Help Center | Print Page | Sign In | Register
AgileCareers Blog
Blog Home All Blogs
Get the latest news on AgileCareers! AgileCareers.com is dedicated to connecting Scrum and Agile organizations with qualified, passionate Agile professionals. We strive to Transform the World of Work by offering a platform that has the resources and technology to help build those professional synergies.

 

Search all posts for:   

 

Top tags: agile  hiring  scrumpractices  agilepractices  interviews  job posting  scrummaster  leadership  scrum  talent  talent acquisition  bonus  compensation & benefits  culture  digital age  employee engagement  eyholzer  future of work  HR  human resources  learning  people operations  practices  principles  product owner  Recruiting  reward  Technology  transformation  values 

Six tips for hiring Agile people with Lena Bednarikova

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Friday, April 15, 2016

 "One of the most effortless ways to enable your cultural change is to “let the right one in” – to hire people who already possess the desired attributes of your intended culture and your future organisation. These people will do all the hard work for you, without even knowing it."


Lenka Bednarikova is passionate about creating great teams. Her experience spans across specialist IT agencies, regional companies, and multinational organisations such as Nokia and Microsoft where she helped transform their recruitment processes to create the right environment for Agile and customer focus. Lenka is well versed in hands-on recruitment, Agile and traditional project management. She is a board member of the Institute of Recruiters and currently also enjoying herself as a Scrum Master at BankWest.

 

Interested in what she has to say? Click HERE to read more!   

Tags:  agile  hiring  interviews  IT  scrummaster  scrumpractices  Technology  workplace 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

You're Invited!

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Friday, March 11, 2016


    

We invite you to embark on a journey at a brand-new event, taking place in Orlando, April 19–20, 2016: the AgileCareers Networking Expo. AgileCareers is the only job board dedicated to connecting Scrum and Agile organizations with qualified, passionate Agile professionals. AgileCareers contributes to Transforming the World of Work by offering a platform that has the tools and technology to help build those professional synergies. 

Attendees will start exploring exhibiting organizations to discuss career opportunities. AgileCareers team members will offer guidance to organizations on how to market their career opportunities to attract top candidates. Employers can schedule interviews with candidates for the following day at the Wednesday AgileCareers Networking Expo. Scrum Alliance® will also showcase features of its new state-of-the-art job site.

Many of the job seekers on AgileCareers have been trained and certified by Scrum Alliance and have achieved their Certified ScrumMaster® certification or Certified Scrum Product Owner® certification. These individuals are ready to join your Scrum and Agile teams! 

Benefits of Attending the AgileCareers Networking Expo 

  • Network with other Agile organizations, schedule interviews, and walk away with highly qualified candidates.
  • Promote your organization's brand as a great place to work.
  • Gain access and exposure at the Agile conference next door, the Global Scrum Gathering® Orlando.

Looking to hire Scrum and Agile Talent? Email us for booth prices - 50% off for a limited time!

Current member looking for job opportunities? Register Now

 

Tags:  agile  hiring  interviews  job posting  networking  scrumpractices 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

15 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Thursday, March 3, 2016

As a leader of people you need to encourage happiness in every facet of your business. I’ve created 10 techniques that will help your company be happy and successful.

These are concepts that are easy to understand, but may be hard to apply to your company’s culture. I’ll break them down so you can use them in your company.

1. Be Happy Yourself

Being happy yourself can sometimes be more difficult than making someone else happy. If you don’t know how to make yourself happy, it will be very difficult to help the people you manage to be happier. That’s why I believe your passions should guide many of your choices.

You have to find what makes you happy at work and try to do more of it. If you are a manager and miss a certain aspect of your old job (i.e. more customer interaction), then try to do more of the customer interaction projects and give a part of your job that you dislike to an employee who enjoys the type of work that you don’t.

I struggled with my own work happiness because I didn’t take responsibility for my own emotions. I would let my emotions run rampant, causing me much more pain than I needed to endure. Read my What Do I Do If I’m Unhappy at Work? to get a better idea of how to be happier at your job.

2. Help People See Their Progress

People want to see that their hard work is making a difference in people’s lives. It’s why janitors enjoy their work. They know what is expected of them and how to deliver on those expectations.

That’s what most people need out of their work. They want know that at the end of their day that their hard work mattered. Why do you think teachers are paid more for all their hard work. Most of them don’t do it for the money. They do it because they see their students daily growth and believe in their purpose.

You can show people their own progress by recognizing their hard work. When you notice they know their work matters.

I’m in the process of creating a happiness at work beta program at a reduced rate. It will be a weekly program to grow a happier culture and build stronger teams at work. If you are a CEO, team leader, manager, HR then reach out to me and ask me about how you can encourage more fun and be happier at work.


3. Make Time for Your People

Are you taking the time to listen to their problems and helping them come up with solutions? I know most of my superiors never did this for me.

At most of my jobs, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I know a lot of people feel this way. They feel like they are the last to know what is going on with in a company.

Every leader needs to make time for his or her people.

You can do this by:

  • Talking to employees about decisions.
  • Asking them about their own issues.
  • Hanging out with them outside of work.
  • Asking them for their opinions.
  • Chatting with them about their personal lives.

Making time for your people might sometimes feel like a time suck, but it’s worth your effort. They will show more loyalty and become more engaged. Zappos, the employee happiness juggernauts, encourage their managers to spend roughly 15% of their day with their staff. They know that it works.

4. Show People the Autonomy That They Already Have

People want more freedom. The freedom to do what they feel is right. This allows them to live their core values and enjoy their work.

What many employees don’t realize is that they do have autonomy.

You need to let your employees know about the perks that they might not be using. Make them aware of the breaks that they can take because it will help them reduce stress and increase productivity. Inform them about anything the company provides that could make them happier.

If the company is too strict then make some changes. We live in a different world compared to just ten years ago. If you want to retain great employees, then you should consider allowing them more freedom and flexibility as long as they get results.

5. Help Them Find Meaning in Their Work

People need to believe that the work they do is worth doing. Otherwise they see no point in putting in extra effort.

A great way to help your employees find meaning is to tell stories that they can connect with. A good story can show a perspective that the employee hadn’t yet seen.

My father is an electrician and has owned Staib Electrical for 40 years. I worked with him through high school and college. I was always baffled by his need to form the wires so perfectly. My dad made sure his electrical panels were like little pieces of engineering art work. One day, after he fixed my work (again), I asked him why it was so important to him to make the wires look perfect.

He explained how he recently received two phone calls from potential clients. They had both heard from a previous customer about the great work he did. He asked them who referred him, and they both named a neighbor of theirs, Mr. Hanken. My father told me about Mr. Hanken’s delighted expression when he showed him his work. Mr. Hanken then bragged to his neighbors, and they too wanted an electrician that cared as much as my father does.

I understood why my dad’s presentation was so important. If he didn’t apply a bit of art to his craft, everyone would think he was just like every other electrician. It separated him from the crowd and as a result people talked him up to people they knew. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

From that point on, I applied a little art to every wire I formed.

6. Listen and Respond to Their Emotions, Not Just Their Problems

People often complain just so they will be heard. They don’t necessarily want solutions; they want empathy.

The next time an employee comes to talk to you about another employee, give them what they need emotionally. Let them know that it can be tough work with (fill in difficult coworker here). Allow them to vent.

If they ask for a solution then you can try to find one together, but most of the time they just need an emotional boost, rather than a fix to their problem.

7. Stop Letting Assholes Dictate the Company Culture

One asshole can wreak havoc on a whole department or organization. They are miserable and they want everyone else to be miserable too.

The job of any leader is to stop these people from bringing everyone else down. That may mean helping this person recognize their issues and figuring out a way to become happy. If that doesn’t work, you may need to let them go.

The only way the company culture will support great work is if everyone treats each other with respect.

* #7 was based on the book. The No Asshole Rule (Amazon affiliate link).

8. Encourage Friendships

People need to have friends at work. If they don’t, they are much less likely to stay at a job, feel happy, and be creative.

“Among the 3 in 10 workers who strongly agree that they have a best friend at work, 56% are engaged, 33% are not engaged and 11% are actively disengaged to the point of poisoning the atmosphere with their negativity. Those who don’t have a best friend have slim 1-in-12 odds of being among the engaged. Worse, the best-friendless stand a one in three chance of being actively disengaged. That means they may threaten sabotage or otherwise become a serious drag on the company’s success.” – Del Jones of USA TodayBest friends good for business

A manager should encourage his or her staff to hang out with each other. The more people hang out with each other, the more likely they are to find ways to like each other.

It’s helpful if you create opportunities for people to gather outside of work so they can bond. If you are their superior then they may not be able to relax when you’re there, so gather them and take off. Yes, they may complain about you after you leave, but it’s important that they find common ground, even if it’s making jokes at your expense.

Believe me, they will be more supportive, happier and a stronger team as a result.

9. Recognize Hard Work

A boss who appreciates hard work, not just the end result is a better boss. The psychology behind it is simple. If you show people that you are grateful when they work hard they are more likely to enjoy the process.

Many bosses only appreciate the end result. If the end result is bad, then the employee confidence and morale takes a hit.

Show people that you care about their effort, not just the results, and you’ll see an improvement in productivity.

10. Find Out Why People Leave

People usually leave a company because they aren’t happy. Try to find out why they are leaving and what you can do to solve the issue.

I’ve never had an exit interview, but I had a friend who did. They kept asking the question “why” until they got to the heart of the problem. They didn’t want some patsy answer that wouldn’t help them.

Most employees will just want to get out of there, but if you take the time to listen, you may be able to figure out a solution that will help future employees. You may have lost this employee, but you can improve other employees’ happiness so they stick around and do great work.

11. Know Your People

You must know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. If you keep giving PR work to an employee who hates it, they won’t be sticking around very long.

When you assign work to an employee who enjoys the task, they respect and appreciate you. The happier you make them, the higher quality their output will be. It’s a simple concept, but one many managers ignore.

You must spend time with your employees in order to understand them. Do you know what they do in their spare time? What type of food do they like?

The more you know about the people you manage, the easier it will be to lead them.

12. Have More Fun

Work should be fun. If it’s not, I guarantee your turnover will be high. People don’t want to feel to constricted. They want to know that they can be themselves without fear of being frowned at by managers and other co-workers. The more fun you can encourage people to have, the more creative your company will become.

There are lots of ways to have fun.

“There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.” – Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play

You have to decide within your company’s culture what is appropriate because Naked Friday might not be a good idea. Just saying.

13. Good Managers are Aware of their Limitations as Well as Strengths.

If they know they don’t handle conflict well and lean toward avoidance, then hopefully they have the integrity and courage to recognize their limitations and make dealing with their stuff a priority by learning conflict resolution and healthy communications skills as part of their professional development. Better yet, they might organize a department wide workshop on positive/assertive communications skills (preferably non-violent communications)so everyone can be empowered by learning those skills. Workshops on understanding how different personality/temperament types function at work would also be great ways of increasing understanding and reducing  frustrations.

14. Follow Through Promptly on Policy Issues

Nothing kills a department morale faster than neglecting to attend to comfort factors like temperature control, air quality, ergonomics or anything else that might lead to health problems that could have been avoided), promotion and performance considerations right away.

Procrastinating on getting back to employees about possible promotions, pay raises or performance evaluations in a timely manner does not do much for the respect or trust factor. Good managers, don’t cop out with the “I’ve been too busy with other stuff”, nor do they dump the responsibility for being “proactive” about the issue back onto the employee: they recognize it is THEIR responsibility as the person with the power to hire, fire or promote their people–not the employees’–to have the professionalism and courtesy to respond in a timely manner, whether it’s good news or bad news or otherwise.

15. Set the Example and the Tone

Your passion matters. If you care about them and appreciate their hard work then they will respond with more effort.

Managers who are really interested in fostering and maintaining an environment that is happy, productive and where employees conduct themselves professionally do this by setting the example and the tone–especially in how they handle stress and frustrations.

Managers who consistently back bite other employees in the company, express frustration at others using violent imagery* or other inappropriate language/stress management techniques create a really toxic environment in one of two ways. First, by modeling such behavior, managers are indicating that they approve of such behavior, and many of their employees will adopt the same attitudes to “fit in” or earn brownie points with the boss. (It’s really scary to see this in action!) Second, such behavior does absolutely nothing to earn the loyalty or respect of one’s employees (except maybe to their face) and everything to create an atmosphere of distrust and fear.

*While “imaginary” violence may not actually physically harm a person, the malice/intent to harm is still there even though the action hasn’t actually occurred. It’s both a little scary and traumatizing for employees to be subjected to these kinds of behaviors on a regular basis. Recent social psychology researchhas shown that blowing off steam this way actually leads to more anger and a tendency to depersonalize/dehumanize the object of one’s imaginary violence.

Wrap-Up

The environment at work doesn’t need to be boring or strict. In fact, Southwest, Google, and Zappos are proof that happy employees improve the bottom line.

Bosses, managers, or supervisors have so many tools at their disposal. The research in Inc. MagazinePsychology Today, and WorldBlu (to list just a few) proves that people who are happy at work are more productive and engaged.

Start by implementing these concepts, but don’t stop there. There are many ways to encourage happiness. Just remember that every organization and group of people are different. Sometimes it takes a few tries to see some progress.

If you are a CEO, manager, or leader at work and want to create a happier and more engaged workplace then reach out to me and ask me about my new beta program to help build stronger culture and teams at work.

Are you a leader at work? What would you add to the list?

The following article was written by Karl Staib. Read more of his articles at www.workhappynow.com
 

Tags:  happiness  hiring  interviews  job posting  workplace 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Advice for Interviewing ScrumMasters

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Wednesday, February 24, 2016

 

As the founder of Mountain Goat Software, Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He isthe author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He is also the founder of FrontRowAgile.com, an online agile training website.

Interviewing Scrum Masters can be difficult because the job is harder than most to turn into a checklist of things a candidate needs to know and things a candidate will do. Much of the interviewing for a Scrum Master will be the same as interviewing for any other position, so I don’t want to spend a lot of time repeating general job interview advice in this post. Instead, I want to focus on things unique to the role of Scrum Master.

However, I do want to stress the importance of making sure candidates are comfortable during the process (interviews are stressful!) and asking open-ended questions. Also, spend time preparing for the interviews by thinking about what makes an ideal Scrum Master.

6 Desirable Attributes of a Good Scrum Master

While your list may differ, I have six things I look for in great Scrum Masters. As you interview each candidate, see how well candidates measures up against these criteria. At the end of each interview, I simply mark each candidate with a 1 to 5 score for each attribute, but any sort of marking scale you want will work.

  1. Responsible
    Scrum Masters are able and willing to assume responsibility, but also know when to step back and let the team do so when appropriate. An orchestra conductor once explained that he has no real powerover how the individual musicians play. Yet he feels a tremendous responsibility toward helping them be the best musicians they can be. AI good Scrum Master thrives on responsibility without power.
     
  2. Humble
    Good Scrum Masters are not driven by their egos. You want a Scrum Master who puts the team’s needs above his or her own. I’ve been in sprint reviews in which a non-coding Scrum Master grabbed the keyboard and said things like, “Here’s what I had the team do …” and “Here’s what I hadthem build next …” That’s not the language of a humble Scrum Master. Perhaps, “Here’s what we did …” -- but even better: be quiet, and hand the keyboard to a team member.
     
  3. Collaborative
    A good Scrum Master works to ensure a collaborative culture exists within the team. The Scrum Master needs to make sure team members feel able to raise issues for open discussion. When disputes arise, collaborative Scrum Masters encourage teams to think in terms of solutions that benefit all involved rather than in terms of winners and losers.
     
  4. Committed
    Some Scrum Masters take a laidback attitude toward the success or failure of the project. That’s not right. A good Scrum Master needs to be as committed to the success of a project as the team. I want to find candidates who will be tenacious in resolving impediments and highly committed to the ultimate success of the project.
     
  5. Influential
    Scrum Masters often need to lead without direct authority. Being able to influence others is important. Some Scrum Masters achieve this through persuasive argumentation skills. Others through charisma and personality. It doesn’t really matter which method a Scrum Master uses. But Scrum Masters will need to influence team members as well as those outside the team, so being influential is a desirable trait.
     
  6. Knowledgeable
    By knowledgeable I mean either of the technology or the domain. I put both of these in the “is a plus” category. I do not need a Scrum Master to be a former technical person. And I don’t need the Scrum Master to have worked in the domain of the project. But, each of these is a plus that could set a candidate apart from other candidates.

How Will a Scrum Master Perform?

Beyond looking for certain attributes of a Scrum Master’s personality, I want to assess how a candidate will perform in various situations. To do that, I like to ask a few situational questions of the candidate. For example:

The boss is at a trade show and needs two new unplanned features by tomorrow. Last week when this happened, you just put in a little overtime and wedged it in. Same thing the time before. If you don’t come through, it will cost you sales and your boss will be mad.

What do you do?

By asking questions like this, I put the Scrum Master in plausible, real-life situations and see how he or she will respond. I can then gauge whether I agree with the response, whether it’s reasonable, appropriate, and so on.

I like to combine hypothetical situational questions such as the one above with open-ended questions about the candidate’s own real experience such as:

  • Tell me about the worst advice you ever gave a team.
  • Tell me about one of the times you helped a team that you’re most proud of.

Questions like these are great because they give you insight into a candidate’s specific background. But I always include some hypothetical, situational questions because that allows me to more easily compare candidates.

Think about the question above with the boss wanting the new, unplanned features for the trade show. Imagine having heard answers to that from five different candidates for your open Scrum Master position. The answer to a question like that is often sufficient for me to know which candidate I want to hire.

Situational questions and a candidate’s answers to them can be a powerful tool in assessing who will be a good fit for an open Scrum Master job.

What Do You Ask In Scrum Master Interviews?



What do you think? What do you ask in Scrum Master interviews? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author

Mike Cohn is a co-founder of the Scrum Alliance. He is a Certified Scrum Trainer and the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile. You can contact him and download twelve specific questions to use when interviewing ScrumMasters at www.mountaingoatsoftware.com

Thanks for reading my article "Advice for Interviewing ScrumMasters" at the Scrum Alliance. I hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

Tags:  hiring  interviews  job posting  scrumpractices 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Scrum Master Hiring: Demand Creates Supply And The Job Market For Agile Practitioners Is No Exception

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Thursday, February 4, 2016

38 Scrum Master Interview Questions  

  

        


Maybe, “Agile” in general is a more a kind of management fad but a trend at the moment. But what we can say for sure is that Scrum has become very popular for software development purposes. Demand for seasoned Scrum practitioners is on the rise and so is the market-entry of new professionals from other project management branches, probably believing that reading one or two Scrum books will be sufficient.

If you are looking to fill a position for a Scrum master (or agile coach) in your organization, you may find the following 38 interview questions useful to identify the right candidate. There are derived from my ten years of practical experience with XP as well as Scrum, serving both as Product owner and Scrum master as well as interviewing dozens of candidates on behalf of my clients.

Scrum is not a methodology, but a framework. There are no rules that apply to each and every scenario, just best practices that have worked in other organizations before. Hence, you will have to figure out on your own what is working for your organization–which is a process, not a destination.

So, the role of the Scrum master or agile coach in my understanding is primarily about leadership and coaching, but not about management. And most definitely, the Scrum Master role is not about “process enforcement”. Which is also the reason that the repository contains to a large part questions that are addressing a candidate’s soft skills.

The questions are, however, neither suited, nor intended to turn an inexperienced interviewer into an agile expert. But in the hands of a seasoned practitioner they support figuring out, what candidate has actually been working the agile trenches in the past and who’s more likely to be an imposter.

You don’t have to copy & paste the question for your personal interview script–just download the PDF, see the link below.

The questions themselves are grouped into five categories: The role of the Scrum master, backlog grooming and estimation, sprint planning, standups and retrospectives.

 

I.     The Role Of The Scrum Master:


a.   Background:

                             i.         Scrum is not a methodology, but a framework. There are no rules that apply to each and every scenario, just best practices that have worked in other organizations before.

                           ii.         Hence, you have to figure out on your own what is working for your organization, which is a process and not a destination.

                          iii.         Securing the support of the C-level is an essential success factor for any agile methodology. Scrum will have a significant impact on how the organization will build new product in future. The senior management members have to be an outspoken supporter of the idea, otherwise Scrum will fail.

                          iv.         A Scrum master/agile coach is therefore primarily about leadership and coaching, but not a management role.

                           v.         It is definitely not about "process enforcement".

                          vi.         Scrum is not built for bean counters. Some metrics are helpful to understand the health of a Scrum team, but generally, it does not help insisting on "meeting KPIs", e.g. commitments vs. velocity.

                        vii.         Beware of the “depression phase” after an enthusiastic start, when reality kicks in. Scrum is not easy, it requires change management at an organizational level.

                       viii.         Scrum does not have much to say about the process that enables the Product owner to fill the backlog with valuable, usable and feasible user stories. Product discovery based on Lean UX, Design Thinking or Lean Startup are some idea may help in the process. A good Scrum master wants her team to be a part of this process, for example participating in user interview or running experiments.

                          ix.         The team's communication with stakeholder should not be run through a gatekeeper process, e.g. solely through the Product owner. That would hurt transparency and negatively affect the team's performance. Sprint demos are therefore a good way to not only present the value delivered by the team in the sprint before, but also to stay in close contact with stakeholders.

b.   Questions:

                             i.         The Agile Manifesto says "People over processes". Isn't the Scrum master – a role to enforce "the process" – therefore a contradiction?

                           ii.         What are good indicators that "Agile" is working in your organization, that your work is successful?

                          iii.         Are there typical metrics that you would track? And if so, which metrics would you track and for what purpose?

                          iv.         Your team's performance is constantly not meeting commitments and its velocity is very volatile. What are possible reasons for that? And how would you address those issues?

                           v.         Shall the Scrum team become involved in the product discovery process as well, and if so, how?

                          vi.         The Product owner role is a bottleneck by design. How can you support the Product owner so that she can be the value maximizer?

                        vii.         How do you ensure that the Scrum team has access to the stakeholders?

                       viii.         How do you spread an agile mindset in the company across different departments and what is your strategy to coach these non-IT stakeholders?

                          ix.         How do you introduce Scrum to senior executives?

                           x.         You already performed Scrum training to stakeholders. After an initial phase of trying to apply the concepts, when first obstacles/hurdles are encountered, you see that these colleagues build serious resistance in continuing with Scrum adoption. What are your strategy/experience to handle such situations?

II.    Backlog Grooming And Estimation:


a.   Background:

                             i.         Estimation and backlog grooming are essential tasks for every team. While the Product owner – at least officially – is in charge of keeping the backlog at peak value delivery, she will need the assistance of the whole Scrum team to do so.

                           ii.         In the ideal scenario, this requires a cross-functional and co-located Scrum team that can work independently from other Scrum teams.

                          iii.         The reality in most cases is, however, that the team might be dependent on deliveries from other teams (e.g. API endpoints) or deliverables from the UX/UI department.

                          iv.         There are two essential ingredients for a good team performance/velocity:

1.    Writing user story is team work:

a.    The Product owner explains why something shall be built and provides the necessary background, e.g. market intelligence, results from experiments and user interviews or statistical data.

b.    She then creates a corresponding user story (or user stories) in a joined effort together with the team to achieve a shared understanding on the why and how as well as a sense of ownership among all team members.

2.    "Definition of Ready": The Scrum team and the Product owner also need to agree on a "Definition of Ready" for user stories to ensure a flow of well-drafted stories for the development process. It is an agreement on what needs to be provided to call a user story ready for estimation. If one of these requirements is not met, a user story isn't ready for estimation. And a user story without a previous estimation is not ready to become a part of a sprint backlog, as the team won't be able to commit to an unknown entity of the sprint. The Scrum team needs to learn to say "No"

                           ii.         .A well-groomed product backlog has probably user stories for about 2-3 sprints in a more detailed manner, less than half of which probably meet the "Definition of Ready" criteria of the team. There may be some additional user stories that no one except the product owner is working on at the moment.

b.   Questions:

                             i.         The Product owner of your team normally turns stakeholder requirement documents into tickets and asks to estimate them. Are you fine with that procedure?

                           ii.         What kind of information would you require from the Product owner to provide the team with an update on the product and market situation?

                          iii.         Who shall be writing user stories? 

                          iv.         What shall a good user story look like? What is it structure?

                           v.         What should a "Definition of Ready" comprise of?

                          vi.         Why aren't user stories simply estimated in man-hours?


                        vii.         The Product owner of your Scrum team tends to add ideas of all kind to the backlog to continue working on them at a later stage. Over time, this has lead to over 200 tickets in various stages. What is your take on that: Can the Scrum team work on 200 tickets?

III.   Sprint Planning:


a.   Background:

                             i.         Traditionally, the Product owner would explain high-level user stories of a high value from the product backlog to the Scrum team and the team would then turn them into a more detailed user stories and estimate them.

                           ii.         Turns out, though, that working on user stories in separate backlog grooming and estimation meetings before the sprint planning actually improves the quality of the stories and thus the outcome of the team's work.

                          iii.         A good practice is to run weekly product backlog grooming and estimation sessions and only allow user stories that meet the "Definition of Ready" standard of the Scrum team into the sprint planning.

                          iv.         With all uncertainty eliminated, the sprint planning then creates a sense of ownership among the member of the Scrum team for the sprint backlog items, as the team now can make a valid commitment.

                           v.         The sprint planning is therefore divided into two parts:

1.    Sprint planning I: The Product owner presents her choice of the most valuable user stories from the product backlog to the Scrum team and the team picks – taking all circumstances into consideration, for example available capacity, – those stories it can commit to a delivery by the end of the sprint.

2.    Sprint planning II: The Scrum team adds details to the user stories of the sprint backlog, e.g. splitting them up into tasks, identifying parts that need further clarification or agreeing on who will be working on what tasks. The Product owner does not necessarily need to participate in the sprint planning II, but needs to be on stand-by for additional questions.

3.    If the user story preparation process is handled well, the whole sprint planning may take no longer than 2-3 hours.

                           ii.         A productive sprint planning requires a healthy team. Dysfunctional teams will not meet the required level of cooperation. It will be a futile and painful exercise.

                          iii.         A team should usually avoid allocating more than 75% of the capacity to new user stories. Bugs, refactoring and research require regular attention, too, if you want to avoid building up technical debt.

                          iv.         Insufficiently prepared user stories seriously hamper the flow and efficiency of the Scrum team. They should be never be picked for the sprint backlog in the first place, but sorted out during backlog grooming and estimation meetings.

b.   Questions:

                             i.         How can you as a Scrum Master contribute to the sprint planning in a way that the team is really working on the most valuable user stories?

                           ii.         On what metrics would you base the assessment of the value of a user story and what metrics would be not acceptable?

                          iii.         How do you facilitate the user story picking progress in a way that the most valuable stories are chosen without overruling the team's prerogative to define the team's commitment?

                          iv.         How much capacity would consider to be adequate for refactoring, fixing important bugs, exploring new technologies or ideas?

                           v.         How do you deal with a Product owner that assigns user stories or tasks to individual team members?

                          vi.         How do you deal with cherry picking tasks by team members?

                        vii.         A user story is lacking the final designs, but the design department promises to deliver on day #2 of the upcoming sprint. The product owner of your Scrum team is fine with that and pushes to have the user story in the sprint backlog. What is your take?

                       viii.         A member of the Scrum team does not want to participate in the sprint planning meetings but considers them a waste of time. How do you deal with that attitude?

 

IV. Standups:

a.   Background:

                             i.         Standups are well suited to discuss the state of progress: is all going as planned or does the team need to adjust?

                           ii.         It is also one of the moments that the Scrum team can meet and communicate with the stakeholders.

                          iii.         Standups cannot fix a dysfunctional organization or team, an inadequate backlog, a sprint planning gone wrong, low quality user stories, a missing product vision – you get the idea.

                          iv.         Standups are good, if the team is already collaborating well and the basics are in order: backlog building, estimation/grooming, sprint planning etc.

                           v.         However, the more experienced the team is, the better the internal communication, the more the standup will seem to be time-consuming ritual of little value. A two people team does not necessarily need a formalized standup, grabbing a coffee together might be valid alternative.

                          vi.         If impediments are not communicated before the next standup, then something is wrong within the team. Maybe, it is more a group than a team?

                        vii.         Offline boards are great, as taking a card and moving it always represents a different level of ownership of a user story. If you have to let go either the online or the offline board, consider the online board, if you're a co-located team.

b.   Questions:

                             i.         Would you recommend standups for all teams no matter their size or experience level?

                           ii.         Do you expect experienced team members to wait until the next standup to ask for help with an impediment?

                          iii.         How do you handle team members that "lead" standups, turning them into a reporting session for them?

                          ix.         How do you handle team members that consider standups to be a waste of time and therefore are either late, uncooperative or do not attend at all?

                             i.         No stakeholder is attending your team’s standups. How do you change that?

                           ii.         How do you approach standups with distributed teams?

                          iii.         Can you draw a draft of an offline Kanban board for a Scrum team right now?

V. Retrospectives:


a.   Background (not a part of the original blog post):

                             i.         Retrospectives will only work in favor of improving the team's collaboration and thus performance, if they are a safe place to provide honest, yet constructive feedback.

                           ii.         Rule #1: Absolutely no blaming of others, everyone should be focused on how to improve the situation.

                          iii.         Some teams include the Product owner right away, others insist on that the Product owner needs explicitly be invited.

                          iv.         Change places regularly; it helps not to have the retrospective at the team's working place. Any distance makes reflection easier and prevents boredom or team members checking out completely.

                           v.         Change the format regularly, running the same format more than twice is not recommended.

                          vi.         Make it a smartphone, tablet and laptop free zone, so no one will be distracted but can fully focus on contributing to the round.

                        vii.         Document all the issues, at least temporarily on Post-its. (Better to have them in a document as well.)

                       viii.         "What went right, what went wrong, and what to improve" is the typical set of questions

                          ix.         An alternative set might be "What to introduce, what to keep doing, and what to stop doing", eventually enhance by "what to do more of" and "what to do less of". (Starfish retrospective.)

                           x.         Another alternative is the “Mad-Sad-Glad” technique that works well especially at the end of the year (in general after a longer period of time), after changes, after encountering drawbacks/pressure or outstanding achievements in a Scrum team. Usually this kind of retrospective instills emotional self-expression and helps uncover points of frustration and devise strategies to overcome them.

                          xi.         Action items and improvement tasks:

1.    Make actions items falsifiable. "Do x more often" does not match that criteria.

2.    Make a single team member responsible for a single action item.

3.    Don't forget to check on the action items of the last retrospective.

4.    It is useful to put action items on a Kanban board in order to be able to better track their progress.

b.   Questions:

                             i.         Who shall participate in the retrospective: just the Scrum team or also the Product owner?

                           ii.         Do you check the team health in a retrospective or isn't that necessary? If so, how would you do it?

                          iii.         What retrospective formats have you been using in the past?

 

                          iv.         How can you prevent boredom at retrospectives?

                           v.         A team is always picking reasonable action items, but is later not delivering on them. How do you handle this habit?

                          vi.         How do you recommend following up on actions items?

 

Summary:

My best advice for the interview is to move as fast as possible from meta-level to ground level. Don’t invest too much time on discussing the advantages of agile methodologies and theoretical concepts.

Scrum has always been a hands-on business, and to be successful in this a candidate needs to have a passion for getting her hands dirty. While the basic rules are trivial, getting a group of individuals with different backgrounds, levels of engagement and personal agendas to perform as a team–remember Tuckman’s model of team forming https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckman%27s_stages_of_group_development –, is a complex task. (As always you might say when humans and communication is involved.) And the larger the organization is, the more management level there are, the more likely failure is lurking around the corner.

So, go for a pragmatic veteran who has experienced failure in other projects before and the scars to prove it. Last, but not least: Being a “Certified Scrum Master” – or having any other certification of a similar nature – does not guarantee success either.

PS: Two to three questions from each category will provide more than enough ground for a engaging 60 min conversation.

PPS: If you like to relax the candidate as well as make the interview more interesting at the same time, ask her to draw an offline board for a Scrum team. The board is a perfect hook for a lot of questions.

__ 

Article written by: Stefan Wolpers 

Bio: Wolpers has been working for 10+ years as a product owner and agile coach/Scrum master and is a member of Scrum Alliance (CSPO, CSM). During that time, he has developed B2C as well as B2B software, mainly for startups, including a former Google subsidiary.

Scrum Alliance profilehttps://www.scrumalliance.org/community/profile/swolpers

For the download of the PDF, please follow the link below:
https://age-of-product.com/download-38-scrum-master-interview-questions-to-avoid-agile-imposters/ 
The PDF contains also guidance on appropriate answers to the each of the 38 questions.




Tags:  hiring  interviews  job posting 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

AgileCareers is dedicated to connecting Scrum and Agile organizations with qualified, passionate Agile professionals. We strive to Transform the World of Work by offering a platform that has the resources and technology to help build those professional synergies.