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First Steps as a New Scrum Master: How to Start Strong in a New Environment


As you step into your new role as a Scrum Master at a fresh company, it’s an exciting moment filled with possibilities, but it’s natural to feel a touch of nervousness. You’re about to take the reins of a brand-new team, one that may have some deeply ingrained practices that need your guidance and support to evolve.

You’re probably asking yourself questions like: How will the developers react to your arrival? Can you swiftly build a strong rapport with the Product Owner? Is it even possible to create an instant connection in this new environment?

The first 30 days of your journey in this new role are of paramount importance. They present a unique opportunity to establish a solid foundation and cultivate effective working relationships with your team. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with the insights and strategies you need to navigate this delicate dance: building trust and rapport while introducing gradual changes that lead to agile success.

? To keep things straightforward, we’ve designed this guide with the assumption that teams are operating on two-week sprints, and you’re joining at the outset of the first sprint. However, we understand that real-world scenarios can vary, so feel free to adapt the principles and strategies presented here to your specific situation.

Understanding of Basics of Scrum

Preparation is a crucial step, especially if you find yourself in the role of a Scrum Master for the first time. Whether you’ve just earned your Scrum certifications recently, a year ago, or have never held them, taking the time to refresh your understanding of the basics is a wise approach.

Here are some key resources and fundamental concepts you should revisit before embarking on your new Scrum Master assignment:

  • Reacquaint yourself with the Agile Manifesto and its guiding principles.
  • Familiarize yourself with the five core Scrum values: Commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.
  • Understand the Scrum Accountabilities and the corresponding responsibilities, including the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers.
  • Review the five essential Scrum events: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, and the Sprint itself.

Additionally, it’s valuable to invest time in studying the team’s history and any available documentation. Dive into existing team metrics and artifacts to gain insights into the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas for improvement.

Building strong relationships with all team members, including the Product Owner (PO), developers, and any other Agile Coaches on your team, is paramount in your new role. Before your initial formal meeting with the complete Scrum team, consider scheduling informal one-on-one meetings with each team member. These individual interactions allow you to grasp their unique perspectives on the team’s performance, the challenges they face, and the successes they’ve achieved.

During these one-on-one conversations, pose open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of each person’s role and how they contribute to the team’s collective efforts. These dialogues will be instrumental in identifying ways to provide individualized support to each team member, thereby strengthening your role as a Scrum Master.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Team

  • Begin by introducing yourself to the team, sharing your background, and expressing your enthusiasm for collaborating with them.
  • Engage in casual conversations with team members to gain insights into their roles, interests, and aspirations. Building rapport hinges on active listening and displaying genuine interest.

Observe and Evaluate the Team’s Scrum Practices:

  • Before suggesting any changes, take the time to observe how the team currently operates. Here are some key aspects to focus on:
  • Attend early Sprint events like Sprint Planning and Daily scrum to comprehend the team’s existing processes and collaborative dynamics.
  • In these initial meetings, prioritize observation over immediate action, refraining from premature recommendations or alterations.
  • Assess the team’s adherence to Scrum principles, values, and practices. Also, inquire about the presence and usage of a team charter, if applicable.
  • Identify potential impediments, communication gaps, or workflow inefficiencies.
  • Gauge the openness of communication during meetings to gauge the current level of psychological safety within the team.
  • Evaluate the team’s comprehension and execution of their respective roles and responsibilities.
  • Consider the effectiveness of the team’s artifacts, such as the product backlog, sprint backlog, and user stories.
  • Explore the agile metrics employed by the team, gauge their perception of these metrics, and assess their contribution to achieving sprint and product goals while enhancing overall performance.

Support the Product Owner’s Vision:

  • The Product Owner plays a critical role in aligning the team around a shared vision and objectives. As a Scrum Master, your responsibility is to ensure that the team fully comprehends and embraces these priorities.
  • Encourage team members to seek clarity by asking questions and foster an environment where transparency is promoted. Remind the Product Owner to elucidate the reasoning behind their decisions and priorities, thus enhancing team understanding and collaboration.

Enhance the Daily Scrum:

  • Given that the Daily scrum occurs every day within a Sprint, any improvements made to this event have a cumulative effect. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to provide updates, seek clarification, and express concerns.
  • To identify obstacles, pay close attention to recurring issues, feedback from team members, and potential bottlenecks.
  • Leveraging the trust you’ve built in the first week, this is an ideal moment to introduce new tools or approaches, such as Parabol’s Daily scrum tool. This tool simplifies the process of sharing and receiving quick updates throughout the day, eliminating the need for lengthy real-time video updates.

Maximize the Sprint Review:

  • Effective management of stakeholder expectations is critical, particularly during your initial Sprint Review.
  • Prior to the event, engage in discussions with stakeholders to establish their expectations for the session. Clearly communicate that the review will concentrate on the team’s progress during the current sprint and future work, rather than long-term plans.
  • Identify the questions that stakeholders may have for the team, and share this information with the group in advance to ensure they come prepared.
  • Stay informed about the team’s progress, noting any obstacles, deferred items, and other issues, so you can anticipate questions and facilitate a productive discussion.

Foster Team Bonding Beyond the Workplace:

  • Towards the end of the second week or the beginning of the third, consider organizing an informal gathering for team members to connect and interact in a relaxed, non-work setting. For co-located teams, this could involve sharing a meal or having drinks together, while remote teams can engage in online games like Codenames (a word association game), Tabletop Simulator (offering 3D online board games), or Werewolf (a video conference game).
  • You can also experiment with running a retrospective-themed game to impart agile concepts or focus on process improvement.

Conduct Workshops on Misunderstood Agile Principles or Practices:

  • By this point, you should have identified the specific areas within Scrum or Agile that your team finds challenging. Utilize your observations to design workshops that address these challenges. Alternatively, give your team the autonomy to select topics they believe would provide the most benefit.
  • For instance, many teams encounter difficulties with agile estimation, either spending too much time on it or failing to extract value from the limited techniques they are familiar with. A workshop can elucidate the workings and advantages of estimation methods such as t-shirt sizing, sprint poker, and Weighted Shortest Job First (WSFJ). Armed with this knowledge, the team can start applying these approaches to enhance and expedite their estimation efforts.
  • Other frequently misunderstood topics may include story points, velocity, and the purpose behind each Scrum event.

Empower Your Team to Self-Manage:

  • Create an environment where team members feel empowered to voice their opinions, propose solutions, and take calculated risks. One effective approach is to conduct one-on-one coaching sessions where you assist team members in thinking through challenges and bolstering their confidence.
  • Scrum underscores the significance of self-reliant, cross-functional teams possessing all the requisite skills to complete their work. You can support the team by providing training or facilitating collaboration among individuals with diverse skills. Team members can also engage in skill-sharing sessions or participate in a mentorship program within the group to enhance their collective capabilities.

Review and Adjust Agile Metrics:

  • Now that you’ve had several weeks of collaboration with the team, it’s a good moment to evaluate the effectiveness of the agile metrics they employ. Are these metrics providing valuable insights that aid the team in addressing their current objectives and challenges? If not, consider selecting one or two new agile metrics to focus on.
  • For instance, in the team’s initial month, monitoring team happiness may offer more relevant insights, as velocity typically stabilizes after a few sprints and may not be the most suitable metric when you’re in the early stages of working together.
  • Don’t forget to seek input from team members regarding their feelings about the metrics. If a particular metric is causing undue stress and undermining morale, consider discontinuing its use and replacing it with a metric that motivates and engages individuals.

Celebrate and Acknowledge the Team’s Progress:

  • Recognize and showcase the team’s achievements by organizing another informal gathering, such as a lunch, dinner, or team-building activity. It’s an opportunity to reinforce the sense of accomplishment and unity within the team.
  • Keep stakeholders informed of the team’s progress and encourage them to offer commendations if they are satisfied with the team’s work.

Reflect on Your First Month as a Scrum Master:

  • Evaluate your own personal growth and development in the role of a Scrum Master. Identify areas where you can enhance your skills and knowledge to better support the team. Seek feedback from your team members and contemplate participating in training, attending meetups, or engaging with communities to further enrich your abilities (additional resources can be found in the later section of this article).
  • You might even consider conducting a dedicated retrospective to assess your performance and gather valuable insights for further improvement.

Conquering Common Scrum Master Challenges

Being a successful Scrum Master is a multifaceted role, encompassing coaching, change management, teaching, counselling, and continuous learning. The path to mastery involves applying Scrum theory, making mistakes, and learning from them. Here are some common challenges Scrum Masters face with new teams and strategies to overcome them:

Addressing Questions and Skepticism about Scrum:

  • Embrace the fact that Scrum intentionally leaves room for interpretation and adaptation. It thrives on collective intelligence and evolves through practice, not rigid rules.
  • Overcome this challenge by both seeking learning opportunities, such as reading, training, and connecting with peers, and gaining practical experience.

Mastering  Leadership:

  • Transitioning from a traditional project manager role to a Scrum Master often requires a mindset shift towards servant leadership.
  • Develop active listening skills to understand team members’ needs better and promote guidance over directives.
  • Encourage self-organization by asking open-ended questions that empower team members to take ownership of their work.

Managing Internal Resistance to Agile Change:

  • Resistance to Agile and Scrum practices is common, especially in organizations with entrenched traditional ways of working.
  • Combat resistance by educating and inspiring your team through workshops and real-world success stories.
  • Foster open communication with regular meetings to address concerns and updates.
  • Utilize allies within the organization and share data on team performance to build a compelling case for Agile adoption.

Balancing Multiple Roles:

  • Scrum Masters often handle multiple roles within a team or organization, which can lead to conflicting responsibilities.
  • Define and prioritize your tasks, creating clear boundaries to safeguard your Scrum Master duties.
  • Allocate specific days or time blocks for each role and communicate your commitments and priorities transparently with team members and stakeholders.

Staying Effective in Remote or Hybrid Work Environments:

  • Managing Scrum practices in remote or distributed teams comes with challenges, including time zone differences and communication barriers.
  • Utilize tools like Parabol to conduct Scrum events asynchronously, such as Daily Scrum, Sprint Retrospectives, and Sprint Poker, to overcome these challenges and maintain productivity and engagement in remote or hybrid work environments.


Starting strong as a new Scrum Master in a new environment can be challenging, but with the right approach and mindset, you can set the stage for a successful journey. Remember that being a Scrum Master is not just a job; it’s a commitment to the principles and values of Scrum. By building strong relationships, fostering a culture of continuous improvement, and supporting your team and product owner, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful and respected Scrum Master.

As you are on your Scrum Master journey, keep in mind that it’s a continuous learning process. Seek feedback, adapt, and strive for excellence in your role. With dedication and the right mindset, you can make a significant impact on your team and the success of your projects. Welcome to the world of Scrum and the exciting challenges and opportunities it brings!