Apr 18

What is a scrum master? A breakdown of this multifaceted job.

A scrum master is the key figure in the Agile working method within the Scrum process. The role involves facilitating the workflow for the development team to meet the client’s expectation in the most efficient way. “The word Scrum is derived from the game Rugby where training for the big game, teams are encouraged to learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve.”

It’s a common method for software development teams but could also be implemented in other fields that require teamwork. The job description is packed and precise but due to the multifaceted nature of the executive skills, it’s truly worth dissecting.

Skill sets, training and challenges

It goes without saying that a Scrum master is expected to know the entire Scrum process within the Agile method. To apply for the job you need to have the following essentials: an Agile Scrum master certification, great verbal and written communication skills, and a bachelor degree in computer science or a related field can come in useful.

The successful use of Scrum also depends on people becoming more skilled in these five Scrum Values that are more considered as soft skills: commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage. Stay up to date with the latest on Scrum with the Scrum Guide.

All these qualifications mentioned above help you face the challenges within your job:

  • guarding of the framework and methodology
  • organize daily scrum meetings and coach team members individually
  • teaching Scrum principles to your team and working according to these rules of thumb
  • time-management of the sprints and deadlines
  • solving the hiccups while developing product stories
  • keep track on the progress of the entire team

On the job

The responsibilities for a scrum master don’t lie in giving orders to the team but rather making sure that every individual can do his work without experiencing any difficulties. Once all the individuals are correctly briefed, the entire team will benefit from the correct synergy. Think of it as the work of a sheepherder: he directs the flock of sheep in one direction but each walks its own path. While walking the sheep, he often looks back to check if everyone is still walking in the right direction and uses his crook to correct the flock when needed.

Let’s look at the activities of a scrum master:

Firstly, a meeting takes place with the product owner to understand the vision of the brand and how the end product should look like. The ‘problem’ that the scrum master and his team needs to solve is divided into a set of user stories (what, why, how). These user stories are all registered in a backlog and queued according to the importance of each story/task.

Secondly, the scrum master organises a kick off meeting with the development team that he carefully selected and briefs them accordingly on what needs to be done. Based on the previous step, the product owner has already ensured that the backlog is updated.The scrum master and his team consult the backlog which contains all the information that is needed to fulfill every task. Each developer then commits to the amount of user stories they can take on in a sprint and weigh out the workload. Depending on how much time there is, a sprint can take 2 to 4 weeks.

Lastly, the team comes together for a daily scrum and discusses how they are progressing in their work and what the difficulties are. The scrum master then handles these challenges accordingly. Once all the tickets in the backlog of the first sprint are completed, it’s presented to the product client. The client gives feedback which is processed by the product owner in the backlog with new tickets added to the next sprint. This circular method continues until the client is fully satisfied. Unlike the waterfall approach, an Agile team will continuously work on the project without starting a new contract.

A scrum master is not comparable to a project manager that really gives orders to the team. He/she is more of a servant leader, making sure that all the Scrum practices are implemented and aims for continuous improvement, so don’t let the word “master” mislead you.

If you wish to know more about the different tasks and skills of a scrum master, take a look at this extensive graphic by Lucid Chart.

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