What is a Scrum Master & How They Can Help Your Team Reach Its Goals
Every software development team needs a great leader. Typically, software leadership comes in more than one role like engineering managers, lead developers, or product owners. While every leadership role has its purpose and goals, none is like that of an agile scrum master. Today, we will dig into the servant leadership of the scrum master on an agile software development team.
What is a Scrum Master?
The foremost resource for Agile development and process is Scrum Alliance. They define a scrum master as such:
A scrum master is a coach and a guide who ensures their team understands the scrum framework and its principles, values, and practices. They are a servant leader who helps their team in many ways.
So, let’s break down this definition. A scrum master is first a “coach and a guide” to the scrum framework. The scrum master on the team must be the most knowledgeable person about the Agile Scrum Methodology to ensure the team stays within the guidelines and doesn’t go astray. It’s their responsibility to champion the Agile Methodology, keeping the team invested and excited about the process as they complete work. Also, it’s their responsibility to ensure the team continues to grow through the process, increasing their efficiency and, hopefully, the velocity with each sprint.
The scrum master is considered a “servant leader.” This means that they are focused on putting their team’s needs first to help them grow in the process and keep work moving forward. They will work to move any obstacles that are impeding their team members. This work can take many forms, so the day-to-day never looks the same.
What Does a Scrum Master Do?
A scrum master’s role is always the same, but the day-to-day will look different based on the team, sprint, and project they are guiding. Regardless, the three main responsibilities of a scrum master are: encourage and organize conversations, manage obstacles for the team, and guide team members in agile scrum best practices.
Encouraging and Organizing Conversations
Effective software has never been built without developers communicating with each other or other departments, but it doesn’t always happen organically. They must identify when the team needs a conversation and facilitate it to ensure they get what they need to continue work.
Managing Obstacles for the Team
Often times, a scrum master must actively block out distractions and frustrations for the team so they can complete their work on time and to specifications. These obstacles can be anything from taking them off the list of developers available to working on emergencies or ensuring they have the most up-to-date tools. They will often play block and tackle with the business and coworkers to ensure that the team can focus on the assigned task.
Guiding in Agile Scrum Best Practices
As noted before, a scrum master must be the most knowledgeable person on the team about Agile Scrum. It’s their job to ensure the team understands Agile best practices and adheres to them. When the team is on board with the agile methodology, the team can work effectively and cohesively to accomplish the sprint and project goals. This could mean a scrum master facilitates onsite or offsite training on scrum or they could engage the team in games to build trust.
The Benefits of Having a Scrum Master on Your Team
As you can imagine, when you have a dedicated member of your team fighting the good fight and guiding the team in best practices, there are several benefits for the team and the business.
A Focused Scrum Team
A focused team usually means a productive team. The scrum master’s main priority is to allow the team to complete work as efficiently and accurately as possible. Teams without a dedicated scrum master will spend a lot of time finding tools to optimize work, fighting against the scrum process, or spinning in conversations to try and communicate with business leaders. They will help the team with all of these things to keep them focused on the tasks and move the work forward.
It’s no secret that developers and business leaders often speak different languages. The scrum master is responsible for running the daily scrum to facilitate conversations within the team. However, they will also facilitate important conversations to clarify business needs or concerns, alleviating the back-and-forth that often occurs without a translator. When these conversations are effective, the team gets back to work quickly, and the business is clear on the deliverables.
Trust & Commrodary
If a professional scrum master works to their full potential, the team will have a great rapport with each other. While scrum masters can’t change personalities, they can facilitate scrum games or team-building events, so the team learns about each other. In a world where software developers can be separated between time zones, this team building can be extremely influential in the team’s success.
Continuous improvement should not just be for the software, but also the software development process. A scrum master will evaluate the team’s process and help them to improve in the next sprint. This brings continuous professional and development improvement which benefits the team members and the business.
While we’ve been discussing this role in regard to software development, the role of a scrum master (and agile methodology) has been evolving and disseminating to other disciplines as well like chemical engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and customer service. The role of the scrum master is essential in those disciplines because its core is about prioritizing the team’s needs and task completion above most other things. To be a servant leader is to keep the best interest of the team and the project at the forefront of their day, which brings efficiency to the team and the business processes.