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Who is the Scrum Master?

07 Jul, 2020 Methodologies
Who is the Scrum Master?

Who knows how many times you have heard this word, without ever fully understanding it. This article will help you get to know the Scrum Master and its functions.

Let's go ahead with introductions.

The Scrum Master as facilitator

The Scrum Master is the person who ensures that the team is working well together, he/she is the so-called Scrum facilitator.

In the Agile landscape, the team should be able to manage processes and tools autonomously: it takes time to get to this ideal situation, in order for responsibility and authority to be established in the team.

Here is where the Scrum Master comes in, making sure that obstacles to progress are removed and efficiency is guaranteed with the achievement of the final goal.

Whether more discreet or more present through Scrum ceremonies, the Scrum Master is always there for his/her team.

What the Scrum Guide says

The Scrum Guide, by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, speaks clearly about the SM.

First of all, this professional figure is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum, helping the team understand its theory, practices, rules and values.

According to the Guide, the Scrum Master moves on three levels.

1. The SM serves the Development Team:

2. The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner:

3. The Scrum Master serves the Organisation:

The Scrum Master is NOT a Project Manager

The role of the Scrum Master could be confused with the one of the Project Manager: actually there are many differences in the vision and concrete actions that these two professionals put in place.

Mike Cohn defines the Scrum Master as a process owner: he creates the balance between stakeholders, product owners and team.

That is why his/her functions are different and complex:

In short, being a Scrum Master requires different skills and a particular dedication.

He/she has no authority over the team members, but rather has to motivate, encourage and supervise the work of his/her team, as well as preserving it from external pressures.

For the SM, keeping the focus on the aim of the project, the course and the methodology to follow is essential. Creating and supporting a functioning team that is able to work the best way, growing and bringing results.

To do this, one might need to perform corrective actions on the organisational factors: not on the single member, but rather in the procedure. The SM’s authority stops here and this strongly differentiates this professional figure from a Project Manager.

The  Scrum Master is a guide, but it he/she does not give answers.

He/she is a leader at the service of the team: he talks to people, gives them advice on difficult choices, removes any obstacles found during the Sprint and aims at increasing productivity.

Always at a sustainable pace, without external pressures. The SM, in fact,  also helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which interactions are useful and which are not, in order to maximise the value created by the team.

To conclude, let's steal Jeff Sutherland's words from his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time:

“It was the Scrum Master’s job to guide the team toward continuous improvement—to ask with regularity, “How can we do what we do better?” Ideally, at the end of each iteration, each Sprint, the team would look closely at itself—at its interactions, practices, and processes—and ask two questions: “What can we change about how we work?” and “What is our biggest sticking point?” If those questions are answered forthrightly, a team can go faster than anyone ever imagined.” 

Beatrice Bottini

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