The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.
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There are three fundamental roles in the Scrum method of agile software development: the Product Owner, the ScrumMaster, and the team. The second role I’d like to examine is the ScrumMaster, who, serves as a facilitator for both the Product Owner and the team. He or she has no management authority within the team and may never commit to work on behalf of the team.
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.
So, specifically, what does a ScrumMaster do? The ScrumMaster remove any impediments that obstruct a team’s pursuit of its sprint goals. In other words, the ScrumMaster does everything he or she can to facilitate productivity. When a developer’s computer dies, it’s the ScrumMaster’s job to ensure it is 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.
The second role for the ScrumMaster is to own the success of the teams process. This might means helping helping the Product Owner maximize productivity or helping the team turn the sprint retrospective meeting into an evolutionary / Kaizen experience. Facilitating for the team or Product Owner might also include tasks like helping maintain the backlog and release plan or radiating Scrum artifacts to ensure the Product Owner or The Team is informed about progress.
To understand the full scope of the Scrum Master role, see the newly updated ScrumMaster checklist for 2013.
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