If one sentence were used to sum up the duties of the Scrum Master, it is that they facilitate the Scrum process as a true leader, for the Scrum Team and the organization. A Scrum Master works hand-in-hand with the Product Owner to ensure that the highest value items are defined and refined for the team. The Scrum Master serves to help the Scrum Team Developers effectively engage the Sprint with the Scrum process while coaching the Scrum Team in self-management and cross-functionality. While the Scrum Master is not the manager of the Scrum Team, they do serve to guide the Team in their execution of the Scrum process.
Traits of An Effective Scrum Master
Humble, with no need to take credit for the Team’s work. They get all their satisfaction from seeing the Scrum Team succeed.
A leader who puts the needs of the Scrum Team ahead of theirs and is willing to do what it takes to help them succeed.
Diligently pursues any obstacle blocking the Team’s progress and seeks solutions to remove the obstacle.
Advocates for the Team, Product Owner, and the Scrum process throughout the organization.
Loyal to the Team, the Product, and the Organization.
A trainer for the Scrum Process to the Scrum Team members and the Organization.
How The Scrum Master Participates In The Sprint
During the first half of Sprint Planning (The “What” conversation), the Scrum Master works with the Product Owner and Team Members to facilitate the selection of an appropriate amount of Product Backlog Items (based on the Teams historical Velocity) from the Product Backlog that will be included in the Sprint.
During the second half of Sprint Planning (the “How” conversation), the Scrum Master serves as advisor and coach to assist the Team Members with decomposing the Sprint Backlog Items into Tasks and the effort required for those Tasks. At this time, the Scrum Master looks at Team capacity to make sure that they aren’t over-committing.
Finally, there is an entire Scrum Team discussion as to the “Why” this sprint is valuable and a Sprint Goal is discussed and agreed to by the Scrum Team.
The Scrum Master participates in the Daily Scrum meetings only to the extent that the Team Members need. The primary added value for the Scrum Master during the Daily Scrum meetings is to clear any roadblocks or obstacles that are impeding the Team’s progress. As Team Members complete Product Backlog Items from the Sprint Backlog, they update each other and move Tasks along the Scrum Board, if used. The Scrum Master may also facilitate this process if needed to assist the Team Members.
Once all of the Sprint Backlog Items have been completed, the Scrum Master accompanies the Product Owner and Team Members to the Sprint Review meeting. The Scrum Master takes a backseat to the Team and the Product Owner during the Sprint Review, helping out when needed. After the Sprint Review, the Scrum Master facilitates the Sprint Retrospective, where they help the Team focus in on what is needed to improve their performance for the next Sprint (the people, the process, the tools; what is working well and what changes could be made to improve).
So, while it may appear that the Scrum Master has no real power or authority, their role is no less important to the success of the Team. The guide, trainer, coach and facilitator roles played by the Scrum Master ensure that the Team runs as smoothly as possible.