What does a Scrum Master do all day? To answer that question, we first need to look deeper into the Scrum Master role and responsibilities.
AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach
The Scrum Master role is a leader that serves the Scrum Team and the organisation. What does that mean exactly? Is the Scrum Master a manager? No, the Scrum Master role uses a modern leadership style with skills such as coaching, mentoring, facilitation and training with the intent to serve the team. The Scrum Master is there to empower the team on their Scrum Journey by coaching the team in self-management and cross-functionality, helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value increments, removal of impediments and ensuring that all Scrum events take place.
The Scrum Master works with the Product Owner by helping find techniques that can empower the Product Owner in their work, such as effective Product Backlog management and facilitation of stakeholder collaboration. The Scrum Master serves the organisation by leading the organisation on their Scrum adaptation by helping everyone understand the Agile and Scrum way of working, and removing barriers for this adoption.
But what is the Scrum Master then responsible for?
In the 2020 version (newest version) of the Scrum Guide, a change was made that the Scrum Master is no longer responsible but is now accountable. What does that mean?
Responsible = having an obligation to do something.
Accountable = required or expected to justify actions or decisions.
We are going away from a role that has an obligation to do something specific and instead we empower the Scrum Team to be self-managed and figure out what is needed but expect them to be able to justify the actions and decisions.
So, what is the Scrum Master accountable for?
The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. This is done by empowering the Scrum Team to constantly improve the way they work to become a high-performing team within the Scrum framework. This can be done by observing and coaching the team to find new ways of doing things. It can be done by investigating new tools and practices that can be introduced to the team and empower them to decide if it will help or not.
The Scrum Master is also accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. What does that mean? It is known that the full benefits of Scrum only emerge if Scrum is implemented fully. As a coach, we often see teams that have their version of Scrum and that is where we see the most dysfunction and anti-patterns. So, as a Scrum Master, you are accountable for how the Scrum Team implements the Scrum framework and it should be as defined in the Scrum Guide to achieve the full potential.
With all of this said, what does a Scrum Master do all day then?
As mentioned, there is not a specific list of responsibilities for a Scrum Master – so the Scrum Master needs to be highly self-manageable. From our experience, this is what a Scrum Master will use time on, but it should not be seen as a checklist, more as guidance and examples of what a Scrum Master is doing.
Scrum events and workshops – guidance in professional facilitation – says that in preparation for an event a Scrum Master is facilitating, they should be using double the amount of time the event will take. So, if you have a 1-hour event to facilitate, you should be using 2 hours for preparation, and not forgetting to use time afterward for following up, etc. This can be very time-consuming and should be for a good result.
Because the Scrum Master is accountable for the team’s effectiveness, they should spend more time on upskilling, figuring out new ways things could be done, how they can support the team in the best possible way, and support the team by coaching and training them in new approaches. Remember, coaching is not about forcing a team – but empowering them to make the best decision based on their knowledge.
A Scrum Master works with people, and people are complex, and there will always be areas you can upskill yourself in to be stronger in working with people.
To be able to inspect and adapt, the Scrum Master needs to observe and listen, understand the team and organisation, know what is going on, where they can help, and understand emerging anti-patterns. By observing and listening you will gain data that can be used for upskilling, influence, and empower the team and organisation.
Remember you are the leader that serves the team and organisation, what can you do to empower the change for a better tomorrow?
If you want to know more about how to become a great Scrum Master, you can read Scrum Master tips here.
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