Using ‘Management in Scrum’ for Job Interviews with Scrum Masters

How the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master II exercise “Management in Scrum” can be used during a job interview with Scrum Masters

Barry Overeem
Feb 10 · 6 min read

The Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master II class contains an exercise called “Management in Scrum”. It explores how management is an integral part of Scrum, and how this is often different in ‘real-life’. It also shows how it impacts the empirical process of Scrum and what a Scrum Master can do to remove any limitations.

This article describes how this exercise can be used for job interviews for Scrum Masters. It will definitely trigger many interesting questions and conversations about the Scrum framework. For example:

  • What does it mean to say a Scrum Team is ‘self-organizing’?
  • What does management look like in the context of the Scrum Framework?
  • Do we still need ‘managers’?

Exploring these questions creates transparency about the candidate's understanding of the Scrum framework, and his/her experience dealing with any differences & dysfunctions.

Material

A copy of the card deck “Management in Scrum”, it contains:

  • 5 cards with roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, Development Team, Project Manager and Line Manager)
  • 29 cards with activities that need to be managed or taken care of one of the roles

This deck of cards is made available to all participants of the Professional Scrum Master II Class. You can also get a full-color card-based version from our webshop. Due to licensing restrictions, we can only ship this product to people that have participated in an official Professional Scrum Master II-class by Scrum.org or are a trainer for Scrum.org.

The card deck “Management in Scrum” contains 5 roles and 29 cards with activities

Duration

Doing this exercise with 1 Scrum Master will take you about 1,5 hours. With a group of Scrum Masters, it can easily take 2 hours.

Participants

You can use this exercise during a job interview with one or multiple Scrum Masters simultaneously. The latter would enable you to see what kind of conversations they would have among each other. Who’s actually listening to the others? Who asks powerful questions? Who provides the strongest arguments?

In this article, I’ll describe how to use this exercise during a job interview with one Scrum Master.

Steps

Part 1 — Management in Professional Scrum (20–30 minutes)

  • Explain the cards with the roles and put them in a horizontal line on the floor;
  • Clarify the purpose of the first round: connect the cards & roles based on a Professional Scrum environment — the way Scrum is intended according to the guide.
  • It’s helpful to explain what is meant by ‘managing’ in the context of this exercise. Frame ‘managing’ as: “If no one takes care of this, who minimally should?” or simply “Who makes sure this gets done?” For example, take ‘Impediments’: it would be awesome if the Development Team takes responsibility for managing impediments, however, the Scrum Master remains accountable.
  • Ask the Scrum Master to connect all 29 cards with the roles or prepare a subset of the cards and use those;
The possible result of how the Scrum Master has distributed the cards. Not yet professional Scrum.
  • After the Scrum Master has distributed all the cards, start a conversation about potential differences with how it should be done according to professional Scrum. Don’t go into too much detail yet. The purpose of part 1 is to create a shared understanding of how the cards should be distributed according to professional Scrum.
  • If necessary, change the position of the cards. Good to know, the position of some cards are open for debate, which is excellent. However, at the end of part 1, the ‘Line Manager’ and ‘Project Manager’ shouldn’t have any cards connected to them.
A subset of cards distributed according to professional Scrum

Part 2 —Discuss Common Differences (20–30 minutes)

  • The result of part 1 is a distribution of the cards according to professional Scrum. Often, this isn’t how Scrum is used in organizations. The purpose of part 2 is to explore the common differences and their impact on Scrum;
  • Give the Scrum Master 3–6 dots and ask him/her to mark the cards that were managed differently in former organizations or teams;
  • Once the Scrum Master has distributed the dots to the cards, start a conversation by asking questions like:

“What was the impact of these differences on the empirical process of Scrum?”

“How did it impact transparency, inspection, and adaptation?

“How did it impact the Scrum values of openness, courage, focus, commitment, and respect?”

  • Examples of common differences are that the composition of the Development Team is managed by the Line Manager, the product’s budget by the Project Manager, and the boundaries of self-organization by the line manager as well;
  • For various dots, you can ask how that impacted the empirical process or the Scrum Values. For example, how was commitment impacted because the Development Team was unable to change its own composition?
  • The questions help you drive a conversation that is based on the actual experiences of a Scrum Master, and how they understand and have worked with the Scrum Framework. More importantly, they help you see to what degree Scrum Masters understand what it’s all about — empiricism;
Examples of cards that are managed differently in the Scrum Master’s previous organization

Part 3 — The Scrum Master’s Experience (20–30 minutes)

  • The purpose of part 3 is to dig deeper into the actual experience of the Scrum Master. Consider asking questions like:

“What are the small or big successes you’ve had in changing how Scrum is managed in your organization?”

“What is something you would definitely do or not do?”

“What approach have you used in changing the environment of the Scrum Team?”

  • If the candidate is someone that hasn’t fulfilled the Scrum Master role yet, make the questions more situational/hypothetical.

“Let’s assume the Scrum Master manages the velocity of the Development Team, how would that impact the Scrum framework?”

Part 4 — Debrief and Takeaways (10–20 minutes)

After finishing the third round, you’ll probably have had many interesting conversations about the Scrum Master’s perspective on professional Scrum and how to deal with differences.

As the person conducting the interview, make sure that during the interview the following takeaways are covered:

  • There is a lot of management going on in Scrum, but it is distributed across the roles;
  • The Scrum Team has all the roles needed to make any decision related to the product they are developing;
  • Working with Scrum does not necessarily mean that managers are no longer needed. But their responsibilities and actions shift towards empowering Scrum Teams and maximizing business Agility. Managers become Servant Leaders;
  • Some organizations feel that Scrum is ‘too ideal’ for their situation. Your role as a Scrum Master is to make transparent where things are managed differently and what effects this has on the empirical process. In a sense, the picture emerging from the exercise becomes your roadmap or transition plan;
  • Anything that’s different from professional Scrum, is an impediment. It’s an impediment to the empirical process of Scrum. The responsibility of the Scrum Master is to make Scrum work and help remove any impediments blocking that. Therefore the Scrum Master should ignite the necessary changes by influencing the organizational system in such a way the Scrum Teams can be successful.

Closing

By using the exercise ‘Management in Scrum’ during a Scrum Master’s job interview, you create transparency about the candidate’s understanding of the Scrum framework, and his/her experience dealing with any differences & impediments. Of course, you can also use this exercise for job interviews with Developers, Product Owners or anyone working with Scrum.

Give it a try! We’ll love to learn from your experiences using it!

Interested in learning more about Scrum and this Management in Scrum exercise in particular yourself? Join our Professional Scrum Master or Professional Scrum Master II courses. We guarantee a unique, eye-opening experience that is 100% free of PowerPoint, highly interactive and serious-but-fun.

You can support us by purchasing from our webshop, by joining one of our events or by becoming a patreon.

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Barry Overeem

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Unleashing Organisational Superpowers

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