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What are the Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities within an Agile Project? The Role of the Scrum Master is often under-rated by many Organisations. This is often because they do not understand the real Value of the role. This is why it is often stated that they can be assigned to more than one Team. While this could be the case for high-performing Teams, this is rarely achieved. Where a Scrum Master is no longer needed as a full time contributor to the Project, they can be said to have done an excellent Job. They instil the Agile Principles to a level where the Team live and work according to those Principles.

The Scrum Master’s Responsibilities extend far beyond the Agile Project. They are pivotal in creating harmony between the Team and the rest of the Organisation. They do this through a mix of Change Management, Negotiation and Facilitation. By doing this, they create an Environment where the Team is able to produce their best Work.

Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities: A Facilitator

Lots of people mistakenly confuse the Role of Scrum Master with the Traditional Role of Project Manager. The Scrum Master does not Manage, they Facilitate. The closest approximation to what they represent in Agile is the Role of Coach. They Facilitate Meetings, also know as the “Ceremonies”. The Scrum Master makes sure that the right individuals participate in the meetings. They ensure that the desired outcomes are obtained, and that the Meetings do not over-run. They are the timekeeper and have a non-participatory Role in the Meetings.

Scrum Master as Subject Matter Expert

The Scrum Master acts as a subject matter expert on two fronts:-.

  • The Scrum Master is experienced on Agile. They understand the Roles, Artefacts and Processes. The Scrum Master brings this knowledge to the Team as a Coach and Mentor, in addition to a Compliance Manager.
  • They understand the Dynamics of Teams, according to Bruce Tuckman’s Theory of Team Development. Tuckman’s theory is a Maturity Model with Four Stages. Throughout the Project, they will use this understanding to assess the Maturity of the Team and its ability to Collaborate. By understanding the Four Stages (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing), they can make the appropriate mitigations according to what stage the Team is currently in. They also Manage conflicts, and Team dysfunctions. A marker of success will be their ability to grow the Team to a level where they can Work Collaboratively and effectively.

The Steward of Agile and Scrum.

The primary Role of the Scrum Master is to make sure that the Scrum Framework and Processes are understood and followed by the Team. The Scrum Master has mastery of the Principles. This enables them to pick up deviations from the recommended practice and realign the Project.

It is the Scrum Masters Responsibility to ensure that the Team follows the Twelve Principles of the Agile Manifesto. They look to upholds the Values and principles, specifically those of openness, honesty and transparency. They also guide the Team on producing Artefacts, such as the Burndown Chart.

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The Steward of Scrum.

As the steward and subject expert of Scrum, the Scrum Master has a task to inform both the Sprint Team and the Stakeholders on the Practices and Processes. They ensure that the Process is followed completely and that there is no skimping or avoidance. For instance, the Stand-Up Meeting is held at the same time for the prescribed maximum time of 15 minutes. The Scrum Master does not attempt to influence the results of the Meeting. The meeting is the prerogative of the Development Team. They look to ensure that the fundamentals are covered and that there is complete disclosure. Throughout the Stand-Up Meeting, Impediments to progress are raised by the Team. On completion of the Meeting, they will attempt to remove these Impediments. This enables the Development Team to focus on their deliverables.

59 Seconds Agile - Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities: The Scrum Roles and the Scrum Principles
59 Seconds Agile – The Scrum Roles and Principles

Scrum Master as Referee.

When the Team is relatively new and in the “Storming” stage, Team members can be antagonistic and challenge other Team members. At this point they do not feel part of the Team. The Scrum Master will act as both referee and peacemaker in such circumstances. They will do this up until order and relative calm is restored.

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Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities: Handling Change.

The Scrum Master has the Role of promoting the practice of Agile. They do this both within the Team and externally to the Company. They are likewise the Gatekeeper when it comes to Changes required throughout the Scrum Project.

The Agile Manifesto mentions in one of the Twelve Principles:-.

“(We) Welcome Changing Requirements, Even Late In Development. Agile Processes Harness Change For The Customer’s Competitive Advantage”.

While Change is welcomed, it does not mean that it is immediately applied. The Product Owner (the Voice of the Customer) must figure out the need for the Change. They can then Prioritize it in the Product Backlog. This Change can only be introduced in the next Sprint at the earliest. It is the Scrum Master’s responsibility to prevent any Change being introduced during a Sprint.

Our Favourite Agile Books

We found these books great for finding out more information on Agile Scrum:

Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities: Supporting the Scrum Team and the Company.

The Scrum Master is often referred to as a “Servant Leader”. This is because they serve the Scrum Team, the Product Owner and the Company. They also provides Leadership where needed.

To the Development Team, they are a Coach and Facilitator. The Scrum Master is the individual who removes barriers from the path to successful Product Development. They look to maximize engagement by introducing techniques such as gamification to the project routine. They also help the Team to grow and mature during the Project.

For the Product Owner, they make sure that the Team selects appropriate Items from the Product Backlog for the Sprint Backlog. The selected items must help the team meet the Minimum Viable Product.

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Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities: Coaching

The Scrum Master coaches the Company in Agile, so that they understand the way of Work and their Responsibilities in the Product Development effort. Where Impediments are created by the Company they attempt to remove them by discussing their influence on the Team and the Development of the Product. Through this Coaching and Interaction, they bring a Culture Change to the Organisation.

The Value that the Scrum Master adds as the nurturer of an Adolescent and Disorganised Team to a fully grown, self-governing Team is the greatest asset they give a Team. When the Team can operate with little or no intervention from them, the Scrum Master has actually achieved their objective. A lot of companies do not acknowledge what an effective Change agent the role can be can be, and view the Role as a part-time Role, in some cases spread throughout Teams. This dilutes their ability to grow one Team to high performance, and can lead to a number of average Teams rather than one great team.

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