Roles in Scrum – Attitudes & Traits

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Most people who have heard of Scrum will know the roles involved, at a minimum.  However, they may not know the attitudes and traits that are important for the roles.  This

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article is an excerpt from the book, “Scrum for the Rest of Us,” by Brian Rabon that will define some of the attitudes and traits that great Scrum practitioners have.

ScrumMaster

If one sentence were used to sum up the duties of the ScrumMaster, it is that they facilitate the Scrum process as a Servant Leader (someone who leads by first taking care of others’ needs).  A ScrumMaster works hand-in-hand with the Product Owner to act as an Information Radiator to the Stakeholders and clears Roadblocks out of the Team’s way.

Key Attitude

“I don’t succeed unless the Team succeeds. My mission in life is to grease the wheels and ensure that everyone is playing nice and that the process is running smoothly.” – ScrumMaster

Traits of an Effective ScrumMaster
  • Humble with no need to take credit for the Team’s work. They get all their satisfaction from seeing the team succeed
  • Servant Leader who puts the needs of the Team ahead of his/her own, and is willing to do what it takes to help the team succeed
  • Diligently pursues any obstacle blocking the Team’s progress and will not stop until the obstacle is removed
  • Advocates for the Team, Product Owner, and the Scrum process throughout the organization
  • Loyal to the Team, the Product, and the Organization

Product Owner

The Product Owner has strategic oversight of the Return on Investment (ROI) for the Product.  They are involved in Product Planning through Visioning, Road-Mapping, and Release Planning.  In general, the Product Owner works with Stakeholders and project sponsors to perform strategic planning.

The Product Owner is also responsible for the Product Backlog.  They own it, maintain it, and prioritize it (Note: Some say that the Product Backlog is Ordered, not Prioritized). They always assure that the needs of the Stakeholders are being best presented to the Team for implementation within the Sprints.

Key Attitude

“I own this Product and I want to see it succeed.  I will only ask the Team to build what has Business Value and an ROI for my organization.  I am a consensus builder, and I love marketing and selling the value of what the Team has accomplished.” – Product Owner

Traits of an Effective Product Owner
  • Loves to communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Able to see the big picture
  • Adept and nimble at navigating the political waters
  • Holds admiration and respect from the key Stakeholders (Don’t worry: this takes time to develop)
  • Has a passion for the Product and markets and sells it to everyone
  • Willing to make decisions at the last responsible moment
  • Likes to spend time with the Team and answer their questions
  • Not afraid to get into the weeds from time-to-time

Team Member

Think of the Team Member as someone who does the work of developing the Product. A Team is ideally comprised of 5 to 9 members (7 +/- 2).  The three primary characteristics of the Team are that they are Cross-Functional – diverse skill sets on the Team, Self-Orgaznizing – everyone decides what type of work they would like to do, and Self-Managing – they decide their own tasks and the order in which to accomplish them.

Key Attitude

“I do my work, and I do it well, but my race isn’t won until all my fellow Team Members cross the finish line with me.  We win as a Team. I check my title (as well as my ego) at the door; I am willing to do whatever it takes to help the Team succeed, even if that means working outside my area of expertise or comfort zone.” – Team Member

Traits of an Effective Team Member
  • “T-Shaped” person: someone who has deep knowledge in one or two areas, but is also skilled across multiple domains (a Specializing Generalist)
  • Craftsperson who is a career professional and takes pride in doing quality work
  • Team player who enjoys the camaraderie of working with others on challenging problems
  • An open individual who is willing to share the honest truth (the good, bad, and the ugly) of how they are doing at all times
  • Someone who isn’t afraid to ask for help when they need it.

We realize that it is often difficult to find all of the traits in a single person.  These traits can be learned and should be considered a “model” for excellence.  Are there other traits that you specifically look for in the roles in your Scrum teams?  We would love to hear about them.