Simply put, scrum masters keep the team productive. This sounds easy enough but it is actually a multifaceted role with many responsibilities. To make the best use of scrum and to have the most effective team possible, the scrum master should only be responsible for one team on a full-time basis at any given time. However, if you scale back the extent to which the scrum master is involved with the team, and scale back his or her proactive duties, a full time scrum master could have two or even three projects working simultaneously.
The scrum master is such a time-consuming position because they have to know everything that’s happening with their team at all times. It is their job to anticipate their team’s needs and provide solutions before the team is even aware a need exists. The scrum master also has to guide the product owner and provide support to keep them on track as well. It is also the responsibility of the scrum master to “own the process”. This means they must monitor the success of the process and make sure problems are addressed by the team during retrospective.
The most dynamic role of the scrum master is to remove impediments from the team. This includes repairing/replacing broken computers, gaining access to servers/code, adjusting the room temperature, asking for clarification from the product owner and more. The tasks required of the scrum master are numerous and, oftentimes, unforeseeable.
The product owner may or may not be familiar with the scrum process and may need a wide range of assistance from the scrum master. Because the team depends on the product owner for guidance, the scrum master must ensure that the product owner has provided the guidance the team requires. The scrum master should always be checking in with the product owner and offering assistance in completing required tasks so that the product owner does not become an impediment to the team.
Owning the success of the process can be a difficult responsibility for a scrum master. Each team is different and every project requires a unique solution. It is the job of the scrum master to observe and detect problems with the process. The hardest part of this responsibility is that they are not allowed to implement solutions on their own. The team must come up with their own solution during retrospective. The scrum master can offer suggestions, but it is ultimately the team as a whole that must decide how to address problems. This means a scrum master must derive as much satisfaction from facilitating others’ success as their own. For this reason, traditional project managers and team leads tend not to make the best scrum masters.
The scrum master is a distinctive role requiring a special kind of person to be truly successful. The position requires the flexibility to tackle any problem and the creativity to think outside the box. Scrum masters also have to keep a constant eye on their team’s needs and help their product owner accomplish their goals. A good scrum master can really maximize productivity and allow the team to accomplish things no one previously thought possible.