Should you become a Scrum Master? Who would be a good fit for this agile role? And what does a Scrum Master really do anyway?
And with this definition of good product development practices, you already get a glimpse of what a good Scrum Master must do…
To sum it up:
A Scrum Master needs to do everything that keeps a team productive.
This includes helping them to detect problems that hinder their work and also helping them to resolve these problems one at a time. It also includes helping them to work together as a team, omitting technical debt, deliver value frequently and so on.
Here are a few examples of what Scrum Masters do:
Of course these are just a few examples, but by now you should get an idea of what a Scrum Master does. And you should also begin to see, that a Scrum Master is not just the person scheduling meetings or fetching coffee.
Although almost everything in the Scrum framework helps the Scrum Master to do his job, there are a few things that can be particularly helpful for him.
This meeting is conducted after each sprint (i.e. after two weeks). It’s sole purpose is continuous process improvement (“Kaizen”). The focus is on work process and collaboration, not on the product. Here the team unearths what goes well and what doesn’t; and it comes up with actionable solutions and improvements that can be implemented right away. Think of the retrospectives like a „lessons learned“, but in time to really learn and change something! The Scrum Master moderates this meeting and helps the team to stay focused and keep improving.
The team or the Scrum Master can collect obstacles (so called “impediments”) in a simple list called the “impediment backlog”. This can help to keep track of issues in the work process and prioritize the most pressing obstacles to be tackled.
Retro Action Items
The result of any retrospective meeting are a handful of very specific and actionable tasks to be implemented to improve the process. The Scrum Master makes sure that each retrospective yields about 1–5 improvements to be done in the next sprint. Keep the number of action items small — tackling too many impediments at once will lead to paralysis and to no improvements at all!
Sprint is the time when the team works on the product. It takes up 90% of the project’s time. A Scrum Master needs to watch the team and communicate with them all the time to detect and remove impediments.
This short, daily meeting is for the development team to coordinate. This is an awesome opportunity for any Scrum Master to pick up possible issues that need to be resolved. For practical tips for good Daily Scrum meetings, you can get my Udemy video course Avoid these 19 pitfalls of the Daily Scrum meeting (you get 90% off currently!).
All work a team needs to do during a sprint is in the Sprint Backlog — most commonly in form of index cards on a wall. Looking at this wall and how cards move (or not move) can give the Scrum Master hints towards possible impediments.
Definition of Done
Many problems in the work process of a team are resolved by improving the Definition of Done. If for example feature development is slow and the team found this to be caused by bad code quality, a possible solution could be to expect code reviews, automated tests and refactoring to be done on every feature before marking it “done”.
Of course a Scrum Master can do much more than what I listed (e.g. teaching the Product Owner ways to prioritize features, helping the team to create a team manifesto or helping to clarify the importance of a review for the stakeholders).
By now you should have a pretty good understanding, why the Scrum Master exists and what her tasks are. But which trades make a good Scrum Master? Would this role be for you? Whom would you ask in your team or company to take on the role of Scrum Master?
Here are 8 things that will benefit a good Scrum Master:
While these are by no means preconditions for taking on the Scrum Master role, each of these trades will benefit a Scrum Master greatly.
I hope I could give you a better understanding of what this often misunderstood role of “Scrum Master” really is. Maybe I could even persuade you to become a Scrum Master yourself.
I’m Matthias Orgler, a Scrum teacher and agile coach. After working my stint in Silicon Valley, I have advised and coached many companies large and small in agile methodologies over the last 10 years. Today I play concerts as a musician in Europe and enjoy family life. I still offer my knowledge as a Scrum teacher and agile coach to selected clients — if you’re interested in my help, feel free to reach out to me.