Agile Scrum Master Role

I was asked to put together a clear definition of an Agile Scrum Master role for a company I am working with that is new to Agile. I think the standard “textbook” definition of what a Scrum Master does is limited and needs some interpretation and elaboration. It also needs to be expanded with some best practices for Scrum Masters from a variety of sources (see below). Here is what I came up with:

  1. Team Management – A commonly held view of Scrum Masters is that they are only passive facilitators because the team is supposed to be self-organizing. That may be true in an ideal world, but very few teams are really at that level from my experience and even teams that are at a high-level of proficiency can slip back. In my opinion, Scrum Masters have to use what I call “Adaptive Leadership” – if a Scrum Master is only a passive facilitator, he/she is not doing the job effectively in my opinion. He/she has to provide a sufficient level of leadership to help the team get to a self-organizing level and then sustain it without over-managing the team. “Adaptive leadership means providing just enough leadership to fit the situation and nothing more. Here are some specific components of that role:
    • Team Productivity
      • Ensures that the team is fully functional and productive including having the right tools, training, and process flows to maximize team productivity
      • Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality
      • Helping the Development Team to create high-value products
      • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood
      • Constantly help to improve tools and practices used by the team so that the efficiency is always maintained
    • Remove Impediments
      The Scrum Master should resolve all the impediments so that the team can concentrate on the engineering tasks to be done.
    • Performance Appraisal & Feedback
      The Scrum Master will provide necessary feedback to the team members to help them improve their performance.
    • Resolve Conflicts
      The Scrum Master should be in touch with the team members to sense any conflicts early and resolve them
  2. Process Management – A good Scrum Master, in my opinion, is passionate about Agile and doing it with a level of excellence. He/she should be somewhat of an evangelist to help others thoroughly integrate Agile/Scrum values, principles, and practices into the way that they work.
    • Meeting Facilitator
      Facilitates Daily Scrums and Other Scrum Events to ensure that they are well-organized, time-boxed and productive.
    • Process Master
      The Scrum Master will typically serve as the scrum expert on the team. This means they are responsible for helping the team optimize the use of scrum as the methodology they have chosen to build their software.
      The Scrum Master creates the scrum rules for the project and then coaches the team to follow Agile principles and practices. At the end of the sprint, he needs to ensure that every user story is completed as per the definition of done.
    • Team Interface
      Serves as the primary interface to the team to manage communications with the team and shield the team from disruptive external influences.
    • Planning and Estimation
      Coach the team on estimation practices, lead the team in estimation during the planning meeting, and work with the team to improve estimation and planning process
    • Continuous Improvement
      Leads and facilitates retrospective meetings and champions efforts to improve on the quality, velocity, value to the business
  3. Project Management – The Scrum Master is not really a Project Manager; however, there are some project management skills that are useful in the role. The Product Owner should really own responsibility for the overall success or failure of the project; however, a Scrum Master plays a number of roles in support of the Product Owner in performing the program/project management function.
    • Support the Product Owner
      • Assists the Product Owner with various activities including assisting with backlog as well as project-level and release-level planning
      • Helping to ensure that the items in the backlog are clear and concise
      • Working with the Product Owner to prioritize the items in the backlog
    • Organizational Transformation
      • 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.
    • Radiate Information
      Radiate information or ensure that a team’s progress and successes are highly visible to all stakeholders, including the team itself.

In addition to my own personal experience, I have used the following sources to compile this list:

  1. Scrum Guide – http://www.scrum.org/scrum-guides/
  2. Scrum Master Roles & Responsibilities by Amit Malik – http://amitsinghmalik.blogspot.com/2013/06/scrum-master-roles-responsibilities.html

5 thoughts on “Agile Scrum Master Role”

  1. Hi Chuck. I love your pragmatic approach to Scrum and agile in general. We seem to be in close agreement in philosophy and consultive coaching guidance. You articulate better than I have how to take the dogmatic scrum guidance and adopt it to reality. I’ll continue being a regular blog reader via the PMI Agile LinkedIn forum emails.

    I believe you have a copy and paste mistake under “Performance Appraisal & Feedback”.

  2. This is a really well made explanation on the roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master. This will be very helpful for students who are training for a CSM Certification and for people who are trying to decide if Scrum is a the correct career option for them.

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