The Scrum Master might sound like some role-playing game character, but it is actually a leadership figure that is becoming more and more important.
Many organizations today work using an Agile methodology, mainly Scrum.
- What is a Scrum Master?
- 5 Scrum master responsibilities
- 1. Team members coach
- 2. Moderate daily meetings
- 3. Assist the product manager with the product backlog
- 4. Remove blocks
- 5. Teach Scrum practices and principles
- Top qualities of a successful Scrum Master
As we have already seen in several articles, the Scrum methodology is a subsection of the Agile methodology. The development team sets objectives in clearly defined iterative cycles and each iteration provides small but significant pieces of an overall project.
However, many organizations are not concerned about having a Scrum Master.
Many companies are confident that their team is already able to deliver Scrum, and the opportunity to save costs leads them to overlook the addition of this role.
Is it really so? Often the economic leverage has the upper hand in the short term but it turns out to be a double-edged sword especially in larger time spans and structured projects, where it is necessary to adapt situations and respond to unforeseen events.
What is a Scrum Master?
The Scrum Master is the team member in charge of managing the Scrum process.
Please note: this role is generally not involved in the decision-making process, but acts as a leading light to guide the team in the process with its experience and expertise.
5 Scrum master responsibilities
1. Team members coach
The Scrum Master ensures that team members are thoroughly trained and fully understand Agile processes. It also ensures that team members know their roles, have a sense of belonging to the project and that the teams are self-managed.
2. Moderate daily meetings
The so-called Daily Scrum meetings don’t take more than 15 minutes and give each team member the opportunity to answer these questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What is stopping your progress?
Team members may be asked to calculate the time they will require to complete specific tasks.
The Scrum Master hosts this meeting, keeps track of the team’s progress and identifies any obstacles that might preclude certain activities from being completed.
3. Assist the product manager with the product backlog
The product manager is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the product backlog, a summary of what the team has to perform for the output achievement.
The Scrum Master then helps the product manager to refine and maintain this product backlog using the information gathered during daily meetings with the team.
4. Remove blocks
To help the team stay focused on what they have to do, the Scrum master identifies any potential blockages that may impede progress.
For example, if team members get tangled up in too many irrelevant meetings, the Scrum Master can step in to determine who really needs to attend.
5. Teach Scrum practices and principles
To assure that work does not slow down, a key role of the Scrum Master is mentoring and teaching new team members.
As a teacher, they help them understand the purpose and vision of a product and ensure that team members understand the Agile approach, and that they adhere to its practices and rules.
It is important to emphasize that the Scrum master, in general, is not directly accountable for people management or project results.
Top qualities of a successful Scrum Master
A Scrum Master leads various Scrum teams who are working on a project to achieve specific goals and end results. Therefore, they must be able to motivate multiple groups and stakeholders at the organizational level, maximizing everyone’s potential. The Scrum Master must therefore possess strong leadership and organizational skills.
The Scrum Master is not a manager, but rather a team member and facilitator; he should therefore be a good listener and pay attention to the challenges that the project team faces at every stage of the process. The Scrum Master should also be mindful of the daily activities of the team to get a clear picture of the roles and contributions of each individual member.
Besides the resolution and problems that may arise, the Scrum Master should also proactively prevent potential problems. This requires a general knowledge of the product and process.
After having seen what a Scrum Master is, what are its responsibilities and characteristics, here are some questions that an organization should ask itself to understand if the time has come to introduce this role in its staff:
- Are the processes delivering results that do not achieve goals?
- Does the team often face a blockage and doesn’t know how to move forward?
- Are team members unsure about how and why they are failing to achieve their goals?
- Is development constantly overwhelmed?
- Do people not feel appreciated or see any value in their work?
If the answer to at least two of these questions is yes, it is probably time to consider hiring a Scrum Master.