What’s in a Skill: Periodic Table [Matrix] of Scrum Master Competencies
Agile Development
What’s in a Skill: Periodic Table [Matrix] of Scrum Master Competencies
What’s in a Skill: Periodic Table [Matrix] of Scrum Master Competencies
Agile Development

What’s in a Skill: Periodic Table [Matrix] of Scrum Master Competencies

Going through my personal Agile journey as a Scrum Master led me to some conclusions that this role (accountability according to the new Scrum Guide) is a combination of soft and technical skills. Some of them you can learn and develop from the courses and books, and some are very hard to acquire and it might take ages to master them. I would like to share my findings in the form of a Periodical Table. Similarly to Mendeleev, it came to me in my night dreams and those competencies started popping up and taking their respective places.  

A competency or a skill is a very far-reaching concept. Does It mean technical or soft skills? Is it something inherent or can it be developed over time and with effort? And what about personality traits? Where do they fall in the equation? 

When it comes to Scrum Master competencies, you can distinguish them by placing the skills and traits into three categories, i.e. Behavioral, Contextual, Technical. A good set of well-developed competencies will have the Scrum Master right in place in a team. Depending on specifics of your company or team, your list of SM skills and competencies may vary and you may have a different focus for your particular needs. However, a rule of thumb would be to strive to be a well-rounded personality with a good grasp on each of the categories. Find your balance and figure out what works for you and your team. 

You can see a general overview of the core competencies for a Scrum Master in the “periodic table” of Scrum Master Competence Elements. 

scrum master skills & competency matrix

Let’s take a closer look at the elements that make up the Scrum Master competency matrix and what they constitute, which ones you may be lacking and what you can do to further develop your skills to become successful in your role as a Scrum Master. 


Any Scrum Master’s job largely revolves around communication and resolving issues that come up in the working process. In this regard, it helps to have a strong set of personal traits and values that help the Scrum Master become the beacon of reason in the team. The trusty leader that looks out for the team’s best interest. Someone who is trusted and can be relied on. Behavioural competencies mostly result from your personality – a combination of nature and nurture. However, you can strengthen these skills with self-reflection and personal development. 

  1. Leadership skills are a requirement that comes with Scrum Master responsibilities. Although they are not in the position of a project manager, the team still strongly depends on efficient leadership from the Scrum Master in following the Agile practices and managing workload or any conflicting situations that may arise no matter the nature. 
  2. Trust building. Since the Scrum Master acts as a mediator between the team, the Product Owner, and the stakeholders, it’s important for him to be able to build and maintain trust. This will build up to other skills required to manage a Scrum team. Essentially, any efficient communication and collaboration should start with trust. 
  3. Motivation is good to have when you want to get your work done. Even more so, if you want to get other people to do their work. 
  4. Assertiveness constitutes how you express your confidence remaining respectful, yet not being a pushover. This is an important trait in a professional setting, especially for navigating stressful situations. 
  5. Openness is an essential trait for a good leader. It means that you acknowledge different opinions and experiences and don’t restrict yourself to only what you know to be fact. It is crucial when it comes to introducing change and innovation. 
  6. Creativity is a tricky skill to have. Is it innate or something that you can learn? Hone your creative mind, use it for problem-solving and to inspire others. 
  7. Efficiency is valued in any team member. A Scrum Master that knows how to accomplish their tasks efficiently, will know how to require the same from their team. 
  8. Growth mindset in an Agile setting is the force that drives positive change and helps take any difficulty as an opportunity to learn. This is what a Scrum Master would want to transmit to their team by their own example. 
  9. Ethics in business appropriate the practices and behaviors to confront any possibly controversial subjects. Scrum Master exhibiting strong business ethics sets the standard for the whole team. 
  10. Values make up a person. Having strong personal values helps you earn people’s trust and respect and become a good leader for the team. 
  11. Body language can say a lot about a person. It can be a strong and expressive tool for non-verbal communication expressed with posture, facial expressions, hand gestures. As a Scrum Master, you should be aware of what signals you are sending with your body language, just as well as be able to read the room and pick up on these signals coming from your team members. 
  12. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence help you build personal connections with people and it can be learned by observing people, initiating conversations, being an active and attentive listener, recognizing their emotional needs. 
  13. Courage can be expressed in your ability to introduce change that some may find risky, make judgement calls and take responsibility whatever the outcome. 
  14. Respect is the backbone of all teamwork that goes both ways. A Scrum Master needs the team’s respect, and just as well should show respect for any individual team member.  


A Scrum Master is only as good as their team is. It’s important for them to establish good relationships within the team, encourage open communication and facilitate their work. Contextual competencies focus on the role of the Scrum Master as the leader and facilitator. So let’s see what elements in the Scrum Master skills matrix are helpful for this: 

  1. Servant Leadership. Lead by example, be leveled with your team, and they will follow. Ask yourself what you can do for your team right now and do it. 
  2. Leading Change may come as a tricky endeavor. Not everyone wants to leave their comfort zone and risk failing. As a Scrum Master, you should be able to deal with that and introduce change to your team as an exciting opportunity. 
  3. Impediments removal required the Scrum Master to handle the team’s dependencies and blockers. They should be able to address these issues in a team and help rearrange workload or handle any communication with the people involved to find a solution. 
  4. Mentoring means becoming a good role model and encouraging your team to overcome any hardships, either by offering sound advice, sharing your own experience, or providing support. 
  5. Coaching in the context of Scrum Master’s duties constitutes prompting the team to discover their potential, improve collaboration, develop their skills and knowledge, and learn how to be self-sufficient. 
  6. Teaching means that you can put aside your personal experience and opinion and share the knowledge remaining objective and unbiased. 
  7. Team Building is something that a good Scrum Master will encourage and facilitate to establish interpersonal relationships in the team, teach them trust and improve teamwork. 
  8. Facilitation is probably one of the most important responsibilities of a Scrum Master. Your top priority should always be to create the right kind of environment for sharing ideas and finding solutions to problems. 
  9. Communication should always be efficient and timely. It’s a competency that is crucial for a Scrum Master as they not only need to approach their own team members, but act as a bridge for them and stakeholders or teams they are dependable on. 
  10. Active listening is one of the essential traits of a good leader that helps create good communication. However, don’t use that as just a trick, lest it may backfire on you. Engage in the conversation without judgement or offering unsolicited advice. Not just listen, but hear what the other person is saying. 
  11. Conflict resolution comes with the job description. Whenever the team starts to get entangled in drama, Scrum Master has to sense the conflict before it starts to escalate or sometimes initiate one when avoiding conflict gets the team stuck in a rut.


In this regard, you can distinguish between competencies that have to do directly with practicing Agile and those related to software development. Generally, the Scrum Master isn’t required to have a background in software development but if they do, it only works to the benefit of the team and their own. Thus, the Scrum Master should be proficient in the following: 

  1. Agile values and principles defined in the Agile Manifesto, are the foundation of the Agile philosophy that sets up the standard for teams who want to practice Agile. 
  2. Lean thinking provides a purposeful way of thinking regarding the team activity in terms of value streams and flows, aimed at achieving sustainable growth, elimination of waste, and client satisfaction.  
  3. Scrum accountabilities. Each Agile team member carries accountability within their role. For the Scrum Master this would be the team’s good understanding and efficient application of Scrum principles and practices. 
  4. Scrum ceremonies are the events that help the team plan their workload, review the job done, and act as checkpoints in between. The Scrum Master’s job is to ensure that this time is used efficiently and with purpose. 
  5. Scrum artifacts are the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Product Increment. Scrum Master assists Product Owner with the Product backlog and helps the team manage the workload through applying Scrum principles. 
  6. Kanban is a popular framework that encourages transparent communication and uses visual aids for streamlining work processes. Kanban elements are widely used in Agile teams to better manage backlog and work in progress.
  7. XP or extreme programming is a type of Agile software development that advocates for short development cycles with frequent releases. There are many XP practices and SM has to know the best cases for their successful implementation. 
  8. Scaling Agile comes into picture when the organisation is growing exponentially and thus requires an altered approach and new process dynamics for Agile to remain efficient large-scale. Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is used for large enterprises. This introduces new levels of collaboration for the Scrum Master, e.g. Scrum of Scrums. 
  9. SDLC or Software Development Lifecycle is the process used for software development that typically encompasses planning, design, development, testing, and deployment with further maintenance. Different SDLC models should be distinguished (Waterfall, Agile, RAD, etc.). 
  10. Estimation gives the team an idea of the scope of work to be done. A Scrum Master looks to it that task estimation is realistic and the workload manageable. 
  11. Stakeholder relation is of utmost importance when the team relies on their input or feedback to efficiently complete their tasks. Although, mostly the communication with stakeholders goes through Product Owner, the Scrum Master plays an important supporting role. 
  12. Metrics, such as velocity, throughput, sprint burndown, code coverage, etc., are collected and analyzed in order to identify the team’s weak spots and improve the processes. 
  13. Reporting is necessary for keeping track of the work processes and results, it promotes continuous improvement. Scrum Master is responsible for reporting within the scope of the team’s efficient application of Agile practices. 
  14. Tooling. There is a broad selection of tools to support the Agile way of working. Scrum Master makes sure that the team has the right Agile tools and uses them with sufficient benefit to their work process and staying true to Agile principles. 
  15. Business domain knowledge for Scrum Master assists in better understanding of the business processes, how it should translate to the team’s commitments and interactions with stakeholders. 
  16. Customer centricity is important on any level of an organization. See to it that your team remembers that the end goal of any project is ultimately to achieve customer satisfaction. 
  17. Design Thinking is an approach to problem solving that has distinct user-centric practices in its heart. Design Thinking and Scrum show great potential when used in tandem.


Whether you are only contemplating how to become a Scrum Master or already have some experience in the role, you should know your strong sides and what could use some improvement. The Scrum Master skills and competencies that make up a truly great Scrum Master, offer up a broad range of possibilities for personal and professional development. It takes a strong personality and proficiency in both technical and soft skills, great communicational skills and the ability to analyze and see your own faults, being self-critical enough to know where and how to make a change.

If you’ve really got what it takes, your opportunities are beyond comprehensible. You can get a nice boost through passing professional training or obtaining Scrum Master certification, and it only gets more exciting from there on out. The world is changing. Industries and markets are changing. And so are companies and people. The role of a Scrum Master perfectly encompasses what it means to be the driving lever in this change and facilitate and accommodate teams to succeed.

FAQ on Scrum master roles and responsibilities 

There are three main categories of skills and traits that make up the most essential Scrum Master competencies: Behavioral, Contextual, and Technical.

  • Behavioural skills help you understand how to communicate effectively with your team members. This includes things like assertiveness and listening skills, as well as how to manage conflict in a way that helps everyone work together.

Other required behavioral competencies for scrum masters include trust building, empathy, emotional intelligence (EQ), sensitivity, openness, creativity, and courage.

  • Contextual skills help you understand the bigger picture when it comes to working within an organization. This can include things like understanding the organizational culture or how to use best practices when adopting an Agile framework, method and principle with the Scrum team and other stakeholders.

The required contextual competencies for scrum masters include mentoring, coaching, exemplary leadership, active listening, facilitation, and conflict resolution skills.

  • Technical skills help you develop your ability to solve problems using tools like technology or software components. These might include things like how to troubleshoot issues with your tools or how to troubleshoot bugs using code.

The required contextual competencies for scrum masters include Agile values and principles, lean thinking, Kanban, XP, SDLC skills, Scrum artifacts, and scrum accountabilities.

The skills and competencies you need to be a successful Scrum Master vary based on the specific needs of your team. It’s best to strive to be a well-rounded professional with a good grasp and mastery of most of the skills and traits in the three competencies —behavioral, contextual and technical skills.

You also need to decide on the framework, methods and principles that work best for you and your team and that guarantees overall efficiency. Take a look at the periodic table of Scrum Master Competence Elements in this post to view an outline of the core competencies for a Scrum Master.

To become a truly great Scrum Master, one must possess technical and soft skills, great communication skills, and the ability to analyze and see their own faults, as well as the ability to be self-critical enough to know where and how to make changes. 

Lean more on the skills and competencies which offer a variety of possibilities for growth on a personal and professional level. Getting a Scrum Master certification or other relevant professional training will give you a good leverage to really start exploring the great prospects in this role.  

The world is fast evolving, and so are industries, economies, and markets. We’re equally faced with a constantly changing business climate and workforce. Scrum Masters should be easily adaptable to be able to lead in this changing environment.  

There are five key performance indicators for Scrum Masters:

  1. Implementing Scrum frameworks with software development teams: The first key performance indicator for a Scrum Master is to get the processes in place and make sure they are working. This includes ensuring that all the stakeholders are happy with the way things are done and that there is good communication between all parties involved in the project – including developers, testers and quality assurance testers.
  2. Creating a safe environment for knowledge sharing: A good Scrum Master makes sure that team members can freely share ideas and feedback without fear of judgement or criticism from others in the group who might not agree with them. This means creating an environment where people feel comfortable being honest about their ideas, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them at first.
  3. Managing sprints and monitoring progress: It’s important that sprints are completed on time and within the expected budget. The product owner should be able to estimate how much work will be needed for a sprint and this should be communicated to the team.Scrum Masters also need to ensure they monitor progress throughout each sprint so that they can catch any issues early on before they become big problems
  4. Integrating with other teams: In order to make sure that everyone is working together as efficiently as possible, it is important for Scrum Masters to communicate with other teams within the organization or even outside it if necessary (such as vendors). This helps them improve process efficiency and ensures that everyone is working towards achieving common goals together as opposed to individual ones or competing against each other.
  5. Managing product backlog: The product backlog contains all the items that will be delivered to the customer. In a Scrum-based development cycle, this could be any number of features from a single product or across multiple products.

The Product Owner acts as the focal point for all information about the product and its requirements. He or she creates an objective for each iteration and defines a priority for each story. The Product Owner also defines acceptance criteria for stories, which are used by developers to measure their progress toward delivering those stories. 

The Scrum Master acts as an interface between developers and management. He or she helps guide teams through all aspects of implementing Scrum, including coaching and mentoring new members of the team. In addition to supporting developers during sprints and meetings, he or she serves as a liaison between developers, testers and stakeholders at all levels of an organization. 

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