Scrum Implementation: What does the Scrum Master do?

It is very common to see a Scrum Master staffed across 2, 3, and even sometimes 5 different teams.  It is also common for experts, trainers, and coaches to recommend a Scrum Master be dedicated to a single team.  But why?  There is confusion in that most people think the Scrum Master is there to run daily standups (15 minutes of work per day).  That begs the question, “What does the Scrum Master actually do all day?”

Mike Cohn says, “The ScrumMaster can be thought of as a process owner for the team”, which I think is a very apt description.  We see a lot of information about the Scrum Master as the arbiter, the protector, the diplomat, the organizer, but very little in the way of actual “duties” for the Scrum Master.  I think this is a direct result of industrial age-thinking where we think we pay people to “do” rather than to “think.”  We don’t, and in the case of a Scrum Master, we pay them to “think” and “act” in the spirit of servant-leadership.

If you think about the product owner as fuel, and the development team as the engine, the Scrum Master can be though of as lubricant.

In order to have your engine use the fuel most effectively, lubricant needs to be drenched all over the moving parts.  If your engine doesn’t have lubricant, then its parts will grind each other and you will have a very poorly performing engine.  Any operation of the team, the product owner, and the organization’s interface with the team from an Agile perspective, as well as anything that ties back to Scrum is directly tied to the Scrum Master providing guidance.

The Scrum team wants to do their work, not manage the process.  So their job is to ensure the Scrum Master is taking care of any process-related impediments for them.  The product owner wants to manage stakeholders and priorities, not manage the process, so its the Scrum Master’s job to ensure that the Product Owner has everything (s)he needs in order to effectively work within the framework.

The Scrum Master is There for Everyone

  • A Scrum Master removes impediments for the team.
  • Does your team have impediments?
  • Are the impediments quick fixes or are they things that need to be initiated, tracked, and managed until they are complete?
  • Is the product owner being effective?
  • Do they have impediments that you could help with?
  • How is the team doing?
  • Are there any issues/opportunities for higher performance?
  • How are our engineering practices going?
  • Are we effectively doing continuous integration?
  • How is the organization going?
  • Are we aligned on priorities?
  • Are stakeholders’ needs being met?
  • Do we have good communication?

Once the Scrum Master actively finds issues and removes impediments for the Product Owner, the Team, the Engineering Practices, and the Organization, there is very little time for anything else.

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