Is Scrum Master role or title?
21st May, 2021
The name ‘Scrum Master’ has been very much in use especially in IT companies. Hence lot many definitions or understandings have also been risen, based on different contexts. Some of them are,
- Scrum Master is a Servant-Leader.
- Scrum Master is responsible for organizing Scrum ceremonies, as per prescribed standards.
- Scrum Master is responsible to improve the team’s productivity.
- Scrum Master is responsible for creating business values.
- Scrum Master is responsible for putting agile practices in place.
- And so, on
Scrum master seems to do play the above role with all teams, but in some teams not. The name scrum master is associated with Scrum Framework, we’ll more focus on Scrum Team.
In a general sense, any team’s performance depends on the below.
- Team Dynamics
- Collective Skills
- Organization Culture
The first three are internal forces and the last one is external force, with respect to a team. None of them can achieve greater heights within a short span of time and require consistent efforts over several months. Scrum is lightweight and simple, but difficult to master. Scrum Master plays an important role for the first three and a partial role at organizational level.
In my perspective, the simplest definition can be; scrum master’s job is to improve the efficiency of the scrum team.
When a team reaches a matured state, the scrum master helps them understand the need for continuous improvement. Even better, if scrum master is able to make a team that can eye on consistent improvements. It’s a never-ending journey and the scrum master journey on this path starts with the ‘Mental Model’. Mental Model of both the individuals and the team. For any transformation, the mental model plays the biggest role. That’s why Scrum Master is also called a ‘Transformation Agent’.
Imagine there is a luxury car in which each component works perfectly fine, but not perfectly coordinated. This car is surely crash-prone and will not be in a driving condition, even in the hand of an efficient driver. Similarly, team coordination also matters, in spite of having best-skilled people in their respective areas.
In my experience, team dynamics are the most important part of mentioned four areas. If a team can figure out the best coordination and collaboration methods among themselves, they can be unbeatable in any situation.
A scrum master identifies the impediments.
A good scrum master helps to overcome impediments.
A great scrum master enables the team to identify and overcome impediments.
Scrum Values (Courage, Openness, Respect, Focus, and commitment) are great way to establish a great team dynamic. The Scrum Master helps the team in upholding Scrum Values and by helping them address team dysfunctions. In this arena, Scrum Master’s coaching skill is a great deal. Coaching is all about using inquiry which can drive a team or individual in the right direction.
In scrum, we need to know two key things
- What is needed to be build? (decided by the Product Owner)
- How it is built? (decided by the Developers)
Scrum master helps PO and the Developers with their responsibilities in building amazing products that sells.
Scrum Master -> Product Owner
- Help in identifying business value
- Help in assessing Risk and Benefits of requirements
- Helping to identify ROI of business functionalities
- Tools and Techniques for creating Product Backlog, producing highest possible business value
- Helping in setting up a business goal for a sprint
Scrum Master -> Developers
- Help in filling the skill gap
- Best practices in software development life cycle
- Engineering best practices
- Optimize processes
Processes are to make everyone's life easy in producing an impeccable high-quality products and scaling things up. I’ve found scrum events are perfect in that. It touches all roles in product development – PO, Developers, Customers, Stakeholders, and everyone involved. Scrum Master's responsibility is to facilitate scrum events consistently in the most effective ways. In the longer run, the scrum master’s responsibility will be to find different ways to conduct these events. If events are monotonous, people will leave the interest which will deteriorate the effectiveness of these events. Every event's effectiveness can be measured from its outcomes. Every event should end up with some key values.
- Sprint Planning – Outcomes are Sprint Goal and a Plan to achieve it
- Daily Scrum – Inspecting the Sprint Goal and adapting the plain on daily basis
- Sprint Review – Feedback from Stakeholders for the Increment and discussion of progress towards Product Goal
- Sprint Retrospective – Outcomes are acction items to improve processes, tools and team dynamics
- Backlog Refinement – Keeping Product Backlog Items ready for upcoming sprints
In this category, the scrum master will act as a process coach and will be figuring out the best possible processes for a team or helping the team to figure out their processes. I find the ‘System Thinking’ approach is best in this case. Every decision should be scrutinized through four quadrants
Short Term Effect
Long Term Effect
Cancer / Debt
If a scrum master is able to develop a ‘System Thinking’ mindset in the team, it may lead very close to a ‘self-organized team’ which is the
If a scrum master is able to develop a ‘System Thinking’ mindset within the team, it will lead close to ‘self-organized team’ which is the ultimate outcome of team building.
This is the only factor that is completely external from the team’s point of view, but important in creating a sustainable team. Usually, humans look up to someone higher than them. In biological terms, human have evolved from apes and still loves to mimic. Marketers use it for their product by putting celebrities in the ads. This mimetic behavior helps humans to inspire, follow, achieve or consume. Similarly, organization culture is a bigger umbrella, and the team’s underlying culture is a part of it. Organizational culture and policies become examples for the team and influence their behavior.
The leader sets the tone of a team.
Team and leaders, both come in the circle of influence of each other. Usually, the team will try to imitate their leader, in alignment with their personal goals. Hence, it is important to set the right examples to build a great team. That’s why it is considered important that ‘Agile Values and Principles’ should come from Top to Bottom. In this area, Scrum Master plays an organization coach to influence and helps the organization towards agility.
In the end, Empiricism is the heart of Agility. Infusion of Empiricism at every level and in every individual is really important. A great team is a by-product of the values, principles, and mental model, which is the scrum master’s responsibility to impart.