Scrum is facilitated by a scrum master, who is accountable for removing impediments to the ability of the team to deliver the product goals and deliverables. The scrum master is not a traditional team lead or project manager, but acts as a buffer between the team and any distracting influences. The scrum master ensures that the scrum process is used as intended. The scrum master helps ensure the team follows the agreed scrum processes, often facilitates key sessions, and encourages the team to improve. The role has also been referred to as a team facilitator or servant-leader to reinforce these dual perspectives.
The core responsibilities of a scrum master include (but are not limited to):
- Helping the product owner maintain the product backlog in a way that ensures the project is well defined and the team can continually advance forward on the project at any given time
- Helping the team to determine the definition of done for the product, with input from key stakeholders
- Coaching the team, within the scrum principles, in order to deliver quality valuable features for their product
- Promoting self-organization within the team
- Helping the scrum team to avoid or remove impediments to their progress, whether internal or external to the team
- Facilitating team events to ensure regular progress
- Educating key stakeholders in the product on scrum principles
One of the ways in which the scrum master role differs from that of a project manager is that the latter may have people management responsibilities while the scrum master does not. Scrum does not formally recognize the role of project manager, as traditional command and control tendencies would cause difficulties, however, it is possible for scrum teams to work effectively with agile project managers, especially on large-scale programs.
The best Scrum Masters are the types of people who feel as much satisfaction from facilitating others’ success as their own. They must also be comfortable surrendering control to the Product Owner and team. If developers don’t have a good sense of what each other are doing, the Scrum Master sets up a physical taskboard and shows the team how to use it. If developers aren’t colocated, the Scrum Master ensures that they have team room. If outsiders interrupt the team, the Scrum Master must redirect them to the Product Owner.
Four questions effective Scrum Masters consider each day: How is my Team doing? How is my Product Owner doing? How are our technical practices? How is the larger organization doing?
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