31 July 2019 | Produced by Kandy Shaw
In a previous post; ‘What is Scrum Master and what are the Benefits of Getting a Scrum Master Qualification?’ I said that I would describe the Scrum Master’s role in more detail. Well, here, as promised is that description. In this post, however, the focus is on the Scrum Master as a servant leader, but in a follow-up post the focus will be on what makes a good Scrum Master.
Scrum, as I explained before, encourages collaboration and active involvement of all team members. This creates an enjoyable working atmosphere and a better standard of work. Successful use of this framework depends on the team’s adherence to the 5 Scrum values of courage, focus, commitment, respect and openness. This is where the Scrum Master comes in; it is their responsibility to drive the Scrum framework within their organisation by coaching, teaching and assisting team members to adopt it to its fullest potential. Effective adoption of this framework also means more effective product and solution development, so it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Scrum Master is different to project manager
The Scrum Master is a servant leader, which is a slightly different role to that of a traditional project manager. The latter would direct the team, delegate tasks to specific members and take ‘most of the heat’ if a problem should arise. In order to ensure the success of the project a project manager may decide to delegate tasks to another member of staff if one member is underperforming. As such, the project manager is both coordinator and decision maker for the team. The success of the project, therefore, relies heavily on the performance and managerial skills of the project manager.
In contrast, the Scrum Master as a servant leader will encourage the Scrum team to make decisions but will not themselves make decisions on behalf of the team. To do so would mean that the team would not be a self-organised one, but rather a managed one. In the Scrum framework, The Scrum Master, the Scrum Team and the Product Owner (PO) all share the same level of accountability. Each of them understands their specific role and each of them is equally accountable for the success or failure of the project.
That they are a servant leader, as oppose to project manager, the Scrum Master, as I have already explained is responsible for promoting the Scrum framework by helping everyone understand its’ theory, practices, rules and values. ‘Everyone’ includes the organisation they work for, the Scrum team, the stakeholders and the PO. Basically, the Scrum Master ensures that everyone involved with the product is singing from the same sheet.
The Scrum Master Serves Everyone
Image Source: Gravity IT
Organisation: The Scrum Master is a servant to the organisation in several ways. They work with senior management, Human Resources and any other department to plan and implement the necessary organisational changes that are required by Scrum within the workplace. They lead, coach and help both employees and stakeholders understand the Scrum processes of empirical product development. They embrace changes that increase the productivity of the team, unlike a traditional project manager who follows a set plan. In Scrum a failure is something to be learned from whereas for a traditional project manager, failure could be devastating. The Scrum Master may sometimes work with other Scrum Masters within the organisation in order to increase the effectiveness of the Scrum application across all departments.
Team: As servant leader to the team, the Scrum Master focuses on helping it be the best that it can be by ensuring that every member understands the requirements and scope of the project. They make sure that everyone has the right tools and technical skills to be able to perform efficiently. They help the team to collaborate effectively so that they can create realistic commitments and product increments.
Because the Scrum Master does not have to delegate roles and actions as a project manager would do, the team becomes stable and dedicated. They are able to decide for themselves who will work on what during the Sprint. This allows the Scrum Master time to provide team members with opportunities to improve their technical skills by identifying tools and resources they can use to accomplish their goals. The Scrum Master encourages them to try new technologies and to learn from each other.
Finally, the Scrum Master helps the team organise its own work and guides each member in breaking through any issues or impediments. By acting merely as a guide and letting the team resolve any issues themselves, the teams’ problem-solving skills are improved. Serving as an interface between the team and any outside influences or distractions, the Scrum Master makes it possible for team members to work independently without their focus on the goal of the Sprint being impaired.
Stakeholder: As servant to the stakeholder, the Scrum Master educates them in what is new and different in Scrum. By doing so, they generate the stakeholders’ support and their buy-in to the process and product. They help stakeholders understand which interactions are helpful to the team and which are not and then help everyone; the stakeholders, the Team and the PO change these interactions to maximise the value created by the team. As I said earlier, the Scrum Master embraces changes and these interactions usually bring changes about.
Product Owner: The last, but not least important servant role of the Scrum Master is to assist the Product Owner (PO) in finding a system that enables the team to accomplish tasks effectively and efficiently. As they do with the Scrum Team, the Scrum Master helps the PO to find the right agile tools and techniques for effective product backlog management. As well as this, they help them to understand product planning in the empirical environment.
They ensure that the PO can arrange the product backlog in a way that will maximise value. Supporting the PO in this way allows the latter to focus on their job and ensures that the right product with the right user experience and features is created. The Scrum Master will also encourage the Scrum team to be involved in supporting the PO as well.
What the Scrum Master’s role requires
A certified Scrum Master (CSM) will encourage and help their team to perform at the highest level possible. To do this effectively, the role normally requires not only the CSM certificate but also a minimum of ten years business management experience and approximately three to five years’ experience as a Scrum Master.
A Scrum Master must demonstrate a strong knowledge of Agile processes, concepts and principles. They must also have excellent interpersonal, multi-tasking and analytical skills if they are going to fuel collaboration and success among team members (this again is to be the focus of a future post). Finally, the Scrum Master must also be able to work well both within the team environment and independently.
So, now I have outlined the Scrum Master’s role as servant leader, look out for my next post ‘What makes a good Scrum Master: the do’s and don’ts of the Scrum Master’s Role’.