What's the real job of a Scrum Master?
Updated: Mar 2
You may be new to agile software development and Scrum Master role. You may be someone from a software project team wondering what Scrum Masters do all day.
You may be a full time Scrum Master who has just started and wants to grow and serve their teams even better. Nonetheless, I believe you will find this extended definition of a Scrum Master role extremely useful.
Who is a Scrum Master?
Scrum Master is a Scrum team role who helps individuals and teams adopt agile ways of working. Their main focus is to help teams collaborate, communicate and cooperate more effectively. The end goal is to enable software teams deliver more value faster. As you might guess Scrum Masters do this with the help of enacting agile principles and practices that they introduce into their teams delivery process.
You may be well aware of a Project Manager position. Project Manager as a role exists in a more traditional approach to managing projects. Don't confuse these two because even though Project Manager and Scrum Master have a lot in common, they do have quite opposite responsibilities and different focus, so don't fall into this trap of combining both roles at the same time.
In typical Scrum framework Project Manager role as such does not exist, PM's responsibility is divided between a Scrum Master, Product Owner and the team itself. I will explain the differences between the two at the end of this article. Now, let's dive into Scrum Master.
Scrum Master as a mentor
Scrum Master has to be a mentor in the way they should have needed expertise in Agile software development and Scrum framework in particular. Obviously, you have to know the theory and its application very well to set up the delivery process. You will be asked a lot of questions by a team and project stakeholders about Agile and how to do it well so you are expected to know the answer as that's your area of expertise.
Though being a mentor is not enough. Let's see why.
Scrum Master as a coach
Mentor is the one who gives an individual an answer, but coaching aspect takes the relationship between a Scrum Master and a team and/or an individual to the next level.
Instead of giving an answer right away coach would rather ask more questions to help a person figure out a solution themselves.
Tons of material exist nowadays on coaching, how to become great at asking powerful questions etc - I strongly recommend you to start learning and practicing this aspect as soon as possible if you want to progress as a Scrum Master or even an Agile coach.
Choosing whether to act as a mentor or as a coach if you are a Scrum Master would depend on a situation and a context you find yourself in. For example, if your team is immature, i.e. they are new to Scrum, you may act as a mentor, because this is what they expect you to do, however, if you work with more experienced team members that have past experience working with agile practices and frameworks, you might bring more value by serving as a coach and helping the team become high-performing this way.
Scrum Master as a facilitator
A good Scrum Master should possess decent facilitation skills. Whether that's a daily stand up meeting, sprint planning, some problem-solving workshop or any other type of discussion. Scrum Master is the one who is focused on helping the team get the most value out of each interaction. SM does this with the help of ''containers'' that enable teams to self-organise. You can think of ''containers'' as agenda items for each interaction / meeting. SM sets the ''format'', team takes care of the ''content''.
Scrum Master as a change agent
As a Scrum Master, your main goal is to help improve software delivery process so that your team creates value and learns how to build the product that really solves user's problems. To do that, oftentimes you will be implementing a lot of changes into the process. For example, you will probably change how the team interacts with each other, how they approach the delivery etc. Sometimes (actually more often than you might think), you will face resistance from the teams you work with. People are used to their routines. Hence you will need to learn how to be good at incorporating these changes smoothly and transforming the ways of working.
Scrum Master vs Project Manager
See the table below that I've created to better communicate the differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager.
Scrum Master plays a crucial part in Scrum team in enabling continuous improvement, performance increase and most important of all value delivery. I hope that this extended definition of SM role sheds light on the real value and responsibilities of Scrum Master.
What do you think about Scrum Master role? Add your thoughts or questions in the comments sections down below. If you like this post, please share and subscribe to get notified of the next one!
P.S. Looking for additional guidance on Scrum framework as a whole? I’ve created Agile Scrum Master training course for beginners with everything from A to Z needed for you to succeed with Agile.