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What Is A Scrum Master?

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. Who is a Scrum Master in an Agile project?Scrum Master Roles: Scrum Master vs Project Manager 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: Developers Product Owner Scrum Master 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 role and responsibilities of a Scrum MasterThe 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.Responsibilities towards the developers:Servant leadership: The Scrum Master benefits the developers the most. As servant leaders, their primary responsibility is to ensure that the team can work without any hindrances. If there are any impediments or issues that are stopping the team’s work, the Scrum Master works towards resolving that impediment and creating an environment that is conducive to working, creating and innovating. Creating high performing teams: By helping the team focus on their work without having to worry about other issues, the Scrum Master ensures that the team is always performing at its peak and is highly motivated. Coaching the team: The Scrum Master is always coaching and guiding the team on Scrum principles and processes. This helps the teamwork towards completing the sprint goals and also makes the team more adaptable and responsive to changing requirements. Making the team self-organized: Scrum is distinguished by teams that are self-organized and highly collaborative. The Scrum Master ensures that a high performing team is created, which is collaborative, achieves goals and meets the requirements of the customer.  Responsibilities towards the Product Owner:The Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner a great deal.  Helping with product backlog: The Product Owner is primarily responsible for organizing and ordering the product backlog, but the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in this task. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in product planning and identifying backlog items along with the development team.    Helping in stakeholder collaboration: The Product Owner is the primary means of communication between the team and the stakeholders, but they cannot do this without the help of the Scrum Master who also helps in managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration. Helping with setting up empirical processes: The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in establishing empirical product planning. Scrum Masters use their past experiences to plan projects.  Responsibilities towards the Organization:Helping in Scrum adoption through training and coaching: The Scrum Master’s role as a Scrum coach and motivator is not limited just to the development team. It goes beyond the team to the organization level. The Scrum Master spreads the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization through coaching and helping teams and departments develop an Agile mind-set. Helping customers and stakeholders understand Scrum: Not all are aware of the benefits of Scrum and hence may be hesitant to get their product developed through Scrum techniques. The Scrum Master not only helps stakeholders understand the benefits of Scrum but also helps them understand how the product will be delivered using Scrum techniques.  Helping in Scaling and implementing Scrum:  Scrum adoption is not easy for any organization. It’s a carefully thought-out transformation journey. The Scrum Master helps in implementations and scaling of Scrum at the organizational level.   How can one become a Scrum Master?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. Scrum Master Learning Path, Training & Certification Certification NameLearning PathTrainingCertifying bodyCertified ScrumMaster® (CSM®)  Getting familiar with Agile & Scrum The three roles in Scrum Scrum ceremonies and artifacts Sprint execution Daily Scrum and Retrospectives Agile estimation 2-day training from a Certified Scrum TrainerScrum Alliance®Professional Scrum Master™ I (PSM I)  Understanding and Applying Scrum Developing People and Teams Managing Products with Agility Developing and Delivering Products Professionally Evolving the Agile Organization 2-day training from a Professional Training Network (PTN) member of Scrum.org  Scrum.org™  Scrum Master by Scrum Inc.™  Learn about the Scrum Framework and the origins of Scrum Define and understand the Scrum roles Learn about Events and Artifacts Understand Lean principles and creating a high- performance team Understand the Agile Manifesto and about Scrum@Scale  16-hour training from an ATP of Scrum Inc.  Scrum Inc.  Certified SAFe® Scrum Master  Get introduced to Scrum in SAFe Understand the role of a Scrum Master Program Increment Planning Facilitate Iteration execution Finishing the Program Increment Coaching Agile teams2-day course conducted by SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)  Scaled Agile, Inc  Certified ScrumMaster SalaryCertified ScrumMaster certification significantly raises your earning potential as you have proven Scrum Master skills and expertise. CSMs earn an average salary of INR1,450,000 in India, USD 97319 in USA, and CAD 81,218 in Canada.The challenges faced by a Scrum MasterA Scrum Master’s role is not without its share of challenges. Some of the problems a Scrum Master may face include:Lack of support: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.  Meetings are not time boxed: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.Lack of learning temperament: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.Animosity between developers and stakeholders: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.Scope creep: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. Product Owner issues: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.Working as a team: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.Expected BenefitsThere are plenty of benefits to be had with having a Scrum Master, for both the team and the organization.   Self-organized teams work better and are more productive.  The team can get their doubts cleared from the Scrum Master.  With obstacles removed, the team can focus better on improving the product quality.  By scaling Scrum, the organization can ensure satisfied customers, improved time to market and reduced cycle time.  The Scrum Master brings about change in culture and mind-set. Common PitfallsA 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:Hiring the wrong person to do the job:A project manager who has no experience with Scrum cannot be lead a Scrum team. Micro-managing: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. Not expanding role scope: 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.Not trusting the team enough: 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.Skill LevelsYour 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: Rotating Scrum Master:In this, the team does not have a fixed Scrum Master. The responsibilities are rotated among team members on a sprint-on-sprint basis.Part time Scrum Master: 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. Full time dedicated Scrum Master: 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.Full time Scrum Master for multiple teams:This requires a Scrum Master to be involved with multiple teams, full time.Agile Coach: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.Top Qualities of a Successful Scrum Master 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:  Systems Thinking: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.Change Manager: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.Trouble-shooter: 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.A Scrum coach:  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 vs Project ManagerScrum MasterProject ManagerAllows the team to function without interfering muchHas a more autocratic style of functioning and is a central point of contact in a projectIs a facilitator of the projectOwns the projectIs more focused on being a servant leader and helping people understand ScrumIs responsible for every aspect of the project from planning to release  Is not involved in resource managementIs involved in resource managementOften works with small teamsCan work with large teamsConclusion 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.   Looking to get CSM certified? Check our schedules and sign up for a class! 
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What Is A Scrum Master?

Susan May
Blog
23rd Mar, 2021
What Is A Scrum Master?

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

Who is a Scrum Master in an Agile project?

Scrum Master Roles: Scrum Master vs Project Manager 

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: 

  • Developers 
  • Product Owner 
  • Scrum Master 

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 role and responsibilities of a Scrum Master

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.

Responsibilities towards the developers:

  • Servant leadership: The Scrum Master benefits the developers the most. As servant leaders, their primary responsibility is to ensure that the team can work without any hindrances. If there are any impediments or issues that are stopping the team’s work, the Scrum Master works towards resolving that impediment and creating an environment that is conducive to working, creating and innovating. 
  • Creating high performing teams: By helping the team focus on their work without having to worry about other issues, the Scrum Master ensures that the team is always performing at its peak and is highly motivated. 
  • Coaching the teamThe Scrum Master is always coaching and guiding the team on Scrum principles and processes. This helps the teamwork towards completing the sprint goals and also makes the team more adaptable and responsive to changing requirements. 
  • Making the team self-organized: Scrum is distinguished by teams that are self-organized and highly collaborative. The Scrum Master ensures that a high performing team is created, which is collaborative, achieves goals and meets the requirements of the customer.  

Responsibilities towards the Product Owner:

The Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner a great deal.  

  • Helping with product backlog: The Product Owner is primarily responsible for organizing and ordering the product backlog, but the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in this task. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in product planning and identifying backlog items along with the development team.    
  • Helping in stakeholder collaboration: The Product Owner is the primary means of communication between the team and the stakeholders, but they cannot do this without the help of the Scrum Master who also helps in managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration. 
  • Helping with setting up empirical processes: The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in establishing empirical product planning. Scrum Masters use their past experiences to plan projects.  

Responsibilities towards the Organization:

  • Helping in Scrum adoption through training and coaching: The Scrum Master’s role as a Scrum coach and motivator is not limited just to the development team. It goes beyond the team to the organization level. The Scrum Master spreads the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization through coaching and helping teams and departments develop an Agile mind-set. 
  • Helping customers and stakeholders understand Scrum: Not all are aware of the benefits of Scrum and hence may be hesitant to get their product developed through Scrum techniques. The Scrum Master not only helps stakeholders understand the benefits of Scrum but also helps them understand how the product will be delivered using Scrum techniques.  
  • Helping in Scaling and implementing Scrum:  Scrum adoption is not easy for any organization. It’s a carefully thought-out transformation journey. The Scrum Master helps in implementations and scaling of Scrum at the organizational level.  

 How can one become a Scrum Master?

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

Scrum Master Learning Path, Training & Certification 

Certification NameLearning PathTrainingCertifying body

Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®)  
  • Getting familiar with Agile & Scrum 
  • The three roles in Scrum 
  • Scrum ceremonies and artifacts 
  • Sprint execution 
  • Daily Scrum and Retrospectives 
  • Agile estimation 


2-day training from a Certified Scrum Trainer

Scrum Alliance®

Professional Scrum Master™ I (PSM I)  
  • Understanding and Applying Scrum 
  • Developing People and Teams 
  • Managing Products with Agility 
  • Developing and Delivering Products Professionally 
  • Evolving the Agile Organization 


2-day training from a Professional Training Network (PTN) member of Scrum.org  

Scrum.org™  

Scrum Master by Scrum Inc.™  
  • Learn about the Scrum Framework and the origins of Scrum 
  • Define and understand the Scrum roles 
  • Learn about Events and Artifacts 
  • Understand Lean principles and creating a high- performance team 
  • Understand the Agile Manifesto and about Scrum@Scale  


16-hour training from an ATP of Scrum Inc.  

Scrum Inc.  

Certified SAFe® Scrum Master  
  • Get introduced to Scrum in SAFe 
  • Understand the role of a Scrum Master 
  • Program Increment Planning 
  • Facilitate Iteration execution 
  • Finishing the Program Increment 
  • Coaching Agile teams


2-day course conducted by SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)  

Scaled Agile, Inc  

Certified ScrumMaster Salary

  • Certified ScrumMaster certification significantly raises your earning potential as you have proven Scrum Master skills and expertise. 
  • CSMs earn an average salary of INR1,450,000 in India, USD 97319 in USA, and CAD 81,218 in Canada.

The challenges faced by a Scrum Master

A Scrum Master’s role is not without its share of challenges. Some of the problems a Scrum Master may face include:

  • Lack of support:

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.  

  • Meetings are not time boxed:

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.

  • Lack of learning temperament:

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.

  • Animosity between developers and stakeholders:

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.

  • Scope creep:

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. 

  • Product Owner issues:

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.

  • Working as a team:

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.

Expected Benefits

There are plenty of benefits to be had with having a Scrum Master, for both the team and the organization.   

  • Self-organized teams work better and are more productive.  
  • The team can get their doubts cleared from the Scrum Master.  
  • With obstacles removed, the team can focus better on improving the product quality.  
  • By scaling Scrum, the organization can ensure satisfied customers, improved time to market and reduced cycle time.  
  • The Scrum Master brings about change in culture and mind-set. 

Common Pitfalls

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:

  • Hiring the wrong person to do the job:

A project manager who has no experience with Scrum cannot be lead a Scrum team. 

  • Micro-managing:

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. 

  • Not expanding role scope: 

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.

  • Not trusting the team enough: 

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.

Skill Levels

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: 

  • Rotating Scrum Master:

In this, the team does not have a fixed Scrum Master. The responsibilities are rotated among team members on a sprint-on-sprint basis.

  • Part time Scrum Master: 

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. 

  • Full time dedicated Scrum Master: 

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.

  • Full time Scrum Master for multiple teams:

This requires a Scrum Master to be involved with multiple teams, full time.

  • Agile Coach:

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.

Top Qualities of a Successful Scrum Master 

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:  

  • Systems Thinking:

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.

  • Change Manager:

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.

  • Trouble-shooter: 

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.

  • A Scrum coach:  

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 vs Project Manager

Scrum MasterProject Manager
Allows the team to function without interfering muchHas a more autocratic style of functioning and is a central point of contact in a project
Is a facilitator of the projectOwns the project
Is more focused on being a servant leader and helping people understand ScrumIs responsible for every aspect of the project from planning to release  
Is not involved in resource managementIs involved in resource management
Often works with small teamsCan work with large teams


Conclusion 

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.   

Looking to get CSM certified? Check our schedules and sign up for a class! 

Susan

Susan May

Writer, Developer, Explorer

Susan is a gamer, internet scholar and an entrepreneur, specialising in Big Data, Hadoop, Web Development and many other technologies. She is the author of several articles published on Zeolearn and KnowledgeHut blogs. She has gained a lot of experience by working as a freelancer and is now working as a trainer. As a developer, she has spoken at various international tech conferences around the globe about Big Data.


Website : https://www.zeolearn.com

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