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.
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.
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Scrum Training Series
- Scrum based funding model – 20 percent May 9, 2013
- The Next Big Idea March 5, 2013
- On Being Available February 17, 2013
- Should Scrum Always Require the Product Owner to Attend the Sprint Retrospective Meeting? February 5, 2013
- Happiness Metrics January 23, 2013