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The Scrum Master role

What are the Responsibilities of the Scrum Master role?

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What are the Responsibilities of the Scrum Master role?

The following article is part of the self-preparation for the modern BVOP® Scrum Master Certification program.

Some of the responsibilities of the Scrum Master role are eliminating obstacles, protecting the team, assisting in Scrum events, collaboration with the Product Owner role, coaching, and guidance product stakeholders (Scrum team and business stakeholders) on Scrum practices and concepts.

  1. The need for a Scrum Master role
  2. The successful Scrum Master
  3. Key responsibilities of the Scrum Master role
  4. Scrum Master role as a servant leader
  5. Collaboration with the Development Team
    1. Protection of the team
    2. The Scrum Master protects the Development team from the Product Owner
    3. The Scrum Master protects the Development team from the Development team
  6. Organizing meetings
  7. The Scrum Master is a Coach
  8. Removing obstacles and problems
  9. Interpersonal problems and team conflicts
  10. Collaboration with the Product Owner role
  11. Who should be the Scrum Master?
  12. Working hours of the Scrum Master role
  13. Scrum Master role as part of Development Team

Scrum is a style of work that strives to maintain sustainable productivity for teams. Problems can quickly arise if the roles within the team and organization are not clearly defined and understood, and the team members do not follow the goals and purposes of the roles.

The Product Owner role represents the voice of consumers and the desires of stakeholders and businesses. The development team develops all these needs qualitatively.

The need for a Scrum Master role

Throughout this process, there is a need for a role that takes care of all parties and strives to comply with Scrum's rules and principles. Otherwise, chaos, micro-management, and disruption to the teams would emerge. Such negative situations can lead to a decline in motivation, defects in the product, difficult product maintenance, divergence of plans, and potential failure.

The Scrum Master role ensures that all possible negative results do not happen.

The Scrum Master strives for teams to work according to the principles and practices of Scrum.

The Scrum Master role, like all other roles in Scrum, has no authority to manage people, work, or anything. However, it has authority over everything related to Scrum processes, events, rules, ideas.

The Scrum Master acts as a leader for the team, not as a manager. Leads the team toward their goals.

The successful Scrum Master

The successful Scrum Master is committed and focused on the development of others and of the organization’s Scrum culture.

Key responsibilities of the Scrum Master role

Key responsibilities of the Scrum Master role include:

  • Monitoring and eliminating obstacles in the workflow.
  • Protecting the team from unwanted outside interference.
  • Assistance with meetings and Scrum events.
  • Collaboration with the Product Owner role.
  • Coaching and guidance of all product stakeholders (Scrum team and business stakeholders) on Scrum practices and concepts.

The Scrum Master must be able to represent the significance of Scrum clearly and without complex and disturbing terminology.

Scrum Master role as a servant leader

A servant leader is a popular term used to describe the Scrum Master in two words. The traditional style of leadership is usually understood as the expression of power by one person. The understanding of the serving leader is the opposite. The needs of others are first and foremost. Teams are being helped to do their jobs well and grow.

The highest priority for the Scrum Master role is to encourage and assist the Development team in maximizing their potential and productivity, in developing their skills, and in increasing the value they create.

Collaboration with the Development Team

Protection of the team

The Scrum Master role acts as a buffer between the team and all external influences, problems, and processes.

The Scrum Master protects the Development team from the Product Owner

BVOP brings a further understanding of the team’s protection from external stakeholders. It introduces the protection of the team from the Product Owner role. The Product Owner role is part of the Scrum team, therefore it is assumed that he or she knows and fully understands the principles and rules of Scrum. However, this is not always the case. Product Owner roles in different teams and organizations can have different interests, work styles, and can be driven by certain actions depending on many factors.

The Scrum Master protects the Development team from the Development team

BVOP focuses on the important topic regarding the protection of the Development Team from its members.

Sometimes team participants may wish to manage their colleagues. In the classic management method in organizations, this would not be a problem and is even considered a positive situation.

According to Scrum rules, such management should not be accepted. Respect and equality should motivate team members and develop their creativity. Team leaders can often naturally lead to micro-management, individual decision making, assignment, and all Scrum principles will gradually be broken.

The Scrum Master role should be aware of such possible and potential violations of the Scrum rules. He or she should have a clear mind, insight, and the skills to evaluate any possible situation.

Organizing meetings

Scrum teaches that the Scrum Master role supports the team. However, there are no clear rules as to who organizes team meetings. We want to focus on the fact that a very appropriate role for this is the Scrum Master role.

Only if the team needs it, the Scrum Master role organizes meetings and events and invites everyone who needs to attend. He or she shares instructions, prepares attendees for meetings, explains discussion topics, and reminds of the Scrum rules.

If teams are disorganized and chaotic, the Scrum Master role restores order. For example, if a Product Owner role avoids an important meeting or provision of information, their presence and assistance needs to be sought.

The Scrum Master is a Coach

Coaching is not just about the rules and principles of Scrum. The motivation, ambition, and focus of the team must be maintained.

Some team members may not understand the terminology or practices used by the rest of the team. The Scrum Master role helps everyone around to get into Scrum's atmosphere and ideas.

Removing obstacles and problems

Every team, project, and organization has problems and obstacles of many kinds that can arise at any time.

The Scrum Master is actively working to resolve situations that impede the Development Team. If the Development Team is experiencing some deficiencies and is unable to do its job well and progress on the developments (technology, tools, or whatever), the Scrum Master role must have the ability and authority to fill the deficiencies immediately.

The Scrum Master does not work to remove obstacles and problems by taking self-directed decisions and actions. The options are always discussed with the team in advance to provide the best solution for them. Whenever possible, the Development Team should solve its problem by itself in the best possible way. The Scrum Master role only supports this activity.

Interpersonal problems and team conflicts

Interpersonal problems and team conflicts are also important occurrences where the Scrum Master role must be involved to solve problems in the most constructive way possible for both the team and the product.

Collaboration with the Product Owner role

The Scrum Master serves as a coach and a supporting role for both the Development Team and the Product Owner role. An important aspect of working with the Product Owner is clarifying User Stories that need details and care for the Product Backlog, which needs to be prioritized and detailed for the next iteration.

Who should be the Scrum Master?

It is of particular importance that the Scrum Master and the Product Owner roles are not taken over by the same person in the Scrum team to avoid conflicts of interest.

If the same Scrum team member is Scrum Master and Product Owner, the Product Owner functions excel and the focus is solely on the product and its fast development. In the end, the Scrum Master role loses some of its importance.

In another unpleasant situation, there may be a Scrum Master that also performs Product Owner functions, which can lead to too much focus on the Scrum team and impair the product’s progress and value.

Both roles require a considerable amount of invested time, and to be performed by one Scrum team member would be difficult. Organizations, teams, products, and business stakeholders may suffer losses.

Working hours of the Scrum Master role

There is much discussion as to whether the Scrum Master role is a full-time position or a part-time role. The official Scrum manuals do not answer these questions either. So we have to think logically again.

For some teams and projects, a part-time Scrum Master role might be enough. In this case, everything has been polished over time, and the problems are resolved and reduced. Everyone in the organization follows the Scrum principles. Business stakeholders look forward to the team completing the planned work at the end of the Sprint. The team is self-organized and focused on its goals.

In another case, if the team is new or Scrum is still an incomprehensible matter to everyone around, the Scrum Master role would be necessary and of particular importance, daily and throughout the working hours.

As the team cultivates respect, work, value, and collaboration, and business stakeholders become accustomed to the ideas of Scrum, the Scrum Master role gradually becomes simply a mentor who is always available and around. The critical need to solve problems and organize events is likely to decrease.

In this way, a Scrum Master can have the capacity, capability, energy, and time to serve multiple teams within the organization at a time.

Scrum Master role as part of Development Team

Another common practice in Scrum teams is to have the Scrum Master take on the role of a technical person who is part of the Development Team. In this case, every time the team needs their Scrum mentor and assistant, the developer takes on the Scrum Master role and ceases to act as a Developer.

Although there are pros to the Scrum Master role being taken over by the Development role, this configuration has its logical drawbacks as well.

In addition to being distracting for a team member to change roles constantly, the Development Role is not likely to fully understand the business needs of the team and the organization. Assistance to the Product Owner role may also be detrimental.

The following issues related to chapter "The Scrum Master role" are included in the certification exam. The sequence of questions is presented in the table.
The data is current as of July 8, 2020, 3:15 pm

ID Issue Time Category
0 Scrum Master role as a servant leader 60 sec SM, PO
1 The Scrum Master protects the Development team from the Product Owner 60 sec SM, PO
2 Protection of the team 60 sec SM, PO
3 The successful Scrum Master 60 sec SM, PO
4 Who should be the Scrum Master? 60 sec SM, PO
5 The Scrum Master is a Coach 60 sec SM, PO
6 Interpersonal problems and team conflicts 60 sec SM, PO
7 Collaboration with the Product Owner role 60 sec SM, PO
8 Removing obstacles and problems 60 sec SM, PO
9 Working hours of the Scrum Master role 60 sec SM, PO
10 Organizing meetings 60 sec SM, PO
11 The Scrum Master protects the Development team from the Development team 60 sec SM, PO
12 Collaboration with the Development Team 60 sec SM, PO
13 The need for a Scrum Master role 60 sec SM, PO
14 Key responsibilities of the Scrum Master role 60 sec SM, PO
15 Scrum Master role as part of Development Team 60 sec SM, PO
Comments of our guests
  1. Gregory J,
    Hello again. I apologize for the massive flow of questions, but I seek urgent and professional help as the problems I face are serious. We have a brand new Scrum team formed and the project has already begun. The development team is unhappy with the Scrum Master because he lacks programming skills. Our recently selected Scrum Master has strong recommendations and a wealth of professional backgrounds, and I am sure that his assignment was not a mistake. Some members of the Development Team escalated the problem (just that Scrum Master has no experience as a developer) to senior management. I would appreciate any tips or recommendations for action. I can compensate for the advice. Kind regards
  2. Stanisław
    Hello. Can you clearly state what the real powers of the Scrum Master are? What am I authorized to and what am I not allowed to do? I have co-workers who violate the Scrum rules very much and I cannot control them. What should I do in this case? thanks
  3. Safiya Samuels
    @Stanisław, The Scrum Master role by rule has no authority over others, and no one in Scrum has authority over anyone. Scrum teaches principles and rules and, at the same time, says teams should be held accountable. In the real world, this is not always possible, as following this method of work without strict supervision is not for everyone. In the course we explain all the situations you need, as well as your role and responsibilities. In short, you are the "teacher" of the Scrum process to everyone around you, but without giving commands or orders. Why not just talk to your direct leader in your organization and talk about your authority and describe these situations and any other irregularities you notice. Ask for clarification, exactly and clearly, what your rights are regarding the work of the team. If necessary, request more formal authority. Talk to the Development Team Technical Manager, if you have one. There may be someone around you who is "responsible" for the others and the work. Ask for help from outside. Don't be alone in this.
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