Who is a Scrum Master?
A Scrum Master is a facilitator for an Agile development team. They are responsible for managing the exchange of information between team members. Scrum is a project management framework that enables a team to communicate and self-organize to make changes quickly, in accordance with Agile principles.
What does a Scrum Master do?
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any impediments in your way?
Roles, Responsibilities and Skills of a Scrum Master
Although the title of Scrum Master sounds powerful, this position is not the project leader and is not held accountable for project outcomes; this responsibility is given to the team as a whole. The official Scrum Guide refers to the Scrum Master as a servant leader because their purpose serves the team through the scrum process, creating a framework in which every team member can do their best work to meet a common goal.
An ideal Agile team would have the team — not one individual — manage its process. However, the Scrum Master position evolved to take responsibility while keeping the process as team-oriented as possible.
The Scrum Master is a highly dynamic role, and is responsible for:
- Leading daily stand-up meetings, reviews, demos, and other project-related meetings
- Supporting team members in their tasks
- Coaching the team on Scrum principles and best practices
- Facilitating open discussion and conflict resolution
- Proactively identify and resolve issues
- Updating activities in a project management tracking tool
- Helping the team to reach consensus for what can be achieved during a specific period of time — referred to as a sprint
- Helping the team to reach consensus during the daily scrum.
- Helping the team stay focused and follow the agreed-upon rules for daily scrums.
- Removing obstacles that are impeding the team’s progress.
- Protecting the team from outside distractions.
- Ensuring product backlog items are clearly defined and managed efficiently.
Who needs a Scrum Master?
Teams that follow an Agile methodology and aim for a team-centric process with a bottom-up management style benefit from the Scrum Master role. In development, teams of this kind often exist at the beginning of the technology value stream. This is because the nature of development work often requires a high degree of flexibility and collaboration. Objectives may change from day to day, and timelines may contract or expand depending on external requirements. The Scrum Master implements enough structure to keep the team’s development effort focused while ensuring the team remains adaptable, as changes to the plan are inevitable and even welcome.
Some teams may find that a Scrum Master is not necessary if every team member understands scrum methodology and can manage their workflow in harmony with other team members. The ideal scrum has no “master” and gives each team member an equal role in managing workflow. However, many teams find that having a designated Scrum Master is helpful to streamline the process. Scrum Masters are also sometimes hired as consultants.
Benefits of employing a Scrum Master
Some benefits of employing a Scrum Master are:
- Scrums will have a designated leader specialized for the job.
- Teams will adopt agile methodologies and a culture of failureto increase their overall adaptability. A culture of failure views failures as opportunities instead of setbacks.
- An increased ability of the entire organization to adopt Agile methodologies and to transition from traditional waterfall methodologies.
- The Scrum Master’s team will have a servant leader dedicated to meeting individual needs and promoting the happiness of the team.
Some organizations choose to hire Scrum Masters as consultants instead of designating an in-house employee. The added benefit of hiring an external Scrum Master is that they do not have preexisting biases about the organization and can bring fresh ideas.
The Accountabilities of the Scrum Master
As described in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization while serving the Scrum Team as well as the larger organization.
However, a Scrum Master is much more than this. The role of the Scrum Master has a lot of layers and facets to it. While building awareness around Scrum and enabling greater agility, Scrum Masters also need soft skills that are needed to coach and mentor members of the Scrum Team and others in the organization. Scrum Masters are accountable for helping their teams succeed, and that often means offering them assistance in groups or on a one-on-one basis. They may facilitate exercises, give guidance or help people come to conclusions on their own. Not everyone has the skills necessary to be a Scrum Master, and that is important to keep in mind when considering this career path.