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3 Gritty Scrum Master Interview Questions

Updated on November 28, 2013

Get it done.

Gritty Scrum Master Interview Questions
Gritty Scrum Master Interview Questions

People, Time, Complexity…

Let's not hold any punches, alright?

First, beware of PMs who will turn Scrum into scrum-fall (Scrum+Waterfall).

Second, don’t waste your time reading this if you want someone to send you daily green, yellow, red status updates or make you fancy charts. You aren't ready for Agile yet.

About these Scrum Master Interview Questions

These Gritty Scrum Master interview questions are intended to do two things:

  1. Help filter out PMs who don’t get Scrum.
  2. Help find people who can lead your Scrum Team to success.

Find people who get it done...now let’s get started.

Question #1 is about dealing with People

What should a Scrum Master do if they have a person on the team who is not flowing?

For example, they are not showing up to the stand-up meetings, or communicating with the team on their progress, or not wanting to assist with trivial things because they feel they are too menial for them?

Answer

  • First talk privately with the person and give them the alternative of shaping up and meeting expectations, or they will be reassigned.
  • Then after a second chance and some mentoring, replace them if they cannot adjust.

Not everyone can adapt to Agile processes and not everyone can make this call. A Scrum Master needs to be able to make tough calls. Do you sense they could make this call?

Explanation

Scrum is not about the individual, it’s about the team. People who are not engaged as team players will drain time and cause your sprints to miss their dates.

When faced with people who are not a right fit for the team, replace them ASAP. There may not be anything wrong with them; they are just not right for a Scrum Team.

An experienced Scrum Master should know how, and who, they should pick for their Scrum Team. And when to replace someone if they are not working out.

Sprints are short and you need people on the team to flow and work together.

Question #2 is about handling Time

You have a team of 5 people working on a code change that is taking longer to test than expected. Two of the people have finished their tasks and are waiting for the next task. One person is already working on a new task. You are having problems getting testers to help with UAT. What should you do?

Answer

  • Before starting anything new you should finish the task in progress.
  • New tasks can be moved to another sprint.
  • Use the free people to do the testing if you cannot find testers who are available.
  • It is better to finish one thing on time then to have 3 things started and run out of time.

Do you sense they understand iteration is about getting things done, even if they are small? Or, if time keeps running out maybe they are trying to do too much and should break it up into smaller tasks?

Explanation

The recommended length of a sprint is two weeks, which means you don’t have a lot of time.

This Scrum interview question is to determine the process someone will follow if they are running out of time. Finding a Scrum Master who can get things ‘done’ is the key.

Question #3 is about understanding Complexity

What should you do if you have found your Scrum Team way over their heads with a task which seemed easy in the beginning, but has turned into something unexpected?

Answer

  • Update the product manager that you will need to rewrite the story.
  • Break it up into smaller tasks.
  • Split it into more sprints.
  • Try to make up the time by getting other tasks done faster.

Do they understand what the retrospective is for? Did they mention during it how they would discuss how the underestimation happened and how they would make sure it doesn't happen again?

Explanation

As with time, complexity is a measurement of how difficult a task will be to complete. Often egos will get in the way and people will underestimate the time it will take to complete something.

A skilled Scrum Master has enough experience to understand how complex something sounds (even if they've never experienced it). They are good at breaking up complex tasks into smaller ones and sizing sprints.

Retrospective

These Scrum Master interview questions may not sound like much on the surface. But when asked to a prospective candidate, you will get an understanding of how people think and handle situations.

Find out how they handle people, time, and complexity mistakes.

Just because someone has years of PM experience doesn't mean they are good at it. Especially when considering SDLC and technical projects.

People, time, and complexity are the 3 areas that cause gotchas. Real experience understands the technical part of the task is easy. Getting things 100% done takes real skill.

The key take away is to find a Scrum Master who can read people well, stay focused on the task at hand, and realize when they need to pivot and make changes.

About:

Joe Sanchez is a Certified Scrum Master and has more than 15 years of hands-on experience managing infrastructure and projects.

Read more topics on Joe's Virtualization Beginners blog or check out his eBook: VCP for Hire on Amazon.

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