Scrum Master: What is it and what are their responsibilities?

Introduction

First of all, why should I worry about this?

If you have already read our first Paper on Scrum, you already know about the huge difference that exists between projects and teams that use the methodology and those that prefer traditional methodologies. Knowing the importance of using Scrum, we need to talk a little about the role that many say is the most important and also one of the most popular, that of the Scrum Master. But what is a Scrum Master, what does he do and what are his responsibilities?


Chapter 1

Why is it the most important role in Scrum?

During the transformation of the company, from a traditional methodology to an agile methodology, such as Scrum, it is necessary to have a specialist in the methodology, a person who knows him well and, preferably, with practical experience in the subject.

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So let’s think together: to make this transformation, who has the greatest impact?

The team, which performs the tasks; the product manager, who creates the tasks and acceptance criteria; or the person responsible for making sure that the methodology is being applied correctly?

If you think you are the last one, then our thinking is aligned, and this function is called the Scrum Master.


Chapter 2

Now that I know the importance, what is a Scrum Master?

At Roads, we say that the Scrum Master is the “Guardian of the Methodology”, it is his duty to ensure that the methodology is followed, through servant leadership and training, and he is also the one who adapts the methodology to each Scrum Team.

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Yes, I really said that. Scrum must be adapted for each team, so that it can get the most out of the methodology, always following the first value of the Agile Manifesto: “Individuals and interactions more than processes and tools”, but that only it is recommended for Scrum Masters with extensive experience and with more mature teams, as it is necessary to have an in-depth knowledge of the methodology to know what can and should be modified and how instead of just following what the book says.

That said, in this Paper we will talk about what a Scrum Master should do to not make mistakes and have excellent results with the methodology, as described by Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, and several others who shared their knowledge about the methodology.

It is worth remembering here that a Scrum Master plays a very different role than the traditional Project Manager. Acting as a leader-server, the Scrum Master does not assign tasks or user stories to members, as the Scrum Team is self-organizing and it is always best for the team itself to define who will do what, in addition to how to do it what you undertook.


Chapter 3

And what are the skills needed for a good Scrum Master?

As a leader-server, it is necessary to have good leadership skills, in addition to having knowledge about coaching techniques, both in groups and individuals, so that you can help the team as a whole or the members individually.

“But what is a servant leader?”

As the name says, servant leadership is a mix between leader and servant. A servant leader values ​​everyone’s ideas and opinions, establishing a culture of trust and respect, in which no opinion or idea is ridiculed or immediately rejected. He also promotes other leaders within teams and among Product Owners (PO), always helping them to be more self-organized. In addition, the Scrum Master as a server leader must always encourage and train new leaders, to improve the results of the teams and the organization as a whole, always thinking about the long term, not only in the time he is in the organization but for future generations, making choices to benefit the future.

A good Scrum Master must also have a good ability to adapt, as each team is formed by different people and they will have to know how to deal with all behavioral profiles, in addition to the possibility of having to deal with more than one PO, also with different profiles.

A Scrum Master must also be a great teacher since one of the activities that will perform most will be teaching Scrum to other employees and perhaps even new Scrum Masters entering the organization.


Chapter 4

I understood what a Scrum Master is, but what should it do?

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Meeting Facilitator

Scrum has 4 main meetings, namely: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. The Scrum Master has the role of facilitating and conducting these meetings, preventing the team from getting lost and that, instead of focusing on process failures, focus on individual failures, maintaining a pleasant environment and really guiding the team so that at the end of each of these meetings, the necessary outputs are well defined.

Before Sprint Planning

For Sprint Planning to go well, it is necessary to have a well-written backlog, with well-defined acceptance criteria and easily understandable by anyone on the Scrum Team. For this, the Scrum Master meets with the Product Owner (PO) in order to assist you in performing these tasks. This meeting is also called Backroom Grooming by some.

During Sprint Planning

The Scrum Master’s role during Sprint Planning is to conduct the meeting as a whole, making it easier for the team to organize itself, helping them to estimate the size of each task, explaining together with the PO what tasks described in the backlog and why they are important, in addition to providing the team with all kinds of data they may need to better plan the next Sprint, such as the history of Story Points completed in the last Sprints, the previous Burndown Charts or the largest impediments that the team had in these last Sprints.

In the Daily Scrums

In addition to organizing the Daily Scrum, defining the place and time to be held daily, the Scrum Master should always guide this meeting, giving the maximum autonomy possible for the team, but intervening if necessary, either to maintain the purpose of the meeting, which is to understand what others are doing and what they will do, in addition to understanding the team’s impediments, as well as to avoid unnecessary conversations during the meeting, to maintain the 15-minute time-box.

During the Sprint

It is the Scrum Master’s role to resolve any impediments that are hindering the team to work better, faster, and with more quality. For this, the Scrum Master uses the feedbacks received during the Daily Scrum and other feedbacks from the members of the Scrum Team. As the Scrum Master is responsible for the methodology, it is his responsibility to work to improve the processes and adapt them to the needs of the team. Always remembering the first value of the Agile Manifesto: “Individuals and interactions more than processes and tools”.

At the Sprint Review meeting

In this meeting, the most participative functions are the Product Owner and the Scrum Team, so it is up to the Scrum Master to lead the meeting to arrive at the expected exits.

The outputs we want in a Sprint Review are acceptance of the tasks that have been reviewed (or if none are accepted, feedback on the changes needed to be accepted), and a report on how these changes will affect the product or project, coming from the Product Owner.

In the Sprint Retrospective

This is the meeting that perhaps the Scrum Master conducts more actively, having to plan ahead and prepare.

In this meeting, different dynamics are usually carried out for a more relaxed and intuitive meeting. This is where the Scrum Master tries to understand and make the Scrum Team members themselves understand what helped them and what hindered them in the newly completed Sprint. It is important to remember that in this meeting, one must avoid all the costs of shifting responsibility to one another, by pointing out individual mistakes. The best thing to do is to identify the errors and understand the process that was wrong and allowed the errors to happen.

Having this understanding, the Scrum Master, together with the members of the Scrum Team, must outline an action plan to solve the problems that occurred, as well as to maintain or even enhance the actions and processes that helped the team to have a better Sprint.

Facilitator for Product Owners

Together with the Product Owner, the Scrum Master should assist you in creating the backlog. As well as prioritizing and defining the acceptance criteria for each task.

When creating the Backlog

In this step, the Scrum Master must work together with the Product Owner. The goal is to help you create user stories that facilitate the team’s understanding of them. About the motivation that led the PO to create the tasks, the impact they will have on the organization.

Here it is always good to make a connection between the company’s strategic planning and execution, creating tasks that are relevant for the organizational objectives to be achieved, and for that, you can use the Milestones methodology to make this connection.

Also in this part, the Scrum Master should help the PO to refine the Backlog, that is, divide the stories that are very large into smaller tasks, capable of being performed within the time-box of a Sprint, or if they are very small and quick to be performed, join the stories in a larger one, so as not to make the mistake of micromanaging.

In prioritizing the Backlog

As in the creation of the Backlog, in prioritizing the Scrum Master has an auxiliary role, bringing different methods and dynamics to, in a meeting with the PO, prioritize tasks in order of the value that will be generated for the project or product stakeholders, including, of course, the company itself.

In this step, you must also remember the tasks that have as a prerequisite others of that same Sprint, always ordering them so that, when a task is performed, all the prerequisites are already complete, causing no conflicts between tasks and so decreasing impediments and interferences.

In defining the Acceptance Criteria

Each task or user story must have well-defined acceptance criteria, in order to guide Scrum Team members to perform the task as planned, in addition to ensuring that the quality of deliveries is as expected or even over it.

For this to be accomplished, it is important for the Scrum Master to act as a type of advocate for the Scrum Team during the meeting with the PO, doing its utmost to think like the team and question any acceptance criteria that are not written in a way that facilitates the understanding.


Chapter 5

Recalling some Points

It is always worth remembering some items that summarize what was read, so here is a list with the most important points to remember after reading:

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  • The Scrum Master is the guardian of the process and methodology, not the product.
  • He must be a leader-server.
  • It is the Scrum Master’s role to facilitate all meetings and prepare for them when necessary.
  • One of the most important functions of the Scrum Master is to remove the impediments of the teams, transforming them into process improvements.
  • The Scrum Master does not only serve the team, but also the PO and the organization as a whole.
  • It is necessary to think about the long term, but always trying not to sacrifice the short term.
  • He must assist the Scrum Team and the PO with data regarding the latest Sprints.