The Scrum approach to agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. Scrum and other agile methods were inspired by its shortcomings. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, functioning software, team self management, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities.


The Scrum Master Role

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, transformation

There are three fundamental roles in the Scrum method of agile software development: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the team. The Scrum Master serves as a facilitator for both the Product Owner and the team. The Scrum Master has no authority within the team (thus couldn’t also be the Product Owner!) and may never commit to work on behalf of the team.

In Scrum, the Scrum Master demands a distinct personality type to succeed. The best Scrum Masters are real team players, who feel 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 reasons, traditional project managers don’t always make great Scrum Masters, especially if they’ve previously managed the same team members. But there are exceptions. Perhaps it’s best to let the team and Product Owner decide who should be their Scrum Master.

So what does a Scrum Master do? The Scrum Master remove any impediments that obstruct a team’s pursuit of its sprint goals. If developers are complaining about the high temperature in the team room, the Scrum Master must find a way to cool it down. If outsiders interrupt and distract the team, the Scrum Master must redirect them to the Product Owner.

As the team turns into a self-managing entity, the Scrum Master’s role shifts toward the impediments caused by the outer organization. If the team depends on outsiders, the Scrum Master must help transform the organization to use cross-component, cross-functional feature teams. If “Human Resources” policies (e.g. performance appraisals and job titles) interfere with intrinsic motivation and teamwork, the Scrum Master must educate the business about the harm caused by those policies (incidentally, agile advocates don’t refer to humans as resources).

To understand the full scope of the Scrum Master role, see the Scrum Master checklist.

The Scrum Training Series uses the voice of a real life Scrum Master to re-enact the kinds of scenarios Scrum Masters encounter, such as this Sprint Retrospective Meeting scenario.

Scrum Master facilitates the Sprint Retrospective Meeting

posted by: scrum methodology

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Reader's Comments

  1. Saeed |

    It seems like Scrum Masters are more into “Admin” type role? Is that entirely true? Also is Scrum Master a part tiem role and memeber will take in or would it be a full time?

  2. Biomedical Tech , Dot Net Developer Jobs Norway |

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  3. Sam Cooke |

    How cool to come across an intriguing post for a change. So many posts these days that are a waste of energy looking at.

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  6. Soumendu Chakraborti |

    Interested in knowing the role of a scrum master in the service industry?

    Does he have any role to play there?

    Is the role only related to developmenet/ production industries, i.e. in a factory or IT?

    Pardon me for being naive.

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  8. David Etheridge |

    Wow – this is a terrible article. Please nobody believe what’s written here. Scrummasters are not valets – they *do not serve* the product owner, by any means. Product Owners must be capable members of the team with their own job to do, primarily around grooming the backlog, answering detailed questions from the team, reviewing and accepting functioning stories, and *ensuring stakeholders get what they want*. If a stakeholder is surprised about what the team built, the Product Owner failed. Scrum Masters need to be very strong about ensuring control and commitment rests with the team, not one person on the team, whether its the architect, Product Owner or anyone else. That said, I also believe every problem belong to the Scrum Master unless they find a more suitable home for it. So I do agree the Scrum Master would address a failed dev box or a overheated room if necessary, but emphasizing that and nothing else in this article is a disservice.

  9. Eljay |

    @Saeed – A Scrum Master is a facilitator. If you consider manager, product owner, and vice president to be an administrative role – then yes it is an admin role. A good Scrum Master can manage three scrum teams; a great Scrum Master can manage one scrum team.

  10. Scrum Master and Project Manager: How do They Compare | | BootStrapTodayBootStrapToday |

    […] The Scrum Master Role on Scrum Methodology by CollabNet describes wonderfully what a ScrumMaster does: First and foremost, the ScrumMaster remove[s] any impediments that obstruct[s] a team’s pursuit of its sprint goals. In other words, the ScrumMaster does everything he or she can to facilitate productivity. [For example] When a developer’s computer dies, it’s the ScrumMaster’s job to get it back up and running—or get another one. If developers are complaining about the high temperature in the team room, the ScrumMaster must find a way to cool it down. It might be easy to summarize a ScrumMaster’s work in a sentence or two, but scenarios he or she could face are truly infinite. […]

  11. Peter |

    I perceive the following to statements as mutually exclusive – ensuring in-effectiveness

    “He or she (SC) has no management authority …”

    “First and foremost, the ScrumMaster remove[s] any impediments that obstruct[s] a team’s pursuit of its sprint goals. In other words, the ScrumMaster does everything he or she can to facilitate productivity.”

    How effectively can you remove impediments without authority?
    I agree, SC has no authority over team (except “follow scrum principles”). But SC certainly needs the authority/authorization/legitimation to change current conditions in a wide context, which most likely will encur (investment)costs.

    (Experience as PrgM/PM/P2R, CSM, PO, Team Member, user/customer…)

  12. Sean |

    This was an interesting read but I would say one fundamental element is missing; that of what I would call gatekeeper.

    As a Scrum Master you need to also protect your team from requests, items being inserted into sprint backlog as well as other items that could take the time of your team members.

    As the gatekeeper you need to ensure that only valid items reach your team and you address those that are not relevant or interfer with the sprint

  13. Scrum Minor |

    I am new to this scrum technique but have enjoyed reading your thorough and enlightening post. Please keep writing and I’ll keep coming back.

  14. Paul C |

    Really useful intro to ScrumMaster; turns out I was actually a ScrumMaster in a PRINCE2 organisation :) I was rolling out Windows 7, and the way I managed was exactly the process described in Agile XP – so the method is quite intuitive!

    Peter, you don’t need authority – just the ability to influence and convince the business manager who does.

    Sean, aren’t those gatekeeper tasks the responsibility of the Product Owner?

  15. Rob K |

    Tides are changing…. Having been doing this for 15+ years in command and control mode (PMP, Prince2 Practitioner, IC Agile Professional) it is a much different paradigm that I am having trouble adapting to but have to none the less. Yes, at times I feel like a glorified admin and turning control over to the Product Owner (Who does not understand Project Mgmt.. or thinks they do) kind of makes me want to see what else is out there. Infrastructure projects do not seem to be a s susceptible to this… yet. I miss the “thought Leadership” component of Project Mgmt.

  16. Mani |

    Awesome knowledge base.

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