The adoption of the Scrum framework can no longer be described as “just a trend.” Instead, the Scrum framework has managed to become a new way of life through which organizations and teams can work more effectively, faster, and ultimately happier.
Over the past few decades, the brightest minds had been struggling to develop workplace solutions that promote collaboration, mutual respect, agility, and self-organization. For now, Scrum seems to be the best answer for the near future.
Therefore, it’s only natural that the demand for qualified Scrum Masters will continue to surge in the coming years.
So if you want to get that Scrum Master job, here are a few questions and answers you should know in your next Scrum Master interview.
1. What is Scrum?
Scrum, short for Scrum Framework, is an Agile-based project management methodology that helps teams (organizations, departments, etc.) work together in complex environments.
It enables teams to quickly build a viable product, which the team(s) can use to gather feedback and learn before making iterative and incremental improvements to their product.
Each cycle of making improvements in Scrum is called a sprint, and it’s time-boxed. Time-boxed means that the length of the sprint cycle cannot be changed throughout the implementation of Scrum. That is regardless of the scheduled workload for the sprint has been completed or not. The maximum length of a sprint in Scrum is four weeks or less than a month.
During Scrum, the scrum team and sometimes stakeholders participate in events that help the team(s) to plan, evaluate, optimize, and present the product.
At its core, Scrum dictates that after each sprint, the development team must add a working, valuable, and cumulative product increment to the overall project’s progress.
2. State the three pillars of Scrum, and why they are important?
The implementation of Scrum is guided by three pillars, which are:
The three pillars form the foundation upon which Scrum is built. If scrum teams forsake these three pillars, the adoption or implementation of Scrum in their team will undoubtedly fail.
3. Who is the Scrum Master, and what do they do?
A scrum master is someone who is well versed in the theories and application of Scrum in an organization or team. Their role includes serving as an educator or coach who trains the team or organization to adopt or use Scrum. They also act as a Scrum advocate or promoter who ensures that everyone adheres to Agile or Scrum values and principles.
They serve various roles to each player in Scrum. For example, the organization, product owner, etc. You can compare a scrum master to a playmaker in sports, a person whose sole purpose is to selflessly help others achieve their objectives most efficiently. Hence, a scrum master is often described as a servant leader whose performance is measured by how well the people they are supposed to help perform.
Some of the qualities and duties of a scrum master include:
- They deeply understand Scrum theories, principles, and applications.
- They ensure the team’s operation stays within the defined limits of Scrum.
- They eliminate obstacles and distractions and help acquire resources for the development team.
4. Briefly describe and explain three roles in Scrum.
Within a Scrum Team, there are three roles involved in the day tol day execution of a project; these are:
- Product Owner: This individual represents and prioritizes the client’s business needs and objectives during Scrum. The product owner possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to assist the scrum team in delivering the best possible product to the client.
- Scrum Master: The scrum master is a servant leader who helps the team and organization learn and apply Scrum. The job is to facilitate the high performances of their counterparts.
- Development Team: A development team is a group of technically-skilled professionals who are involved in the actual building of the product. A Scrum development team has to be cross-functional, self-managing, and self-organizing to achieve the best results.
5. What are the differences between Scrum and Agile?
Since Scrum is based on Agile, one expects that the two are very similar. However, the reality is there are some notable differences between Scrum and Agile. Interviewers love asking these questions. Hence, you should be ready.
The differences between Agile and Scrum can be categorized based on the two’s theories, suitability, and application.
Here are the differences:
- Nature: Agile is mainly a philosophy (mindset) and framework guided by a set of principles and values. On the other hand, Scrum is a specific Agile development methodology with more clearly defined processes and structures. Hence, while Scrum is under the umbrella of Agile, Agile itself can have other meanings besides Scrum.
- Leadership: In Agile, there is a project manager that manages the overall project, whereas, in Scrum, there’s no central manager. Instead, Scrum divides the powers of the project manager between the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Development Team. Hence, Agile values leadership roles, whereas Scrum promotes self-organizing, cross-functional teams.
- Suitability: Agile is better suited to projects that do not experience frequent changes. It is much more rigid and restrictive; therefore, it cannot accept as many changes as Scrum. On the other hand, Scrum is all about rapid adaptations in a constantly changing environment. Therefore, Agile is suitable for projects where the end objective is not rigidly defined. At the same time, Scrum is more suited for complex projects where the end-objective depends upon the gathered feedback.
- Adoption and Execution: Many teams may find Agile much easier to adopt and utilize than Scrum. The adoption and utilization of Scrum tends to be experimental and involves some trial and error before you gain experience and start reaping the benefits.
6. Can you name five events in Scrum?
- The Sprint Planning Meeting
- The Sprint
- The Daily Scrum or Daily Standup
- The Sprint Review Meeting
- Sprint Retrospective Meeting.
7. Name and describe the three main artifacts of Scrum?
The three major artifacts of Scrum are:
- Product Backlog: This artifact is a list that contains the overall tasks or work waiting to be tackled in the project. This work can be in the form of user stories, new features, bug fixes, alterations, etc. It’s an ordered list of pending work that is prioritized or refined by the product owner. The tasks on the product backlog are called product backlog items. Since the list is ordered, the items higher on the list are usually more vital to the project’s immediate success.
- Sprint Backlog: It’s a smaller version of the product backlog. The only difference between a product backlog and a sprint backlog is that the sprint backlog only contains a small list of tasks that the development team must complete during the sprint. In contrast, the product backlog covers all the tasks till project completion. The sprint backlog items are selected from the product backlog to fulfill the sprint goal.
- Product Increment: A product increment is a cumulatively integrated list of all the completed product backlog items tackled during a sprint combined with the value of previous sprints. The product increment can also be described as the sum of all the sprint backlog items. After each sprint, the completed backlog items are added to the product increment. Hence, the product increment artifact captures all the completed work since the start of a project.
8. How would you resolve discord or conflicts within the Scrum Team?
Conflict resolution within scrum teams can be divided into a FOUR step process:
- Step 1: To identify and understand the main reason behind the conflict.
- Step 2: Openly address the problem during meetings with the team (e.g., daily Scrum) and discuss solutions to resolve the discord.
- Step 3: Listen to both sides neutrally and let everyone contribute in charting a way forward for resolving the conflict (which the team agrees with and aids common understanding).
- Step 4: Regularly monitor and revisit progress made transparently.
9. Suppose a team member thinks sprint planning meetings (or other Scrum events) are a waste of time and refuses to participate. How would you handle them?
- First of all, as the scrum master, you should engage the team member privately and try to understand their reasoning using open-ended questions.
- Secondly, try to make them understand why sprint planning is important and why all team members, including them, should attend and participate.
- During other Scrum events, ask other team members to raise their concerns about the team member’s absence in sprint planning sessions.
- Finally, if the team member refuses to change their ways, meet with the reporting manager to discuss transfer or other alternatives for the team member.
10. How does the Scrum Master assist the Product Owner?
The scrum master aids the product owner in several ways. Here are some ways the scrum master helps the product owner:
- They help the product owner during product goal definition.
- They assist the product owner in finding techniques to manage and prioritize the product backlog.
- Ensure that the whole scrum team has the correct shared understanding of the project’s goal, the scope of work, and other relevant information.
- Ensure that the product owner knows to prioritize the product backlog to deliver the maximum value.
- Facilitating collaboration with people outside the scrum team. For example, stakeholders.
11. How does the Scrum Master help the organization?
The scrum master job wears many hats. To serve the organization, the scrum master:
- Educates the organization on what Scrum is and how best to adopt it.
- Acts as an advocate for Agile or Scrum principles and ensures the organization creates a conducive environment for Scrum to flourish.
- Acts as a change agent and helps in organizational transformations.
- Helps development team(s) elevate and maintain productivity. Hence, the organization’s profit increases.
12. What is Backlog Refinement?
Backlog refinement is the process of prioritizing and breaking down product backlog items into smaller, sprintable tasks. It’s a continuous process mainly carried out by the product owner, who has the help of the scrum master, development team, etc.
Items are constantly being added, modified, or removed from the product backlog after each sprint. Consequently, continuous backlog refinement helps the scrum team realign the project towards the best value outcomes.
13. What is the difference between user stories, epics, and tasks?
Although epics, user stories, and tasks can all be found within the product backlog, they are very different. The difference between all three items mainly has to do with the size of the item.
- An Epic is a large and complex user story, usually exceeding a 21 Fibonacci story point sizing estimates. Therefore, epics need to be broken down into smaller user stories before you can further refine them.
- User stories are short and simple narratives from an end-user’s perspective describing a feature the user or customer needs to achieve a specific goal.
- Tasks are simply user stories that have been further broken down. They are the smallest unit of work in Scrum, and one or two people often tackle each task.
14. Why are daily scrums important, and what’s the scrum master’s role during one?
A daily scrum is a daily meeting of less than 15 minutes held for the development team by the scrum master.
During the daily Scrum, only members of the development team are allowed to participate, with all other attendees taking a spectator role.
The daily Scrum is essential because it helps the development team to self-organize and collaborate better to achieve their sprint goal. It also creates transparency and shared accountability within the development team.
It also helps members brainstorm problems, track progress, and plan upcoming work.
Roles of the scrum master during daily Scrum include:
- Hosting, facilitating, or arranging the meeting.
- Ensure the daily scrum sticks to Scrum principles and is less than 15 minutes.
- Promotes collaboration and communication between team members.
15. Can velocity be used as a measure for productivity?
Absolutely not! Sprint velocity is just a measurement to assess the capacity of the development team during a sprint. It’s an estimation that can be used to estimate and plan ahead, but it’s not a measurement for productivity.
A development team can raise their velocity but suffer from reduced productivity.
For example, velocity is mainly calculated by story sizes. Hence, a team can concentrate only on tackling user stories while skipping other (non-story size) activities such as refactoring, bug corrections, testing, etc. Consequently, velocity is increased at the expense of productivity and product quality.
Therefore, a scrum master must find the best balance between velocity and productivity.
16. What is a Definition of Ready?
A definition of ready is a set of conditions/criteria that a user story must satisfy before the scrum team can estimate it or consider it for sprints.
17. Suppose your team is constantly failing to meet deadlines, and its velocity is unstable. What could be the reason(s)?
There are several reasons why a development team might exhibit these traits.
Some of the more causes of such situations are:
- Frequent personnel changes within the development team. Hence, the team’s collaboration skills are unable to mature.
- Inefficient knowledge transfer within the team results in new members taking longer to adjust and catch up.
- The distribution ratio of senior to junior staff is incorrect.
- The team is working on or with legacy code that lacks proper documentation.
- The development team is frequently being interrupted by stakeholders.
- User stories are being executed without meeting the conditions of the definition of ready.
- Poorly written code and technical debt.