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Role of a ScrumMaster in Agile Projects NK Shrivastava and Phillip George, RefineM Project Management Consultingwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-0-2" src="pdf-obj-0-2.jpg">
Role of a ScrumMaster in Agile Projects NK Shrivastava and Phillip George, RefineM Project Management Consultingwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-0-4" src="pdf-obj-0-4.jpg">

Role of a ScrumMaster in Agile Projects

NK Shrivastava and Phillip George, RefineM Project Management Consulting

In Agile projects using Scrum, the key roles are the team, the product owner, and the ScrumMaster. The product owner shapes the product's vision and requirements so the team can create something with high value to the customer. The ScrumMaster shapes the team's adherence to the Scrum process so they can form self-motivating teams, perform at a high level, and evolve their process execution. While the product owner aligns the team with the product vision, the ScrumMaster aligns the team with the Scrum process. How the ScrumMaster achieves this alignment depends on his or her traits, key skills, and specific roles, each of which we will discuss further in this article.

The critical role of the ScrumMaster is ensuring that the team adheres to the Scrum process. Mike Griffiths writes, “The ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring that Scrum is understood and used.” 1 Griffiths describes the ScrumMaster as a “servant leader” and describes several other key roles under the umbrella of this critical role, including: 2

Removing impediments to progress

Facilitating events as needed

Providing coaching

Assisting the product owner with:

o

Backlog management, including maintaining product backlog and release plan

o

Communication of vision, goals, and backlog to development team

There are many roles that can be used to draw analogies to what the ScrumMaster does. Mike Cohn asserts that the ScrumMaster could be thought of as a “process owner” similar to the product owner 3 .

  • 1 Griffiths, Mike (2012). PMI-ACP Exam Prep, Premier Edition. RMC Publications, Inc.

  • 2 Griffiths, Mike (2012). PMI-ACP Exam Prep, Premier Edition. RMC Publications, Inc.

  • 3 Cohn, Mike (2014). Topics in Scrum: ScrumMaster. Web. http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/agile/scrum/scrummaster

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Other analogies include coach, gatekeeper, or protector. Cohn also argues that ScrumMasters could be thought ofwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-1-2" src="pdf-obj-1-2.jpg">
Other analogies include coach, gatekeeper, or protector. Cohn also argues that ScrumMasters could be thought ofwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-1-4" src="pdf-obj-1-4.jpg">

Other analogies include coach, gatekeeper, or protector. Cohn also argues that ScrumMasters could be thought of as personal trainers; they motivate the team to stick to their own goal of following Scrum processes. A personal trainer cannot make someone do an exercise, but can show them the right way to do it and encourage them to stick with it. Likewise, ScrumMasters cannot force their teams to follow the process, but can help them follow the Scrum process in the right way to achieve the best result.

It may seem like the ScrumMaster has so much responsibility and so little power. The ScrumMaster usually does not manage anyone on the team directly, so how does he or she get anything done? The key difference, Cohn argues, is that the ScrumMaster has authority over the process, not the team 4 . A ScrumMaster can’t dismiss a team member for failing to follow the process, but he or she can change how the process is carried out; for example, changing how retrospectives are run, or changing the length of sprints.

What traits are required of an effective ScrumMaster and who makes a good candidate? Like the product owner role, the ScrumMaster role requires strong collaboration and leadership skills. The nature of the ScrumMaster’s leadership is different, though. Since the ScrumMaster is more of a servant-leader, direct power is not as effective; he or she needs strong facilitation and influencing skills. Facilitation is important to build consensus among the team, and influencing is important to help ScrumMasters address impediments to the team’s progress in areas where they don’t have authority.

The ScrumMaster role is also similar to the product owner role in that a lot of other roles can take on the ScrumMaster role, but some are better than others. Mike Cohn writes, “The ScrumMaster role is commonly filled by a former project manager or a technical team leader but can be anyone.” Scrum Methodology’s write-up of the ScrumMaster role offers disagreement on part of Cohn’s assertion 5 :

In Scrum, the ScrumMaster demands a distinct personality type to succeed. The best ScrumMasters

are real team players, who receive as much satisfaction from facilitating others’ success as their

own. They must also be comfortable surrendering control to the product owner and team. For those

two reasons, traditional project managers don’t usually make great ScrumMasters.

Whoever fills the role of ScrumMaster needs to be assertive enough to own the process and advocate that it be followed properly, but not necessarily so assertive that he or she manages team members as well. For many project managers, following the framework is as important as managing the project team, so we feel there is potential for project managers to serve as ScrumMaster as long as they can demonstrate the other necessary traits.

  • 4 Cohn, Mike (2014). Topics in Scrum: ScrumMaster. Web. http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/agile/scrum/scrummaster

  • 5 Scrum Methodology (2014, 30 September). The ScrumMaster Role. Web. http://scrummethodology.com/the-scrummaster-role/

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Specific roles and responsibilities One way to examine the ScrumMaster ’ s role is by relatinglink to see the full checklist. One of James’ s key points is that a good or adequate ScrumMaster can perform the role part-time for one project or up to 2-3 at a time. However, a great ScrumMaster will perform the role full-time for only one project at a time. This idea may seem counterintuitive, but a ScrumMaster focused at full attention on one project is equipped to perform the role more effectively than a part-time ScrumMaster whose attention gets divided. The main reason ScrumMasters need full focus is that their roles and responsibilities are so numerous and are also divided among the product owner, team, and organizational practices. Conclusion The team, the product owner, and the ScrumMaster are all critical to the success of agile projects. The most visible indicator of agile project success is a satisfied customer, and the project team helps achieve that satisfaction through a high-quality, high-value product that the customer can use right away. The Scrum process is largely invisible in this result, but following it closely is critical to achieving customer satisfaction. Following the Scrum process also helps teams learn and continuously improve their execution of the process. Because the ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring the proper execution of the Scrum process, he or she is a critical piece of the agile project. James, Michael (2010, November). An example ScrumMaster’s checklist. Web. https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2010/november/an-example-scrummaster-s-checklist James, Michael (2010, November). An example ScrumMaster’s checklist. Web. https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2010/november/an-example-scrummaster-s-checklist www.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-2-2" src="pdf-obj-2-2.jpg">
Specific roles and responsibilities One way to examine the ScrumMaster ’ s role is by relatinglink to see the full checklist. One of James’ s key points is that a good or adequate ScrumMaster can perform the role part-time for one project or up to 2-3 at a time. However, a great ScrumMaster will perform the role full-time for only one project at a time. This idea may seem counterintuitive, but a ScrumMaster focused at full attention on one project is equipped to perform the role more effectively than a part-time ScrumMaster whose attention gets divided. The main reason ScrumMasters need full focus is that their roles and responsibilities are so numerous and are also divided among the product owner, team, and organizational practices. Conclusion The team, the product owner, and the ScrumMaster are all critical to the success of agile projects. The most visible indicator of agile project success is a satisfied customer, and the project team helps achieve that satisfaction through a high-quality, high-value product that the customer can use right away. The Scrum process is largely invisible in this result, but following it closely is critical to achieving customer satisfaction. Following the Scrum process also helps teams learn and continuously improve their execution of the process. Because the ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring the proper execution of the Scrum process, he or she is a critical piece of the agile project. James, Michael (2010, November). An example ScrumMaster’s checklist. Web. https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2010/november/an-example-scrummaster-s-checklist James, Michael (2010, November). An example ScrumMaster’s checklist. Web. https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2010/november/an-example-scrummaster-s-checklist www.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-2-4" src="pdf-obj-2-4.jpg">

Specific roles and responsibilities

One way to examine the ScrumMasters role is by relating it to the rest of the team. Michael James’s ScrumMaster checklist is organized in this way, describing over fifty roles and responsibilities of the ScrumMaster as he or she relates to the product owner, team, engineering practices, and organization 6 . To summarize, the ScrumMaster’s roles are to keep the product owner and team working at the highest efficiency possible and make sure that the organization and engineering practices are optimized to achieve goals. Specific questions the ScrumMaster should ask during the project include 7 :

How is my product owner doing?

How is the team doing?

How are our engineering practices doing?

How is the organization doing?

For each of these questions, the product owner has specific actions he or she can take to help guide the project. For example, the ScrumMaster can assist the product owner by maintaining (not owning) the product backlog and release plan, and can assist the team by radiating information and removing barriers. Follow this link to see the full checklist.

One of James’s key points is that a good or adequate ScrumMaster can perform the role part-time for one project or up to 2-3 at a time. However, a great ScrumMaster will perform the role full-time for only one project at a time. This idea may seem counterintuitive, but a ScrumMaster focused at full attention on one project is equipped to perform the role more effectively than a part-time ScrumMaster whose attention gets divided. The main reason ScrumMasters need full focus is that their roles and responsibilities are so numerous and are also divided among the product owner, team, and organizational practices.

Conclusion

The team, the product owner, and the ScrumMaster are all critical to the success of agile projects. The most visible indicator of agile project success is a satisfied customer, and the project team helps achieve that satisfaction through a high-quality, high-value product that the customer can use right away. The Scrum process is largely invisible in this result, but following it closely is critical to achieving customer satisfaction. Following the Scrum process also helps teams learn and continuously improve their execution of the process. Because the ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring the proper execution of the Scrum process, he or she is a critical piece of the agile project.

6 James, Michael (2010, November). An example ScrumMaster’s checklist. Web.

https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2010/november/an-example-scrummaster-s-checklist

7 James, Michael (2010, November). An example ScrumMaster’s checklist. Web.

https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2010/november/an-example-scrummaster-s-checklist

www.refineM.com contact@refineM.com 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 417.414.9886