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What is a Scrum Master? The role and its responsibilities

Scrum Master

Scrum is currently the most recognized and desired framework in company management which provides guidance on how to manage and improve processes of software delivery. It can be used in different industries but basically, Scrum was dedicated to the IT industry. Its goal is to deliver the highest quality of the product, thanks to resolving problems in flexible and creative ways.These guidelines were established in order to achieve effective team cooperation in a complex product.

It is said that Scrum is easy to understand but difficult to master. This is why introducing the framework in a company needs some kind of a leader who will implement it efficiently and take care of its proper use.

 

The Scrum framework has been regulated and written down in the Scrum Guide, which is a kind of a bible for agile software development. The document defines and describes each area of the framework’s use. We can find detailed descriptions of each team role, artifact, event, and rule which make up the framework’s essence.

Scrum is often confused with a methodology but it is not a defined technique, process, or a concrete method. It is rather a scheme indicating the possibility of using a variety of methods or techniques while sticking to established principles.

As mentioned above, the Scrum framework provides team roles. There are three main ones specified in the Scrum Guide: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Development Team.

 

You can read more about all roles in Scrum in our other article: Scrum Team Roles.

 

The Scrum Master isn’t a role for everyone. To perform this function well, one needs to be a person with comprehensive skills — both technical and soft ones. Besides being the framework’s watchman, he should be also a trusted leader to his team.

 

The Scrum Master’s responsibilities

 

ScrumFramework image

 

The Scrum Master’s key duty is to care about the correct use and proper understanding of the framework in the company. It means that he/she supports the distribution of Scrum knowledge throughout the whole organization. So, the Scrum Master is a coach. How can he gather this? The most popular method of knowledge-sharing among employees is workshops, individual training, sharing online/ offline bases with materials, or sending a newsletter. More unconventional methods include sticking flashcards or posters in office spaces that are the most attended by employees.

The next important role of the Scrum Master is to eliminate all obstacles encountered by the Development Team during the Sprint. In short — this means solving various problems, such as trying to “rent” a developer for a few hours by a manager from another department of the company. It’s a kind of pulling the employee away from their duties which can affect the team’s tasks. Such actions are not allowed and the Scrum Master has to promote correct actions.

He is also responsible for keeping communication effective. He also should systematically teach people outside the Scrum Team what interactions can be helpful in supporting the Development Team and which of them simply disturb. Moreover, he participates in Scrum events, some of which he organizes. Sometimes, it is enough just to make sure that the other events will take place.

 

Cooperation with the Product Owner and the Development Team

 

The Scrum Master has to cooperate with every Scrum role, but he has his own framework in this area.

  • He helps in product’s backlog management in order to maximize its business value.
  • He ensures that backlog elements are concise and clear for each team member.
  • He doesn’t manage the Development Team’s work and its progress but supports cooperation and self-organization.
  • He removes obstacles in the Development Team’s work in order to ensure its uninterrupted work.
  • He ensures efficient communication by keeping proper knowledge-sharing between the Product Owner and the Development Team.

 

The Scrum Master in the Organization

 

The Scrum Master is called “an evangelist”. It is because he spends most of his professional life teaching and spreading the idea of Scrum and agile software development among employees, especially those who are directly involved in product development. He is an expert and a knowledge base on the topic. Scrum Masters are often hired by enterprises in a situation when they want to use the framework in the organization but need support in its proper introduction. It confirms the statement mentioned at the beginning: “Scrum is easy to understand but difficult to master”.

 

Agile methodology scrum team

 

Scrum Master — the most important attributes

 

  1. Courage 
    • To take on challenges
    • To be assertive
    • To protect the Development Team from obstacles
    • To make changes
    • To improve
  2. Responsible
    • To improve the team’s effectiveness
    • To take as many benefits from the Scrum’s framework as possible
  3. Ability to keep cool
    • He can’t lose control
    • He has to resolve every problem
  4. Open-minded — able to adjust, flexibility
  5. Ability to observe 
    • Able to draw proper conclusions
    • He should spend some time observing the team and its work environment
    • Looks for new and the best solutions
    • Finds areas that need improvement
    • Wants to learn
  6. A good politician
    • He knows proper people in the organization and knows where to go in case of problems
  7. He should be a technical person
    • With technical basics, he will be able to resolve problems that can block the Development Team
    • With proper nomenclature knowledge, he will be able to communicate with the Team more efficiently.

 

The common mistakes of the Scrum Master

 

There are many mistakes made especially by beginner Scrum Masters. Mistakes can also be caused by not understanding the framework and its roles correctly.

First, Scrum Masters trying to be taskmasters. Sometimes, poor knowledge of others on agile software development can require Scrum Masters to become task managers. Task management led by the Scrum Master can be a reason for the team’s laziness and lack of motivation to self-organize the work. Such a situation can provoke a return to the classic model of project management with a project manager and his team. In the Scrum framework, the Development Team members’ work is organized by them. The Scrum Master has no duty to participate in the daily Scrum meetings, and he should not manage the task board.

The second common mistake is to treat the Scrum Master as a technical leader. The technical knowledge obtained can be a great asset but it shouldn’t enable the Scrum Master to discuss the technical ways of resolving tasks with the team and force his point of view. His role is to teach them how to work in accordance with the framework and how to use it properly. He shouldn’t take part in technical discussions unless he is asked to do so.

 

Scrum Master — Frequently Asked Questions

 

  • Can the Scrum Master work with several Scrum teams?

 

Yes. But it is recommended that one Scrum Master takes care of one project (two at maximum), so he should be working with one team but it is allowed to cooperate with several teams. To be really good at it, the Scrum Master needs to focus on only one team.

 

  • Why ex-project leaders aren’t always good Scrum Masters?

 

The Scrum Master’s role is a totally new idea. It is all about supporting the team in software development processes, not managing them. He is rather a coach, not a manager. The project manager leads the team, projects, he plans the work and makes decisions regarding the next steps — in contrast to the Scrum Master.

 

  • Can the Scrum Master and the Product Owner role be combined?

 

Yes, it is possible, but not recommended.

Those two roles focus on two different goals of the project. Both require full-time, so holding these two roles can be overwhelming.

 

  • Are there any courses or certificates for the Scrum Master?

 

Yes, Scrum.org provides preparation courses and certificates for future Scrum Masters. After the passed assessment, a candidate gathers the Professional Scrum Master badge.

 

More about the training and certificate for PSM I, you will find here.