What is a scrum master?
Scrum Master, in simple words, is a role within the Scrum Framework. Scrum framework is an agile approach to build product incrementally and iteratively. Scrum is the most popular framework on the name of agile. Many people get confused between agile and scrum. Scrum is the most popular way to be agile but again, it is not the only way to be agile. The popularity of scrum reflects on its role as well.
There are 3 roles in Scrum which have their own responsibility and accountability.
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- Development Team
Scrum Master: This is the most popular role in Scrum so far by looking at the number of training that is conducted every month. Scrum Master has to take care of the scrum processes and help the scrum team to do their job without outside hindrance. The scrum master helps others to do their job by facilitating team decisions and scrum events. They Coach everyone on scrum processes, agile values and principles, removing impediments that hinder in-team performance and much more. You can learn deeper about Scrum Master jobs in Scrum Master and Advance Scrum Master training. It is popular for reasons such as it was the first training launched by certification bodies, traditional project managers took up this role in beginning to move towards agile-based delivery. Also, many considered this as natural career progression within quality management, change management and release management organizations etc.
Product Owner: This is the second most popular role in Scrum. Product owner looks after stakeholders, manages releases, manages the product backlog and coordinates requirements within the development team and end-user. For me, this is the most important role in the scrum to build a successful product. Product Ownership is a rather challenging job, particularly when users don’t know what they want. If you are interested in learning what the product owner does, then it is highly recommended to join Scrum Product Owner training. However, this wouldn’t be sufficient and you must explore other concepts such as lean startup, lead product development and user experience etc.
Development Team: There is no product unless it is developed & ready to use for potential users. This will not happen without having a development team. You may survive without having a Scrum Master and Product owner because these roles could be played by someone within the development team, nevertheless, reversing the same might not be possible always. Unfortunately, there are very few organizations that understand the value of a self-organized and cross-functional development team. However, the majority don’t invest hugely on them. Ignored development team results in producing the ignored product. It is important to have an educated development team on a scrum in order to maximize the value of their effort. Scrum developer training might be a good start.
What does scrum master do?
As said above, Scrum Masters are caretakers of the scrum, who help others to do the job better and help the team to stay focused towards the goal. Here is how they do it: –
- Adopt Scrum values and processes – It is the scrum master’s responsibility to help the team understand scrum processes and values. Ensure that the team practices scrum in the right way and understand why it is important to practice the right way. They make sure artefacts such as product backlog, sprint backlog and product increment are transparent. Also, facilitate all inspect and adapt events as needed/requested.
- Facilitation – This is a big responsibility, especially when the scrum team is autonomous. Scrum masters need various approaches for facilitating learning opportunities, conflict management and stakeholder’s engagement etc.
- Coaching – Coaching is a professional skill, quite challenging to master. Yet, there are various learning paths to help you to achieve mastering in this. Scrum master coaches individual teams and practices. Hence, this goes beyond regular coaching and there’s need to master in system coaching as well as scaling practices
- Mentoring – Mentoring is an informal approach to help individuals and teams in achieving the goal. This is a continuous process as the goal keeps changing for the team as it gains maturity.
How to become a scrum master?
Becoming a good scrum master requires continuous learning and that usually starts with learning scrum processes. Learning scrum processes begins with attending Scrum Master training and the journey continues. I generally suggest taking a simple path for learning by going through various training such as:
- Learn facilitation skills by attending Professional Scrum Master II training and conflict management in training like NVC
- Learn team coaching in ICAgile – Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC) and enterprise coaching In ICP – Coaching Agile Transition (ICP-CAT)
- Mentoring requires personal mastery and one of the finest ways to kick-start it is by exploring agile engineering practices in Extreme Programming training. In order to mentor the team on various scaling frameworks like SAFe and LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum)
- Learn an alternative path for agility too in order to maximize team value and use it wherever needed. These alternative paths can be Kanban, Lean Startup, Design Thinking, DevOps and Design Sprint etc.
Career path for Scrum Master
This is a tricky question. Since scrum master is a role and not a hierarchical title, explaining where or how far you will go in the role of a scrum master is a difficult task. However, many suggest that the scrum master can become an agile coach but I believe scrum master is already an agile coach. Although, there are many exciting roles available outside such as director – agile transformation, agile transformation lead, change manager and agile COE head etc.
Should I try for a Scrum Master job?
Again, it is more a role than a job, so be careful about it. I strongly advise everyone to make the decision based on your liking. If you love coaching and mentoring then go for it. If otherwise, learn and play this role as per demand within your organisation like Scrum Master for one product but be ready to be a part of the development team in the next product if it is motivating. You may play the role of the product owner as well if you are really passionate about the product that you are going to lead.
The Biggest Challenge For Scrum Master
Many scrum masters fail to explain what they do and what are their day to day activities. Not having a clear idea leads to part-time scrum mastery and this could be worse. The part-time role doesn’t take you anywhere so be clear about it before you take the challenge. This is not just a role transition from project manager to the scrum master. In fact, project managers are more suited for product owner roles than the scrum master role.
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