Scrum Master is a transitional role that lays the foundation of a strongly cultured and efficient team. Serving as an intermediary between the development team, the product owner and the organization, the scrum master roles and responsibilities are highly varied and diverse. Be it taking care of the high-end customization in a particular sprint or ensuring an integrated approach towards mutual co-existence among the team members, scrum master responsibilities is vital. This brings us to a commonly asked question, who is a scrum master? What is a scrum master job description?
Let us begin with understanding the methodology that came up with this role, Scrum.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an agile methodology of development that works on fundamentals of interaction, workability, collaboration and change management. The scrum methodology specifically accounts for scrum master tasks management on a team level that is led by a scrum master. The scrum approach is widely practised in software development across the industry due to its zero tolerance for errors and fast issue resolution. The development cycle is divided into smaller portions called sprints that account for quick error detection and resolution.
Who is a Scrum Master?
A scrum master is a father-figure to the scrum team. The scrum master job description includes a variety of roles like coaching, mentoring, training, conflict resolution, team engagement, task completion, etc. The scrum master responsibilities are comprehensive like an HR professional and hold accountability to the scrum team, product owner and the organization. It is a challenging role that is both rewarding and demanding. Hence, a scrum master is a team leader who is responsible for establishing agile processes across the team and ensures on-time delivery of the end product based on coherent teamwork.
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The scrum master roles and responsibilities are not limited to a particular task, it rather is an accomplished role that necessitates an all-round approach with a gift of farsightedness and proactivity. While the team focuses on coding and product development, a scrum master is responsible to keep the team in line with the business or product requirements and morale boosted as the development progresses. Acting as a bridge between the scrum team and the product owner or business owner, a scrum master role is quite dynamic and accountable.
What are the Top Skills Should a Scrum Master Have?
A scrum master's skills account for both personal and professional aspects. Acting as the guardian of the team's interest, a scrum master needs to be compassionate, understanding and flexible. On the other hand, since the main aim of establishing a scrum team and appointing a scrum master is to ensure on-time delivery of the desired end product, a scrum master also acts as a representative on the product owner’s behalf. Thus, the role demands a manager who possesses both soft skills and technical skills alike.
Personal or Soft Skills
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The first quality that every successful scrum master must possess is leadership. A leader is someone who puts others' interests before him or her and ensures that they are headed in the right direction. A role of scrum master as a leader is of the transformational type that facilitates the transformation of individual coders or professionals into a cohesive team. This team is then responsible for delivering the desired end product with substantial inputs of the scrum master.
Since a scrum master is responsible to communicate the requirements to both parties, they must possess excellent communication skills. This is helpful in a clear understanding of the requirements without any ambiguity and confusion.
A scrum master role involves collaboration between the development team and the product/business owner which requires a sensitive representative who is responsible for a healthy liaison. Although the information flows in a top-down manner i.e. from the product owner to the scrum team, the scrum master ensures overall involvement.
A successful ScrumMaster is a highly knowledgeable person who knows every knick-knack of the agile process and the underlying product. His knowledge will guide the scrum team at difficult milestones, help in resolving problems and proactively browse through any potential problems that may arise. Even though what does a scrum master does not work on the product first-hand, his knowledge acts foundational to the team performance.
- Working knowledge of agile methodologies like Kanban, Scrum, XP, FDD, Crystal, etc.
- Deep understanding of software development approaches- iterative and incremental.
- Understanding of how software development takes place and related procedures
- Ability to breakdown the product lifecycle into scalable sprints.
- Understanding of Lean and agile development methods along with SAFe core values.
[Related Article: Agile Project Management With Scrum]
What are the roles and responsibilities of a scrum master?
Responsibilities of a Scrum Master
A scrum master is also called servant leader to the scrum team and is responsible for the following functions:
1. Serve as a servant leader to the scrum team
The term 'Servant leader' refers to a scrum manager role where the scrum master exercises leadership without any authority. The ScrumMaster serves the scrum team by referring to their requirements, resolving problems, facilitating with resources and ensures increased and maintained efficiency every day. Being a coach to the team, a scrum master is concerned about synergizing the individual efforts into efficient teamwork.
2. Mentor the scrum team personally and professionally
The personal involvement of a scrum master cannot be denied in the effectiveness of a scrum team. Right from the conception of the product deliverable to framing the scrum team and finally the delivery of the conceived product, a scrum master witnesses all ups and downs in the product lifecycle. A successful scrum master trains and empowers the scrum team in a way that they become self-motivated, self-sufficient and self-driven. The true accomplishment of a successful scrum master lies in nurturing a team that is so well-sustained that they do not require a scrum master to deliver the end product.
3. Implement agile best practices across the project
Contrary to the traditional waterfall method, agile methodology calls for a focused approach on the project that works on the principals of an integrated self-sustaining environment and breaking down the lifecycle into mappable sprints. A scrum master's responsibility is to ensure that these best-practices are implemented within the development ecosystem that includes external teams as well. Since a scrum master role is also of communicating within the teams and people involved, the best practices need to be followed across all levels.
4. Internal and external coordination
There is a long list to scrum master responsibilities that ensure the smooth functioning of the project and team involved. An important responsibility that a scrum master performs is that of coordinating between the parties involved both internal and external. As the representative of the SOS (Scrum of Scrums) meeting, a scrum master is responsible for communicating the information to and from the team and other stakeholders.
5. Assists the product owner
The scrum master responsibility is not limited to the scrum team. They hold equal accountability towards the other side as well. a scrum master ensures that all the requirements in the product are worked upon and delivered by the scrum team within the stipulated time frame and set terms.
Roles of a Scrum Master
Scrum master roles can be divided according to their accountability to various parties involved. A scrum master serves as the mediator between the Product Owner, scrum team and the organization, the roles are also different accordingly.
1. To the scrum team (development team)
- Proactively removes the bottlenecks in the project that ensure smooth functioning of the development team
- Keeps the morale boosted at all times by appreciating, mentoring and coaching
- Practices an open-door policy for all members accounting for accessibility
- Expedites scrum events as per the team's requirements
- Facilitates the development of value-worth deliverables
- Harmonizing the relationship within the team and outside as well
2. To the product owner
- Understands and communicates the requirements to the development team
- Acts a mediator of thoughts and requirements within involved parties
- Monitors the development of the end product and ensures the worthiness
- Optimizes the product backlog efficiently
- Ensures timely delivery of the end product
3. To the organization
- Promote agile best practices across the organization
- Coaches agile or scrum friendly teams that are self-driven
- Help implement scrum across the organization
- Always looking for improvements
Scrum master roles and responsibilities are difficult to be narrowed down in a single job description. The scope is vast and demands a dynamic individual ready to stay put during the tough times and boost the morale of others looking up to them. A lot of onus lies on the shoulder of a scrum master who ensures agile best practices are followed across the organization keeping the human element still alive and heard of.
Do you have what it takes to be a successful scrum master? Comment below your thoughts and suggestions.
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