What else do Scrum Masters do?

In my previous post "What do Scrum Masters do?" I spoke about the three core responsibilities of a Scrum Master. In this one I will delve into all the other responsibilities that a good Scrum Master is expected to take on.

I am going to try and make the points below as self explanatory as possible so I don't have to go into long, boring explanations about each of them.

  • Scrum Rules enforcer: He is the Scrum evangelist on the team. He ensures that the team lives by the core Scrum values
  • Monitor Sprint velocity and ensure that the team is keeping the right pace
  • During sprint planning ensure that the team takes on the right amount of work
  • Represent the team when talking to management
  • Represent the management when working with the team
  • If a product owner is not selected before hand, SM works with customers and management to identify and institute a Product owner
  • Work with product owner to come up with a prioritized product backlog, if not done by product owner already
  • Work with team and product owner to define sprint backlog
  • Work with management to gauge progress and trim team backlog if they are falling behind
  • Responsible for taking decisions that affect work if team cant come to a consensus on their own




What do Scrum Masters do?

Since I started reading about and using Scrum. The one term/role that plays a significant and central role is the ScrumMaster.

Based on my reading and limited experience the Scrum Master(SM) has three core responsibilities

  • Act as a barrier against external influence or distractions
  • Facilitate open and frequent communication within the team
  • Proactively identify and eliminate any and all impediments affecting/blocking the scrum team

Its all fine and dandy to put down bullet points but what does it all mean? Lets look at these responsibilities one at a time.

Act as a barrier against external influence or distractions

The Scrum team is most effective when it is allowed to concentrate on the work at hand and nothing else. The SM is the big bad bear that stands between the world and the Scrum Team. In essence he is a one man protection force for his Scrum team. He needs to actively intercept and eliminate any distractions for the Scrum team.

This can include things like

  • preventing customers from approaching the scrum team directly with quick feature requests to squeeze into a sprint
  • working with people to eliminate a constant annoying loud noise in the team area
  • frequent re-prioritization of the sprint tasks by anyone other than the Scrum team.

Facilitate open and frequent communication within the team

However thorny the exterior shell of the SM, for the Scrum team he is the mediator, motivator, coach, friend, shoulder to cry on and all round good guy. He is responsible for keeping the team motivated, energetic and moving forward in the right direction in the right way.

Some cases where an SM is particularly effective is

  • when there is a disagreement between two members of a scrum team. He needs to work with both people to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement
  • ensure that the daily stand-ups don't devolve into deep dive technical discussions
  • every member of the team is fully aware of what tasks he needs to work on at any given time
  • there is open communication between team members to identify and resolve interdependence

Proactively identify and eliminate any and all obstacles affecting/blocking the scrum team

The SM is also responsible for being the guy who clears obstacles so the scrum team doesn't have to do so themselves. He needs to talk to all the team members and identify if they are stuck, waiting on something / someone or if the whole team is stuck because they need something from another team or external source. Once the obstacle is identified the SM needs to work with all parties within the team and outside of it to eliminate that obstacle at the earliest possible time.

Some of the things I could think of are

  • We need this tool to complete a particular task but we don't have any free licenses for it
  • I am unable to work with my computer because it is too slow
  • The other team hasn't exposed this interface yet. I cant code till I get that interface
  • I am having a particularly hard time trying to identify what the most optimal solution is for this problem and no one on our team has any ideas
  • The impediment could be the SM too :-)

My thoughts put down above in no way constitutes an exhaustive list of responsibilities or something prescriptive that everyone must and should follow. They are what I consider the most important or critical responsibilities a SM must take on to help the team succeed.

Also, I have used he everywhere in the above document, to describe the SM, as a matter of convenience. Its not meant to say that women cant be SMs. Personally, I think they can make excellent Scrum Masters.


Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle

Coming up next: What else do Scrum Masters do?



Scrum explained over Dinner

A few weeks ago the writing bug bit me and I zeroed in on my favorite topic at the time Scrum! I have read a fair bit of literature about Agile/Scrum at this point and always wondered how creative I could get in trying to explain this without using a Software Development project as an example. Well here's what I came up with. A funny little post that tries to explain the Scrum process by breaking down a dinner party into a Scrum project.


Head Chef: Scrum Master

Waiter: Product Owner

Dinner Party: Stakeholders

Chefs: Scrum Team

Sprint: Dinner Courses

Product Release: Dinner

Product Inception/Birth of an idea:

The dinner party decides lets have dinner at Viva La Scrum!

Kickoff Meeting:

The dinner party arrives at Viva La Scrum and is seated at their table by the Waiter. The restaurant is an exclusive place where dishes are made to order so there are no fixed menus its all upto the dinner party. The motto of the place is “Give the customer what they want!”

The waiter walks around the table taking orders for the dinner from every person in the party. He can of course make suggestions as to what is a good dish based on his experience, but his primary job is to take down the order of the customers.

Sprint Planning:

He asks them what they would like served in the first course and each subsequent course. He also explains that at the end of each course they can choose to continue with the original order of change it as they felt proper.

Estimation and Planning:

The waiter walks over to the Head Chef and says here’s the order. This is what they would like for their first course. They want something new on their table every 15 mins. Is that OK?

The Head chef then takes the order goes into the kitchen and gathers all the chefs. He shows them the order and starts asking how long they think each dish will take to make. They discuss from among the items requested in the first course what all can be delivered in 15 mins.

Once he has this he goes to the waiter and says this is what they can get in the first course. While the waiter reports to the guests the chefs divide the dishes among themselves based on experience and speciality. They plan on what ingredients they need, what items to work on first and so on. Finally they get to work.

Daily Standups:

Every minute and a half the Head Chef asks for a status check from his team and also asks them if they need anything more to do their work, if anything is getting in the way of their work, etc..

Sprint review:

The waiter brings out the dishes that the chef and his team has prepared at the end of 15 mins. He serves it to the customers and eagerly listens to all the feedback that they have about the food. The chef and his team are invited to this but mainly only listen in.

Sprint Retrospective:

The Chef and his team get together with the Waiter and quickly talk about how they thought the first 15 mins went and if they had any ideas/suggestions for what to do better and how. Stuff like this ingredient is not good lets get a fresh batch of it, my dish went cold before the sauce was ready, the sauce didn't exactly match with the theme of the dish, etc..