lee Jones is recruiting his replacement. He needs someone who will be good at the job, but the very nature of his job (policing aliens) means that no one has any experience.
They put a group of candidates through 2 tests.
In the first test, all the candidates sit in really uncomfortable chairs, with no writing surface. They give them a form to fill in and a very breakable pencil. Will Smith eventually gets fed up of this, sees the table in the middle of the room, and proceeds to drag it to his chair so he can write without breaking his pencil. He removed an impediment.
In the second test, all the candidates enter a shooting range with a number of aliens doing various things, and a little girl carrying Quantum Physics books. All the other candidates shoot all the aliens. Will Smith pauses, looks around and then shoots the little girl between the eyes. When asked to explain he finds non-obvious reasons why the aliens are not a threat, but that fact that a small girl is carrying books clearly too advanced for her age is suspicious. He is observant, and is prepared to accept that things are not how they seem on the surface.
It struck me that both of these characteristics are what I look for in Scrum Masters. It made me think that regular interviews are not going to help find a good Scrum Master. Instead of getting them to talk about what they might do, you need to get them to do it. Role playing is a great technique to use in an interview. Sam told me about a Scrum Master interview she attended where they gave here a difficult scenario to facilitate to get consensus within 20 minutes.
The key to hiring a good Scrum Master is seeing them in action. Let them attend a team standup and tell you what they observe. Ask them to facilitate a meeting, or deal with a conflict between two people. Let their actions speak for them.