Three primary roles exist within the Agile realm of Scrum: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Team. According to Agile’s core foundations, the Scrum Master is meant to facilitate rather than dictate, focusing on empowering teams to be autonomous and to self-organize. Scrum Masters should encourage team members to endorse an Agile mindset, prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools to create a powerful, iterative environment.
Let’s drive some clarity on what this means and break down the roles and responsibilities for this team-based servant leader.
A Scrum Master should:
Maintain the pulse of Team dynamics.
When a group of people works on a project, a storm of different styles and personalities interacting together can lead to varying or unhealthy Team dynamics. The job of the Scrum Master is to keep tabs on the health of these dynamics and jump in to facilitate conflict resolution and opportunities for growth where necessary. Scrum Masters don’t force change, they empower individuals to do their best work to help build a high-performing Team.
Remove obscuring obstacles from the path.
In order to make it to the finish line of a sprint goal, distractions need to be blocked and impediments alleviated to avoid stumbles along the way. It’s the Scrum Master’s responsibility to remove these roadblocks and maintain a focused path for Team members to reach their goals. Setting up the Team for success is a pivotal responsibility of the Scrum Master, and sometimes that can mean simply clearing the way for individuals to do what they do best.
Facilitate the flow of work within the team.
The Scrum Master’s primary role is to be a facilitator. Part of this general facilitation includes leading Team meetings, establishing clear goals, and assisting the efforts of both the Product Owner and the individual members of the Team. In assisting the Product Owner, the Scrum Master can help prioritize workload backlogs and manage project scopes to better align with the desired results and definition of the value of the current project. By challenging outdated processes, utilizing feedback from the team, and keeping best practices relevant, the Scrum Master enhances performance and flow for the team.
Protect each team and their work from external distractions.
Scrum Masters should act as representatives of their Team in Scrum of Scrums (SoS) meetings and other executive discussions. The Scrum Master collects and communicates information between Teams, and between upper-management and the Team. This coordination with outside parties creates a protective barrier which allows members of the Team to focus on their work and the project at hand without the concern of impending distractions that may cause delays or task expansion.
Coach team members on self-management.
A Scrum Master doesn’t exist to be “the boss”. Their goal should be to foster individual ownership and personal responsibility within each of their Team members. Accomplishing this might involve teaching specific techniques to the Team for problem-solving while equipping them with the capabilities and confidence to tackle and resolve issues themselves. Self-discipline is a pillar of Agile, and the Scrum Master exists to implement these values and practices.