Scrum management and scrum masters address and eliminate the distractions, disruptions and obstacles within a team so others are free to focus on the work of producing output and desired outcomes.
The Scrum Master helps the team enhance and streamline the processes by which they achieve their goals. They do so as a team member and collaborator, ideally not as someone in control. The best scrum teams are self-organizing and therefore do not react well to top-down management.
Effective Scrum Masters
The best scrum masters are organized, enabling and communicative. They create space for teams to make informed decisions without dictating results.
Scrum Master Responsibilities
The Scrum Master is the team role responsible for ensuring the team lives agile values and principles and follows the processes and practices that the team agreed they would use.
Scrum Master responsibilities include clearing obstacles, establishing an environment where the team can be effective, addressing team dynamics, ensuring positive relationships between all roles and protecting the team from interruptions and distractions.
People filling this role lead from a position of influence, often taking a servant-leadership stance.
Scrum Masters Agile
Scrum Masters are servant leaders and coaches for an Agile team. They help educate the team in Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban and SAFe, ensuring that the Agile process is being followed. They also help remove impediments and foster an environment for high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow and relentless improvement.
Scrum Master vs. Project Manager
The Scrum Master’s non-agile counterpart is the Project Manager. Both roles focus on the “how” of getting work done and solve workflow problems through process and facilitation. So do you need both? Likely not.
Both a Project Manager and a Scrum Master are responsible for helping their teams get work done, but their approaches are vastly different. The Project Manager sets and tracks timeframes and milestones, reports on progress and coordinates team communication. However, this happens from a place of control, in a more traditional management role.
Where a Project Manager focuses on deliverables, dollars and deadlines, a Scrum Master focuses on removing obstacles from their team for sprint over sprint delivery.
Scrum Master vs. Product Owner
The Product Owner champions customer needs and addresses the “why” of the product. Highly involved Product Owners achieve more success with their development teams. When the involvement blurs into tasking, the “how” for a team, then there is a problem. Even with the best of intentions, this kind of utilization mindset tends to hide problems: defects, hand-offs and unknowns.
That’s why the Scrum Master and Product Owner fill two different needs on a Scrum team that are often combined with traditional software management. And it’s tempting in small teams to avoid the perceived overhead of another role. However, when roadblocks crop up, or changes arise, a clear division between process management and product direction is required.