There is one essential interview question I ask any agile PM or ScrumMaster:

What is your process?

Typically, I then elaborate:

With the average size team, the average size project, and everything else being equal, how would you plan, track and execute the team’s activity? How would you report progress and issues both inward and outward? What activities would you encourage, mandate or ban?

This question begins the one discussion I have learned to have with any candidate who will be responsible for leading projects or teams. The answer can be agile-minded, scrum-heavy, lean-wise or even waterfallish. Typically it will be colored by the candidate’s latest experience. But, as the discussion continues, we will fold in earlier experience, hypothetical situations, and the experience of others. I listen for the candidate’s gut-level approach to planning, execution and tracking. I inquire about the candidate’s management toolbox — the practices adopted and techniques fashioned to get projects done and keep teams whole. I listen for toolsmithing — what will the candidate adjust or invent to keep the whole project healthy, balanced and on track? I look for the signs of management craftsmanship.

Yes, every organization has a process or set of processes that must be followed. And, yes, I want to know that the candidate can adapt to the approaches of others. But what I find in surprisingly short supply are team leads and project managers who — left to their own devices — introduce and tailor healthy process to fit in the place of chaos and broken process.

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