The Guide to the Scrum Galaxy.
Part 3. The Scrum Master

The rules of work described earlier may seem awkward. For everyone. This is a rather serious change in the work of the team, as well as in its interaction outside. Any change is a stressful process and people usually resist to it. So how can one make drastic changes, organize work with new rules and techniques and succeed? That is where the scrum master comes in.

What is NOT a scrum master?

A scrum master may sound like a character in RPGs. It’s a demanding job deeply rooted in leadership though. But still the role of the scrum master is one of the most underrated in Scrum and Agile. Most beginners see no value in the scrum master working full-time, and in order to “put them to work” this position is combined with the developer or tester duties. This is one of the most common mistakes in understanding the role of the scrum master. They say: “Ok, the team members produce software and work hard. They must develop cross-functionality and help each other. Must cooperate. And they really do a great job all the time. We also appreciate the role of the product owner, because this person defines common vision and coordinates requirements with customers. But what about the scrum master? What is he responsible for?” In this context, the scrum master often turns into just a secretary - a rather boring position, isn’t it? They take care of the cards on the scrum board, remove any obstacles on their own and are close to starting making coffee for the team while it is focused solely on work.

Another very common erroneous approach can be observed in some big companies switching to Scrum. In this case, the role of the scrum master may be taken by a “random” person. They say: “We need a scrum master to embody Scrum, right? But we cannot use a good developer or tester for this, because they have to do programming / testing.” And there’s a strong possibility that some least-qualified, quiet person becomes a scrum master simply because they don’t look too good for developers.

A good scrum master shouldn’t be considered as an additional cost. They should be considered as people contributing to the rapid growth of the team productivity. After all, the scrum master aims to create not just a good, but highly productive team. And in such a team the scrum-master more than pays off.

So what is a scrum master?

The scrum master’s main responsibility is to organize an effective process. The scrum master and the product owner complement each other. The product owner aims to create a better product, the scrum master aims to set up the right process. The right process leads to the right result. The scrum master is supposed to turn a group of individuals into a self-organizing team able to respond effectively to any challenges in the development.

The scrum master, as well as the product owner, should combine various roles at the same time:

  • a servant leader - provides a better understanding and implementation of the Scrum processes, transparency and trust, removes obstacles.
  • a coach - encourages the individuals and teams to unlock their potential and resolve conflicts.
  • a facilitator - helps the group identify common goals and achieve them while remaining neutral on the matter.
  • a teacher - enables the team to study new ways to organize their work better and more efficiently.
  • a manager - eliminates obstacles, has a great impact on the team’s development, helps on building the culture of the team.
  • a change agent - assists in making changes both inside and outside the team.
Summary

If you carefully study Scrum, the principles behind it are very logical. Briefly summarizing the roles of the team to create something new, Scrum suggests to:

  • find the person solely responsible for the product - the product owner. To give them all necessary authority.
  • assemble a team with all the skills necessary to create a product.
  • to find a scrum master who has the best practitioners and is able to create an effective self-organizing team from them. They teach them all the necessary approaches, develop and improve them.

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