The Best Books to Help Scrum Masters Sharpen Their Skills

So you’ve found yourself in the Scrum Master role with your first team and are wondering where to start. Or, maybe you have a certification or two under your belt, have already worked with a few teams, but are looking for ways to sharpen your skills even further.

Luckily for you, there have been some great books written for Scrum Masters over the past few years. Nearly all of these books are good, but there have been a few that will really help you take your skills to the next level. These books are listed in a specific order that tracks the milestones most Scrum Masters progress through on their journey to becoming a great Scrum Master. To get the most out of these books, I suggest that you work through them in this same order.

Let’s get started…

The Scrum Guide

Surprised? Many people are often taken aback when I recommend such a basic reference book. However, I’m often caught off guard at how many practicing Scrum Masters haven’t actually read the Scrum Guide.

The Scrum Guide is the main touchstone for the rules of the Scrum Framework which you, as the Scrum Master, are responsible for ensuring your team is following. At only 17 pages long, the Scrum Guide can easily be read in an evening, but fully internalizing its content may take much longer.

However, the brief and succinct format of the Scrum Guide can be quite helpful. The Scrum Framework is often accompanied by many complementary practices, such as user stories or planning poker. However, while helpful, did you know that these practices are not actually part of the Scrum Framework?

This is because the creators of Scrum so erred on the side of a lightweight and non-prescriptive framework that many of the practices at are now synonymous with Scrum were explicitly omitted from the Scrum Framework. Reading the Scrum Guide will help you better understand what is part of the Scrum Framework and what isn’t so you can help your team cut through the noise to what actually matters.

Scrum Mastery by Geoff Watts

Once you’ve reacquainted yourself with the rules and values of the Scrum Framework you’ll be better equipped to understand how those values can play out in your organization.

This is where Scrum Mastery comes in. Scrum Mastery uses a scenario-driven format to illustrate specific approaches that a Scrum Master can use to be more effective in their role. It also demonstrates many of the most common challenges a Scrum Master may encounter in their role and then shows possible solutions to work through those challenges in the most productive way.

If you’ve built a good understanding of the basics of the Scrum Framework and your role within it, then Scrum Mastery will help you put those skills into practice.

The Great Scrum Master: #ScrumMasterWay by Zuzana Sochova

Once you’re ready to add some more advanced tools to your Scrum Master toolbox, The Great Scrum Master is a great place to start.

This book is full of practical advice and practices that can help any Scrum Master become more effective in their day-to-day role. Whether you need help getting to the root cause of a pesky problem that continues to afflict your team, understand why certain group dynamics seem to be emerging in your team time and time again, or just start to identify what types of tools might be appropriate for the problem at hand, The Great Scrum Master is full of a wealth of concrete practices that you can start putting to work with your team immediately.

Becoming a Catalyst: Scrum Master Edition: Using Everyday Interactions to Accelerate Cultural Change by Len Lagestee

We’ve talked a lot about the fundamentals of the Scrum Framework as well as what practices you can use as a Scrum Master to help your team. But, we haven’t talked about how to think about your daily interactions as a Scrum Master. This is where Becoming a Catalyst comes in.

This books gives you the tools to make the most of each of your day-to-day interactions both with your team and your broader organization. It provides guidance on how you can build support for your goals for your team, strengthen your relationships with your co-workers, or even gain insights into where trouble may be brewing ahead.

We frequently talk about the “softer side” of becoming a Scrum Master and how useful strong communication skills can be, but there’s often a gap of resources specifically designed to help grow those skills. Becoming a Catalyst fills that gap.

Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins

The inclusion of a book so obviously focused on agile coaching may surprise you. But, effective Scrum Masters know that one of the most important ingredients to their team’s success is their own coaching skills. Whether you’re helping your team better understand the practices and values of the Scrum Framework, improve in a specific area of delivery, or even just work together more effectively great Scrum Masters are also great coaches.

But what’s that you say, you’ve never been trained as a coach? Don’t worry Coaching Agile Teams will give you the tools you need to help you coach more effectively both at the team level as well as within your broader organization. If you’re ready to take the next step in your Scrum Master journey and begin actively coaching your team, then this book will help show you the path.

Putting These Books to Use

While these are my favorites, they’re just a taste of the wealth of information available today for Scrum Masters. But getting value out of these books takes more than simply reading them and moving on. To truly get value out of this material you need to carefully read these books, identify and internalize the practices they espouse, and then look for opportunities to put these practices to work with your team. This is because only by actively applying what you’ve learned can you move your team, and yourself, forward.

Are you new to the Scrum Master role and are just trying to find your way? Or, are you an experienced Scrum Master who has your feet wet but now you’re ready to take your craft to the next level? Check out my course series, Scrum Master Fundamentals, to learn how to set yourself apart as a Scrum Master and help your team reach their highest potential.

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