Skip to content

The Scrum Master

June 22, 2013

As many organizations embark on the journey to achieve greater agility, they adopt the Scrum Master role (or a similar role via Tribal Scrum, Lean, Kanban, XP, etc.) and are readily confused by who ought to play the role and the nature of the role.

Note, the Scrum Guide uses the roles of Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master to form the Scrum Team in the Agile “software development” world (Letter of Agile), we generally use the roles of Product Manager, Development or Engineering Team (encompassing the define-detail, build, and test perspectives creating the product or result), and Scrum Master to form the Whole Team in the Agility world (Spirit of Agility).

Additionally, this confusion is further heightened with such expressions as “a key part of the Scrum Master’s role is to protect the Development Team”. Such confusion plagues many organizations with an us-versus-them mindset where the Scrum Master adopts a team versus organization perspective or agile is about the team perspective (Google the second phrase end explore the results). And the confusion perpetuates into who ought play the role — should a project or product manager take on this role or should a technical or team lead take on this role!

However, success is only readily achieved via a win-win where the Scrum Mater role is not about “protecting” anything — and — Agility is not only about “the team”, but about the Product Owner, Development or Engineering Team, and Organization. The Scrum Master is a neutral party commonly known as “Switzerland”.

My good friends Mark Ferraro with his recent blog and Len Lagestee with his series explore and offer further perspective!

Greater clarity regarding the Scrum Master role emerges by exploring the Manifesto for Agility (People, Results, Collaboration, and Responsiveness) and the Scrum Guide together.

The Scrum Guide emphasizes that “the Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team”, which includes the Product Owner and Development or Engineering Team. The Scrum Guide organizes the Scrum Master’s services to the Product Owner, Development or Engineering Team, and Organization.

Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner

The Scrum Guide emphasizes that the Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including (with emphasis added):

Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;

Clearly communicating vision, goals, and Product Backlog items to the Development [Engineering] Team;

Teaching the Scrum Team to create clear and concise Product Backlog items;

Understanding long-term product planning in an empirical environment;

Understanding and practicing agility; and,

Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.

Generally, the first three points emphasize Collaboration and Results, the next two points emphasize Responsiveness, and the last point emphasizes Collaboration. If you have a different interpretation, please share!

Naturally, Agility heightens a product owner’s awareness of the synergy between collaboration &  results (in working with the development or engineering team) and responsiveness (relative to the organization).

Scrum Master Service to the Development or Engineering Team

The Scrum Guide emphasizes that the Scrum Master serves the Development or Engineering Team in several ways, including (with emphasis added):

Coaching the Development [Engineering] Team in self-organization and cross-functionality;

Teaching and leading the Development [Engineering] Team to create high-value products;

Removing impediments to the Development [Engineering] Team’s progress;

Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,

Coaching the Development [Engineering] Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.

Generally, the third and fifth points emphasize People, the second point emphasizes Results, and the first and fourth points emphasize Collaboration. If you have a different interpretation, please share!

Naturally, Agility heightens awareness among a development or engineering team’s members (people) and how they collaborate to achieve results.

Scrum Master Service to the Organization

The Scrum Guide emphasizes that the Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including (with emphasis added):

Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;

Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;

Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;

Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,

Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

Generally, all the points but the third emphasize People and the third point emphasizes Responsiveness. If you have a different interpretation, please share!

Naturally, Agility heightens an organization’s awareness of the value of its people and the organization’s ability to be more responsive to customers and the marketplace.

The Effective Scrum Master

An effective Scrum Master must be very deliberate in fostering the natural healthy tension between the Product Owner, Development or Engineering Team, and Organization while navigating the natural un-healthy tension to ensure it does not manifest into utter darkness (generally via the six diseases)!

About these ads
One Comment leave one →
  1. June 27, 2013 6:32 am

    I think your point about the Coach serving three groups (PO, builders, org) is well-made, and really exposes the fallacy of the original statement. The Coach should be focusing on building bridges between the three, not walls. Also as you said, helping the Team is just a small part of what the Coach does; I think saying “a *key part* … is to protect” kind of de-values the Coach’s role in my opinion.

    The only thing I would add is to say at the end that a Coach’s real goal is to mold high-performing teams made up of all three groups to the benefit of each of them. The reality of life is that sometimes you *do* get a difficult PO to work with, or an inefficient or secretive Team, or an Organization that resists change. Love the Service bullet points for each group; great thoughts! They’re essentially the “playbook” to overcoming those kinds of challenges, and are really the mark of a good Coach in my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers