Agile software development has changed the way products are developed. Its numerous benefits have been realized by companies across sectors and its popularity is such that more than 70% organizations are now adopting Agile. Agile has many frameworks but the most popular among these is Scrum, that encompasses all the values of Agile and allows organizations to gain a competitive edge.
In this blog, we attempt to look at one of the roles that make up the Scrum team and that is the Scrum Master. We’ll help you understand what a Scrum Master is and how does one go about becoming a Scrum Master.
The Agile methodology with its emphasis on people over processes, working software over documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan, has ensured that teams are able to respond faster to change, and be more adaptable and flexible. This has enhanced bottom line margins and resulted in a happier workforce and creation of better-quality products for customers.
Scrum, among the other Agile frameworks, is the most popular, because it is easy to implement and gives teams a high degree of flexibility. There are three roles that make up a Scrum team. They are:
The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization—Scrum Guide
A Scrum Master is a one-man army, performing the roles of a servant leader, motivator, agile coach, facilitator, problem-solver, thinker and mentor. Their aim is not just to serve those within the team but to also ensure the adoption of Scrum throughout the organization.
The Scrum Master plays an important role in the team and in the organization.nThey have responsibilities, not just towards the developers but also towards the Product Owner and the organization.
The Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner a great deal.
The beauty of Scrum is that it can be learned by anyone. Scrum Masters can be from any field, as long as they have all the knowledge of Scrum and are well versed with the techniques of Scrum.
There are several certifications available that will help even novices start their career as Scrum Masters. These are well recognized credentials that help you learn all about Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide and the duties and responsibilities of a Scrum Master.
Above all, even if you have no previous experience as a Scrum Master, but have enthusiasm to learn and be Agile, have great people skills and if you have a desire to change the organizational culture, you can still become a great Scrum Master.
|Certification Name||Learning Path||Training||Certifying body|
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®)
2-day training from a Certified Scrum Trainer
Professional Scrum Master™ I (PSM I)
2-day training from a Professional Training Network (PTN) member of Scrum.org
Scrum Master by Scrum Inc.™
16-hour training from an ATP of Scrum Inc.
Certified SAFe® Scrum Master
2-day course conducted by SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)
Scaled Agile, Inc
A Scrum Master’s role is not without its share of challenges. Some of the problems a Scrum Master may face include:
Many organizations do not consider the Scrum Master’s role as an essential one. They get the Product Owner to do the task of both the roles.
There may also be lack of support or management buy-in in terms of Agile transformations. Scrum Masters cannot work towards Scrum implementations and Agile transformations if the management is not committed to the idea of a transformation.
The daily meetings are an essential part of Scrum and maintaining them within the time boxed period is equally important. Delays in these meetings can disrupt the entire day’s work. This may happen if there are team members who are unfocused and derail the meetings.
You are in the team to remove impediments and to also help you team members do Scrum. For this, your developers must be willing to learn, especially if they are new to Scrum. But if there is a lack of focus and interest in learning about Scrum, things can get difficult not just for the Scrum Master, but it can also jeopardize the entire project.
Communication gaps do occur and often this leads to bad blood between the developers and stakeholders. This can also happen due to unreasonable demands by the stakeholders. The Scrum Master along with the Product Owner has to maintain peace in the team.
There may be changes in scope, but it is essential to ensure that they do not drastically change the timelines and budget. The Scrum Master along with the Product Owner needs to manage this important aspect of the project and always keep the scope in check.
An unhealthy relationship between the Scrum Master and the Product Owner could spell doom for the project. Animosity may lead to a breakdown of communication which may further worsen the situation.
There may be members in a Scrum team who instead of focusing on working as a team may focus on only their individual tasks and success. Such teams are not collaborative or cohesive and pose a serious problem to the Scrum Master, whose aim is to create a self-organized, high performing team.
There are plenty of benefits to be had with having a Scrum Master, for both the team and the organization.
A failed agile transformation is more common than you think. Not all teams and organizations that walk down the agile road meet with success.
This is often the result of incorrect application of the Scrum Master’s role which can arise from:
A project manager who has no experience with Scrum cannot be lead a Scrum team.
Sure, it is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to remove impediments and obstacles. But it is also a Scrum Master’s job to create a self-organizing team. Too much spoon-feeding, in the long run will create an under-confident team that relies too much on the Scrum Master.
Taking care of the team is only one aspect of the Scrum Master’s role. It is also important to focus on other areas like enabling organizational change and Scrum coaching.
You may have a solid technical background, but it is not your job as a Scrum Master to keep interfering in the development team’s work. Trust your team to do a good job and coach them when needed.
Your skill level is defined by how involved you are in implementing Scrum in your team and the organization.
According to Agile Alliance, Scrum Masters can be of the following types, depending on their skill level:
In this, the team does not have a fixed Scrum Master. The responsibilities are rotated among team members on a sprint-on-sprint basis.
As the name suggests, this level sees a team member take on the additional responsibility of being a Scrum Master, along with carrying out other responsibilities in the same team.
A team which has newly transitioned into Scrum and is still learning the ropes of Agile will benefit from having a full-time dedicated Scrum Master.
This requires a Scrum Master to be involved with multiple teams, full time.
Becoming an Agile Coach can be the highest skill level in the Scrum Master journey. An agile coach’s job can be to work with multiple teams and guide them on Scrum matters.
Does the adage “Leaders are born, not made”, hold true for Scrum?
While it is true that leadership qualities are inborn, and certain individuals will make better Scrum Masters, it is also a role where one makes mistakes and learns.
Qualities such as communication, taking responsibility, neutrality, multitasking and servant leadership are in-born. If you are not born with these, then it is essential that you cultivate them to be a successful Scrum Master.
Other essential skills that you will need to develop for this role include:
Understanding how systems work, relate and perform is a key skill to have as a Scrum Master. This will help you look ahead and plan for contingencies.
Your ability to bring about change; in processes and in the mind-set of your team and organization is a true gauge of your effectiveness as a Scrum Master.
Your main responsibility towards your team is to be the problem-solver. They will come to you with their problems, and you need to ensure that all impediments are solved so that the team can focus on development.
As a Scrum Master, you also must ensure that Scrum practices are followed, and Agile end-results are realised. Coaching and guiding the team and the organization in all matters Scrum will be your forte as a super successful Scrum Master.
|Scrum Master||Project Manager|
|Allows the team to function without interfering much||Has a more autocratic style of functioning and is a central point of contact in a project|
|Is a facilitator of the project||Owns the project|
|Is more focused on being a servant leader and helping people understand Scrum||Is responsible for every aspect of the project from planning to release|
|Is not involved in resource management||Is involved in resource management|
|Often works with small teams||Can work with large teams|
As more and more organizations go Agile, the demand for Scrum Masters has seen a sharp rise. The presence of a Scrum Master spells the difference between a successful project and a failed project. Scrum Masters with their servant leadership, communication, organizing and people skills can motivate the team to perform par excellence while also helping the organization through its successful Agile transformation.
This is the perfect opportunity for professionals to expand their Scrum portfolio and reap the benefits of a successful Scrum career.
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