In today’s fast-paced development environment, the popularity of agile approaches has been overgrowing. Scrum, one of the most popular frameworks of Agile, introduces a crucial leadership role called the Scrum Master. In this article, we will explore the role and responsibility of the Scrum Master, focusing on what is required from them in the industry rather than what is documented in the Scrum Guide. Our exploration is based on various job descriptions for the Scrum Master role and observations of what Scrum Masters do in the industry.
It’s important to note that the role of a Scrum Master may vary depending on the organization’s specific needs. Therefore, studying an organization’s job description in detail is recommended. Moreover, the person playing the role of a Scrum Master may be playing additional roles as well. However, this article will focus on the Scrum Master role’s competencies and responsibilities.
The Scrum Master is a leader and coach for a Scrum team, responsible for facilitating product development by creating an environment suitable for development and removing impediments that may come in the way. The Scrum Master facilitates collaboration and decision-making within the team and supports them in delivering value. They help educate the team on Scrum, Built-in-Quality, Collaboration, and communication and ensure the agreed Agile processes are followed. They also foster an environment for high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and continuous improvement by removing impediments.
Skills and Competencies of a Scrum Master
To be an effective Scrum Master, one needs to possess a diverse range of skills and competencies to lead their team towards success in Agile project management. From emotional intelligence to meeting facilitation skills, let’s take a closer look at the essential skills and details for each of them:
- Emotional intelligence: The Scrum Master must have the ability to understand and empathize with the team members’ beliefs or feelings. They should be self-aware and capable of dealing with the strong emotions of team members. Developing trust among team members and with self is crucial.
- Eye for details and trends: The Scrum Master should be able to analyze metrics like burndown chart, defects trends, and value delivery regularly to identify delays and wastes. They should also have skills in system thinking and problem-solving techniques to identify problems and risks and resolve them in a timely manner.
- Excellent communication: The Scrum Master should be able to communicate for impact and action. They should be able to work well with stakeholders to ensure stakeholder engagement and support. They should be able to present organizational-level impediments well to get support and provide feedback that creates impact and growth.
- Conflict navigation: The Scrum Master should enable team members to learn how to resolve interpersonal conflicts, problem-solving, and decision-making. They should be able to facilitate conflict navigation, ensuring healthy conflict in the team and timely resolution of team conflicts, leading to the development of high-performing teams.
- Facilitative leadership: The Scrum Master should influence rather than use authority, leading the team in value delivered by creating an environment of customer focus, collaboration, fast feedback, engagement, and accountability.
- Coaching and Mentoring: The Scrum Master should be skilled in coaching and mentoring team members, the Product Owner, and stakeholders. They should assist in understanding the Scrum framework and their roles within it, ensuring that everyone is aligned towards achieving the team’s goals.
- Ensuring transparency in all processes: The Scrum Master must create transparent systems and processes where issues and impediments are exposed quickly. They help the team provide transparency by ensuring artifacts are owned collectively, inspected and improved collaboratively.
- Deep understanding of Agile values and principles: The Scrum Master should have a comprehensive understanding of Agile values and principles and how they can be applied to achieve success in the Scrum team.
- Proficient in Scrum Framework: The Scrum Master should be an expert in Scrum methodology, including its roles, events, and artifacts, and have the ability to mentor and train Scrum teams on best practices.
- Adept at using various Scrum techniques: The Scrum Master should be skilled in using various Scrum techniques, such as refinement, story splitting, estimation, velocity, retrospection, and others, to effectively guide Scrum teams towards achieving their objectives.
- Familiarity with virtual productivity tools: The Scrum Master should be familiar with virtual productivity tools such as Jira, Trello, Asana, Zoom, Miro, and Google Jamboard, enabling them to manage Agile processes, facilitate communication and collaboration, and ensure effective remote teamwork.
- Excellent meeting facilitation skills: The Scrum Master should possess strong meeting facilitation skills, including setting goals and agendas, keeping the meeting on track, promoting participation and engagement, and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard. These skills enable them to facilitate effective meetings within the Scrum team, resulting in increased productivity and collaboration.
Scrum Master’s Responsibilities
As a Scrum Master’s role is critical in ensuring the Scrum team’s success, and a Scrum Master’s responsibilities are vast and varied. Let’s break them down into seven areas of focus:
- Proactively identify and resolve team impediments
- Ensure transparent processes exist to make impediments visible
- Ensure the team understands the importance of build-in quality
- Ensure the team follows the Definition of Done (DoD), which enables incremental delivery
- Ensure early and often feedback by engaging stakeholders and the team on various Scrum events
- Ensure the team is inspecting and adapting regularly
- Teach teams to develop working agreements for the team and external stakeholders to manage expectations
- Navigate conflicts
- Develop the skills and competencies of Scrum team members
- Coach self-organization and cross-functionality in the developers
- Coach the developers in organizational environments
- Facilitate Training, Mentoring and Coaching of Team members on Technical Practices
- Support team members in accessing their strengths and weakness.
- Develop and Maintain Individual Team Members’ Development Plans.
- Influence and Motivate Team members for continuous improvement.
- Teach Team Members about Managing Conflicts
Developing High-Performing Teams:
- Help the Team in creating Working Agreement / Team Charter
- Teach/ Mentor Team on adhering to Working Agreements
- Develop Decision-Making Competencies in Team
- Facilitate Team Building activities leading to building trust.
- Develop Team skills in planning and monitoring their work
- Develop Individual and Team Accountability
- Facilitate the Team’s assessment of their strength and weakness using team performance assessments.
- Teach the Team to reflect on the regular frequency and improve.
- Coach self-organization and cross-functionality in the Team.
- Apply appropriate leadership style based on the team development stage.
- Act as a leader who coaches and supports teams.
Supporting Value Alignment:
- Help the Product Owner communicate with the Scrum Team.
- Ensure that the Product Owner maximizes product value.
- Help the Product Owner in creating small and incremental product requirements.
- Teach Product Owner agile requirement techniques like User Story, Epic, Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
- Ensure all types of requirements get attention, like functional, non-functional, quality, compliance, transition etc.
- Teach / Mentor Product Owner on Backlog Prioritization
- Partner with the Product Owner in Coaching the team on Customer-Centricity
- Partner with the Product Owner in ensuring stakeholders’ engagement in Sprint Reviews
- Facilitate stakeholder collaboration with frequent engagement
- Facilitate Incremental Value Delivery
- Ensure systems are in place to measure flow efficiency
- Facilitate collection of metrics like Burndown Chart, Velocity
- Teach and Mentor Team on Quality Practices to ensure Build in Quality
- Enable Team members on automation and productivity tools
- Ensure the Definition of Done (DoD) helps in developing releasable Increment
- Work with the team to Establish Processes and Practices to ensure fast and frequent delivery
- Promote Technical Practices (example BDD, TDD , CI etc) for Build-In Quality
- Train, mentor, and coach the Scrum Team and Stakeholders on Agile/Scrum practices.
- Ensure that Scrum is understood and the team adheres to Scrum theory, practice, and guidelines.
- Collaborate with other Scrum Masters to strengthen the effectiveness of the Scrum application in the organization.
- Identify and Resolve Organizational impediments to agility
- Active Participation in Agile Community of Practice.
- Lead and coach organizations in their Scrum adoption.
- Influence and drive decision-making to support agility
Supporting Sprint Execution:
- Executing Scrum events , To ensure that Scrum events are effective and help the team deliver value, the Scrum Master demonstrates strong facilitation skills. In addition to conducting events themselves, they should educate other team members on effectively facilitating team events.
- Sprint Planning, it is important to ensure that everyone collaborates in planning the upcoming timebox/sprint to address the most valuable items in an efficient way. The team should consider the current state of the product, the product backlog items, capacity, and the definition of done when arriving at the sprint backlog. The Scrum Master should also help the team understand the importance of the sprint goal and assist in drafting it.
- Daily Scrum, the Scrum Master should ensure that the team reflects on their progress towards the sprint goal every day. In addition, they should teach effective facilitation techniques to team members so they can conduct their daily standup to achieve inspection and adaptation. When necessary, the Scrum Master should demonstrate good daily Scrum facilitation skills.
- Sprint Review, it is essential to ensure that the team reflects on the done increment of the product. The right participants should be invited and present at the Sprint Review, and the Scrum Master should assist the product owner and team in showcasing the state of the product to generate feedback. Feedback should be tracked, and the Scrum Master should prepare the meeting minutes to ensure stakeholders can review and reflect on discussions held during the Sprint Review. Effective facilitation of the Sprint Review is primarily the responsibility of the Scrum Master and Product Owner. The Scrum Master is also expected to present some of the metrics in the Sprint Review.
- Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum Master should ensure that the team applies the right tools to reflect on their process and progress. They should facilitate the Sprint Retrospective using a variety of techniques to ensure freshness and engagement. The Scrum Master should also complete reports and other metrics to be reviewed as part of retrospectives.
- Backlog Refinement, the Scrum Master should assist the Product Owner in doing effective backlog refinement. It should be done just-in-time and result in fine-grain requirements for coming sprints. The Scrum Master should also assist in story point estimation and story splitting.
- Ensuring Open Communication and Collaboration in Scrum Team
- Protecting the Team from distractions
- Helping the Team in managing dependencies
- Ensure Knowledge sharing
- Ensure access to required resources
In Conclusion, Your role as a Scrum Master is to support the team, ensure they adhere to Agile processes, and promote a culture of continuous improvement. You will help the team deliver high-quality work efficiently and effectively by fulfilling these responsibilities. Two of our training programs can help you understand the role and responsibilities of Scrum Master, Certified Scrum Master (CSM), educate you on standard theories and techniques to improve your scrum master skills, Industry Enabled Scrum Master (IESM), this program helps in learning the tools which are commonly used in Industry for performing Scrum Master role.