If you have even a small amount of knowledge about Scrum, you may be familiar with the concept of a Scrum Team and the roles within the Team—the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the Developers. But like any career, you can’t just place people in any role and expect things to run smoothly. You need to match the person, their skills, and their personality to the role and the responsibilities.
As a Refresher…
In Scrum, there are 3 primary roles: the Team, a group of individuals who get the work done, the Product Owner, who represents the Stakeholders’ desires to the Team, and the ScrumMaster, who focuses on helping the Team maximize their productivity through constant improvement. Everyone else is considered a Stakeholder and their input is valued and needed throughout the process.
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 (someone who leads by first taking care of others’ needs). A Scrum Master 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.
“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.” – Scrum Master
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 Team succeed
- True 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
Common Scrum Master Questions
Q: The Scrum Master should be the Project Manager or Team Lead right?
A: While many Scrum Masters come from roles like Project Manager or Team Lead, they don’t have to. The best candidate for Scrum Master is someone who is qualified to fulfill the position and is motivated to help the Team succeed.
Q: Can the Scrum Master serve multiple Teams at one time?
A: Can you brush your teeth, fix your hair, and drive to work at the same time? The more Teams that one Scrum Master serves, the less effective they will be in their role. The one caveat to this is mature Teams. Once a Team is firing on all cylinders, they may not need as much time and attention from their Scrum Master. In this case, the Scrum Master can look for another Team to help or may turn their focus to coaching others in their Organization.
Q: Since the Scrum Master just facilitates the meetings, they can be part-time, right?
A: A part-time Scrum Master can give a part-time effort to the role and perhaps even accomplish the basics. However, a full-time dedicated Scrum Master can help the Team achieve previously unheard of levels of productivity.
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 ensure that the needs of the Stakeholders are being best presented to the Team for implementation within the Sprints.
“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
Common Product Owner Questions
Q: Where does the Product Owner come from?
A: The best Product Owners come from the Business side of the house and are authorized by management to make decisions on their behalf.
Q: Our Product Owner is our Business Analyst. Is that ok?
A: Having a Business Analyst as a Product Owner is better than not having a Product owner at all, but it is not ideal. Business Analysts may lack the big picture and spend too much time in the details to be as effective as a true business Product Owner.
Q: What happens when we don’t have the support of the business, and they won’t give us a Product Owner?
A: Run away? Seriously, it can take time to win the support of the business. The Scrum Master should spend time educating management on the need for the business to provide a dedicated Product Owner and explain the benefits they will receive for their investment.
Think of the Developer as someone who does the work of s the Product. A Development 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-Organizing – 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.
“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.” – Developer
TRAITS OF AN EFFECTIVE Developer
- “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.
ROLES IN SCRUM
Previously, the Development Team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner had responsibilities, which a lot of us translated into roles. The problem was that these roles were not clear at saying these were accountabilities of the three roles. But despite not using the word “accountabilities,” the Development Team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner always had things within the Scrum Team and the Scrum framework that they were accountable for ensuring took place during a Sprint. The Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team, are accountable for specific areas which require specific skillsets. At the same time, they need to collaborate together to deliver maximum value for qeach Sprint.