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A Scrum Master is a team leader responsible for ensuring the team implements Scrum in theory and practice. Scrum is one of the most popular forms of Agile, a project management methodology created for software development. The Scrum Master is responsible for serving as a leader for the Scrum team and larger organization, according to the Scrum Guide.
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Scrum Master Responsibilities
In a Scrum practice, the team is composed of the Scrum Master, the product owner and the development team. The project owner is responsible for maximizing the end goal’s value, while the Scrum Master’s job is to ensure the team stays on track.
Melissa Boggs, Certified Enterprise Coach and former Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance, spoke to Forbes Advisor and explained that the Scrum Master’s role is to “help the team understand the value of Scrum and how Scrum can best serve the team, for the team to serve the customer.” The Scrum Master focuses on the team’s continuous improvement by introducing and using Scrum principles and practices, Boggs added.
Additionally, their responsibilities include making sure the Scrum events take place and are positive and productive. They also help ensure Scrum is implemented by the team in a productive way and lead the team to adopt Scrum.
A Scrum Master can be either a dedicated position or a temporary role one of the team members takes on during a project. While some teams and organizations require a full-time Scrum Master, others who are further along and more mature in their Agile journey may elect someone on the team for the role, Boggs said. How the Scrum Master fits into the overall team “depends on the goals of the organization, the maturity of the teams and the capabilities of the Scrum Master,” she added.
How To Be an Effective Scrum Master
An effective Scrum Master will understand Scrum, the value of all its elements, their team and how to marry all of them in an emergent way, Boggs said. They will be effective leaders who understand the team’s needs and keep the team on track with their goals.
This means a Scrum Master is continuously learning and creating opportunities for the team to develop their skills. “They are excellent communicators, coaches and creators,” Boggs said. A Scrum Master must be able to integrate both the long-term and short-term strategy while managing the team. “They are able to see the big picture, but they also help the team to decompose the big picture into smaller, incremental chunks of value,” she added. An effective Scrum Master also helps the team create feedback loops and connections with their customers.
According to Boggs, curiosity and openness are two essential qualities for an exceptional Scrum Master. Effective leadership requires patience, focus and understanding that developing a high-performing team is a long-term game. “They are able to see the big picture, but they also help the team to decompose the big picture into smaller, incremental chunks of value,” she added.
Tools and Resources
There are various certifying bodies in the Scrum space, but two of the most well-respected are Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. Boggs recommends that certification seekers spend time evaluating the certification and business models of the organizations before choosing one to invest in. Some differentiators to look out for during research are the price, reputation and community.
How To Become a Scrum Master
There are a variety of backgrounds that could prepare someone for the role of a Scrum Master. “We see everyone from QA Managers to engineers to school teachers that make excellent Scrum Masters,” Boggs said. It is common to see former project managers working in a Scrum Master role, she added.
Differences between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master
While a project manager keeps track of different aspects of the team, the Scrum Master is specifically focused on the team and ensuring they are effective and achieve the project goals.
“The Scrum Master is not focused on time, scope and budget, but rather building and supporting an environment where a team can iteratively and incrementally build products and improve their system,” Boggs said. “The Scrum Master is accountable for ensuring that the team has everything they need to be effective and that any impediments are removed from their path. They do not control what, how or when the products or projects are completed; Those responsibilities are differently distributed in the Scrum framework between the team and the product owner.”
Scrum is often confused with a project management methodology in general. Instead, it is a “framework for developing and sustaining complex products,” according to the Scrum Guide. Scrum relies heavily on the idea of empirical process control and recognizes the complexity and uncertainty that is involved in product development.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the Scrum Master fit into the overall team or organization?
The specific way the Scrum Master integrates into the overall team is unique to each company. It is not uncommon for the Scrum Master to report to either the engineering organization or an Agile organization, according to Melissa Boggs, Certified Enterprise Coach and former Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance.
Is a Scrum Master the same as a project manager?
A project manager is different from a Scrum Master. While a project manager keeps track of different aspects of the team, including budget, resources and timelines, the Scrum Master is specifically focused on the team and ensuring it is effective and achieves the project goals.
What skills are essential for a Scrum Master?
An effective Scrum Master is knowledgeable and trained in Scrum. One way to gain the necessary skills is through certification. While there are many certifying bodies, the two most well-known and respected are Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. Scrum Masters have a range of backgrounds and experiences, including software development, QA management or team leadership.
What makes an effective Scrum Master?
An effective Scrum Master will understand Scrum, the value of all its elements, their team and how to marry all of them in an emergent way, said Melissa Boggs, Certified Enterprise Coach and former Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance. A Scrum Master will be able to see the project’s big picture but can break it down into practical and short-term goals for the team.