If we think of Scrum as a human body, then the product owner can be likened to the brains behind the operation, while the scrum master is the joints of the Scrum process.
The role of the scrum master (SM) is to facilitate proper and effective collaboration between the various Scrum members. In addition, the scrum master is also responsible for ensuring that no operation occurs that is beyond the defined limits of Scrum.
However, before we look at the scrum master’s role in Scrum, let’s explore who is the scrum master.
Who Is The Scrum Master?
As the name “scrum master” denotes, the SM (scrum master) is an individual who has mastered the ins and outs of Scrum.
The SM’s job is to guide and educate the scrum team and the whole organization about Scrum. In addition, the scrum master is also responsible for enforcing the principles and values of Scrum throughout its adoption and implementation.
Some people mistakenly think the “master” in scrum master means that the SM is the boss who has full authority over the whole Scrum process. In reality, the scrum master is a servant leader who paves the way for others and whose performance is measured by how well other members perform in Scrum.
Their guiding light is to help the scrum team, and the organization exploit the potential of Scrum fully.
Skills/Qualities Of A Competent Scrum Master
If you are looking for a competent scrum master or if you are aiming to be one. Here are some of the abilities or expertise you need before you can effectively carry out your duties.
- Knowledgeable: You need to have sufficient knowledge about the industry your organization or team belongs to, about Scrum and its application, and other relevant fields.
- Teamwork & Collaboration: able to work well with others and have a solid understanding of team dynamics and collaboration skills.
- Selfless: A scrum master should not be a self-centred or ego-centric individual as their job requires them to put the needs of others before their own. In addition, the success or failure of a scrum master is hinged on how others perform.
- Certified or Experienced: You need to have been trained by a reputable institution/organization or certified by a verified certification authority.
Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities
In our previous analogy, we described the scrum master as the joints between the various parts of the body (Scrum). As such, besides enabling collaboration like joints, the scrum master also serves and connects the multiple parties/entities involved in Scrum.
Sometimes, the roles and responsibilities of a scrum master can be divided into three categories, which are:
- Roles and Responsibilities to the Organization.
- Roles and Responsibilities to the Product Owner.
- Roles and Responsibilities to the Development Team.
However, because the roles sometimes overlap between the three categories. We are not going to categorize the roles. Instead, we will list them all here.
9 Roles of the Scrum Master
The scrum master serves as the:
- Coach & Educator: The scrum master acts as the teacher as he/she teaches the organization, product owner, and the development team how to adopt and implement Scrum.
- Motivator: The SM should arouse enthusiasm amongst Scrum parties to build and maintain productivity levels.
- Relations Manager: Acts as a go-between the whole organization, including/between departments, and the development team.
- Events Host or Facilitator: The scrum master is the glue or pivot upon which Scrum functions. As such, it falls on the SM to host or ensure that all the required events/ceremonies occur according to the guidelines.
- Shield and Provider: The scrum master must shield the development team from any undue outside interference or interruptions.
- Obstacle & Distraction Remover: The scrum master is responsible for ensuring that the development team has the best possible working conditions for maximum productivity.
- Agile Advocate and Enforcer: The SM acts as the Agile advocate who ensures that the scrum team and the organization follow Scrum values, principles, and processes.
- Product Owner Assistant: The SM assists the product owner during backlog refinement.
- Servant Leader: The scrum master is more interested in how well other team members are working instead of themselves. They are an enabler who focuses on how to help team members achieve their goals.
What a Scrum Master Shouldn’t Do?
There’s a lot of misinformation about the role(s) of a scrum master. As such, to appreciate the full extent of a scrum master’s roles, we need to understand what a scrum master shouldn’t do.
This helps to avoid overwhelming workloads, roles confusion, and other distractions.
Here’s a list of things a scrum master should avoid doing:
- Acting like a project manager, secretary, or leader.
- Not assisting the team with becoming self-managing
- Directly interfering or participating in how the development team tackles a Sprint, project, or increment.
- Choosing sides between different members. At best, the SM acts only as a neutral mediator.
- Not respecting the sanctity of Scrum elements and also not adhering to them.
- Excessive checking or following up on the development team can be misconstrued as your distrust in the development team’s competency.
- Making Scrum decisions alone without consulting the affected parties.
- Putting unrealistic expectations or workloads on the development team during Scrum adoption or implementation.
Usually, this is where I would have ended. Therefore, If all you needed to know was the role of a scrum master, then you might want to stop reading here.
However, you should keep on reading if:
- You want to become a Scrum Master.
- You are looking for a Scrum Master.
- You are already a Scrum Master who wants to stay relevant.
- You are interested in learning more about Scrum.
The following information will definitely prove useful to you.
In the next chapter, we are going to focus on how to become a kickass scrum master.
Also Read: What are Scrum Artifacts? With Examples!
How To Become A Great Scrum Master?
More and more organizations are adopting Scrum or other Agile methodologies. Hence, the demand for people who have abundant experience or mastery of Agile methodologies is rising.
To address this need, we compiled a list of steps you can adopt or modify so that you can be the next great scrum master.
9 Steps To Be A Great Scrum Master:
Step 1: Get the right mindset.
You have probably heard this before, and it’s safe to say that most scrum master candidates are familiar with it. However, a strong mindset does not end at reading the terms and definitions. You will also need to adopt a set of behaviors that are considered by many in the field to be more important than the word itself – A mindset based on openness, enthusiasm, and purpose.
That is to say, the scrum master candidate should focus on positive outcomes and discover the human potential that each team member has. They should push all team members to be their best, and they should push the organization to be the best.
The key is to find a balance between cultivating passion and delivering meaningful results.
Step 2: Understand Scrum
A scrum master is all about ‘servant leadership,’ where the people are the greatest resource to be managed.
Avoid going beyond the limits of Scrum or ignoring some of the foundational principles of Scrum. Anyone can be a scrum master if they can focus only on what’s important and embody Agile/Scrum principles.
Agile methodologies work on the following principles:
- The team works together in an atmosphere of trust, respect, and commitment
- The team is empowered to express the values that underlie their work
- The team continuously looks at the way work is done
- Learning by doing
- Leveraging change
- Good communication
Also Read: Spotify Agile Model Explained
Step 3: Know your tools.
According to the Agile Manifesto, in a Scrum team, five tools constitute the team as a whole:
- Scrum board
- Group task
- Scrum master
For an agile team to work and generate maximum productivity, it requires a lot of care and attention from the scrum master. As a scrum master, you will be the first and one of the most experienced people in your team, so you will have to hold the responsibility of understanding and supporting the whole team.
If you are a senior scrum master, you will be expected to step up to your people and educate them on the most recent methodologies and tools. In addition, you will have to provide training on how to be effective at scrum in a project management context and create and contribute to working models.
Step 4: Learn how to communicate with your team
Knowing your entire team by heart is what will make or break your effectiveness as a Scrum Master. The best way to do this is to have frequent one-on-one meetings with your team and focus on communication.
Sometimes it takes a little more effort than just writing things down and letting them float around. I’m all for face-to-face meetings, however, as they are one of the ways to quickly and easily give feedback and implement ideas in the team’s consensus.
Step 5: Learn how to set expectations and gather feedback
If you’re new to Scrum, it’s hard to know what’s expected of you and your team. Knowing how to answer questions, collect feedback and measure your own productivity can be tricky.
Step 6: Become a good coach.
The most important aspect of becoming a scrum master is the ability to coach a team to achieve its desired performance. In reality, that means providing your team with the feedback, support, and motivation to get them closer to the end goal.
Finding the right coach is hard. organizations interview dozens of scrum masters and found that the people who like to coach are generally people who get something out of it. They look at their clients like they are parts of a puzzle and get satisfaction from knowing that they helped their clients make tangible progress.
Step 7: Show off your passion for Agile methodologies
When interviewing for a scrum master position, interviewers prioritize an SM’s passion for and knowledge of Agile methodologies and an understanding of the tools in use.
You need to be confident that the team under your command is Agile and capable of delivering quick and accurate work that meets the product owner’s requirements. Therefore, you should demonstrate that your team is Agile and make it your mission to make it the best agile team in the organization. You also need to be able to detail the product owner’s requirements since the scrum master is the main user of the product.
In short, your skill and passion for Agile methodologies should shine through in your answers to these questions.
Step 8: Take care of yourself
This means ensuring you have enough time to dedicate to becoming the best version of yourself so that you can present that best version to your colleagues and your organization.
Whether you want to become a Scrum master or any other Agile coach, make sure you get proper rest, as sleep plays a vital role in our day-to-day activities. Get enough exercise, eat healthily, sleep at least eight hours a day, get enough rest and maintain a regular routine.
Here are other things you can do:
- Perform repetitive, creative tasks so you can stay busy and gain mastery.
- Develop and practice basic agile practices (i.e. one product backlog, set of sprints and process mapping).
- Do not avoid valuable projects, do the one thing that makes you uncomfortable and stop until you feel safe doing so.
Step 9: Get certified.
There are a number of reputable options out there that help you be recognized as an officially trained scrum master with experience in applying agile methodologies in the workplace.
For example, these are some of the certifications you can get:
- Certified ScrumMaster: This is a certification for entry-level individuals who want to transition into a scrum master role. The certificate verifies that you understand Scrum and its application in the organization and in teams.
- Advanced Certified ScrumMaster: This is a second-tier certificate for individuals who already possess a Certified ScrumMaster certificate and a minimum of one year of work experience.
- Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster: A peak-level certification for individuals who already possess an Advanced Certified ScrumMaster certification and two years of working experience.
Thanks for reading!