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What does a Scrum Master do all day?
Last Post 29 Jan 2014 10:58 AM by Sandeep Kamat. 21 Replies.
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P.Ross
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P.Ross

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27 Sep 2013 07:11 AM
    Let’s assume the following occurs:
    - 1 development team.
    - A self-organised development team.
    - Well experienced with Scrum.
    - Constantly finding way to improve themselves.
    - Product Owner and the team creates items according to the INVEST model.

    What can/should a Scrum master do to keep him/herself occupied for the entire Sprint?


    Ian Mitchell
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    Ian Mitchell

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    27 Sep 2013 07:34 AM
    Organizational transformation and coaching.
    P.Ross
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    P.Ross

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    27 Sep 2013 08:09 AM
    Organisational transformation:
    In most organisations a scrum master is a team facilitator, just a member within a team. No authorised ability what so ever. Of course the scrum master can work out the “plan” and hand it over to a more an authorised entity.
    In my opinion a Scrum master limits him/herself to facilitate the project he/she is assigned to. An Agile coach works on a more organisational transformation level.

    Coaching:
    Coaching what?
    Joshua Partogi
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    Joshua Partogi

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    27 Sep 2013 08:56 AM
    I usually do development work with the team and keep improving their engineering practices in this kind of situation. There is nothing in Scrum stopping the Scrum Master to do development with the team.
    Chee-Hong Hsia
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    Chee-Hong Hsia

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    27 Sep 2013 09:01 AM
    But what if the Scrum Master is not a technie?
    Chee-Hong Hsia
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    Chee-Hong Hsia

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    27 Sep 2013 09:05 AM
    I’m currently working as a Scrum Master (and Agile Coach) in a pretty well self-organised Development team.
    Just to dispatch the “administration” part of Scrum from the Development Team, I usually do project management part. As some point in time, this part will be handed over to the PO as well.
    Baby steps… :)

    Ian Mitchell
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    Ian Mitchell

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    27 Sep 2013 09:30 AM
    The Scrum Guide provides good advice on the Scrum Master's service to the organization:

    The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:
     Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
     Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
     Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
     Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,
     Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

    In my experience, a mature Scrum Team will require no more than 25% of a Scrum Master's attention. Certainly, most of my efforts over the years have wound up being at the organizational transformation and coaching side of things. A Scrum Master is an organizational change agent and an agile coach (in Scrum at least...in other frameworks like SAFe this is not necessarily the case).
    P.Ross
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    P.Ross

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    27 Sep 2013 02:30 PM
    - Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption
    Suppose it's a small organisation with 30 people where the Development department alone consists of 6 developers. (just enough for 1 Scrum team) The other departments are the regular departments such as sales, marketing, support, finance etc.
    So as a Scrum Master in terms of leading and coaching, it would sound very minimal...

    - Planning Scrum implementations within the organization
    A couple of training will be sufficient to introduce Agile Scrum. After that, it's applying Scrum and rely on the inspect and adapt principle.

    - Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development
    idem.

    - Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team;
    This is possible, but it's not nothing a Scrum Master should/ would do full-time during a Sprint.

    - Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization
    Due to the size of the organisation there is only 1 Scrum Master.

    Can I conclude that if you are a (internal) Scrum Master (not a consultant) for a small company its very hard to do this fulltime?
    Don McGreal
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    Don McGreal

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    27 Sep 2013 04:46 PM
    Putting the Scrum practices in place is the easy part and it is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Once they are in place, two things tend to emerge:
    1. Quality problems and technical debt. A Scrum Master can help a team work through these by bringing in practices like Test Automation, CI, TDD, etc.
    2. Organizational bottlenecks (constraints, dependencies, politics, culture, etc). A Scrum Master can help work through these by bringing agility to the rest of the organization.

    In my experience, these are unending problems. Even in small organizations. In fact, small organizations are rarely ever in a position where people have nothing to do. They are in a constant struggle to respond to changing markets while understaffed.

    A good Scrum Master leverages the Scrum framework to expose these issues, and then guides teams, POs, stakeholders to attack them. Therefore, Scrum Masters need to be empowered to be successful. If they are simply just focussed on the team (like a butler/concierge), they are missing the true opportunity for agility and yes... I guess they will have trouble finding things to do all day.
    P.Ross
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    P.Ross

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    28 Sep 2013 10:12 AM
    Hi Don,
    Thanks for your response. The 2 things that you have been summing up I do recognize it, but in my opinion not really things that can keep a Scrum Master full-time occupied, or am I missing out something?
    1. Quality problems and technical debt. A Scrum Master can help a team work through these by bringing in practices like Test Automation, CI, TDD, etc.
    I fully agree that these best practises needs to be in place for a team to take the full advantage of Agile Scrum. Therefore I believe teams should heavily invest in these practises. But if we look at these best practises specifically, what can a (non-technical) Scrum Master really contribute beside giving a presentation regarding Test Automation, CI, TDD etc.
    Especially in small organisations where applying a change is relatively easy, you just gather the team together and talk about these best practises. And yes, most developers will fully agree that the mentioned practises will be an advantage so no need to convince them. After that it’s setting up a meeting or discussion with the Department Manager (some authorised entity) and advise him/her to invest in these practises/tools etc. I believe these things can be achieved in 1 a 2 week max. And it’s not that you (as a Scrum master) can constantly “work” with it. Most of the time when you talked about these changes, it’s just wait and monitor the progress…

    2. Organizational bottlenecks (constraints, dependencies, politics, culture, etc). A Scrum Master can help work through these by bringing agility to the rest of the organization.
    Same with this. Give a strong Agile presentation about the benefits (and downside) of working with Scrum. Make it a strong sales talk and afterwards have a Q&A moment where management can brainstorm or discuss with you about their worries. (perhaps 1 a 3 training and you’re done)

    Sorry I still don’t see what a Scrum Master should be doing during the Sprints…It’s not the same as a Developer that can work continuously on backlog items, a Scrum Master isn’t really executing things that contribute to the deliverables?

    Joshua Partogi
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    Joshua Partogi

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    28 Sep 2013 09:20 PM
    Hi P.Ross,

    So based on your explanation we now have the following information:
    - Self-organised and mature team
    - CEO / the organisation fully supports Scrum
    - The Scrum Master is non-technical

    I have worked with this kind of organisations before. Like you said, small organisations rarely face big political organisational impediments. I always advise the Scrum Master that Scrum Master is only a role in Scrum. I'd like to see Scrum Master as a role instead of a position so that whoever is taking this role can see opportunities in the organisation beyond Scrum itself. In most organisation who are using Scrum, the Scrum Master is usually someone who are in a certain organisational position doing something else - i.e Development Manager, IT Manager, Tech Lead, Secretary, etc. They can go back to whatever they are doing before to keep them busy and do the Scrum Master job part-time. I am not sure if that is possible for you. Keep yourself alert because even though organisation has been using Scrum for so long, people often forget and go back to their old way of working. Even a new recruit can disrupt the team's rhythm.

    By the way, can you tell us more about the Product Owner? Is he always creating Product Backlog items for the features that the market really want? Is he calculating the ROI for the features delivered every Sprint? Even the most mature development team will find some issue with their Product Owner at some point.
    P.Ross
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    P.Ross

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    29 Sep 2013 04:08 AM
    Dear Joshua,

    The organisation that I am currently working for has hired to purely for the Scrum Master function. Note that it’s not a role within this organisation, but a full-fledge position. After doing Scrum for many months my team has been very familiar with Scrum and the management is also fully supporting Scrum. And if they are not, usually it takes like 1 a 2 meetings to convince them. I’m glad that my manager is the director, CTO and pro Scrum. This makes it extremely smoothly to implement Scrum.

    But now the teams are doing Scrum and we are continuously improving ourselves. Now I notice that my work is getting less and less and most of the time I’m at work doing nothing but observing the teams... Can be kind of boring, that’s why I’m wondering what more a Scrum Master can do… I do keep myself occupied by doing a bit of project management. Normally this is what a PO can/should do, but I’m not a consultant working there temporarily.
    PO ownership is done brilliantly. We have a PO who has authority, super user in testing the quality and has a great vision of what needs to be delivered that adds more value.
    The items are created by the PO and team during the refinement sessions, but the PO continuously communicate with stakeholders and update the items day by day. During the Sprint Planning Meeting our PO is able to explain functionally what he wants and he is able to break items in smaller items if needed. We’re really happy with how the Product Ownership has been implemented.

    Robert du Toit
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    Robert du Toit

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    04 Oct 2013 08:25 PM
    Quoting Ian: "In my experience, a mature Scrum Team will require no more than 25% of a Scrum Master's attention. "

    There's no make-work for a Scrum Master in the situation you've described. If there aren't team-improvement, organizational-improvement, impediment-removement things to be done there's no way that's a full time position.

    It's a role, not a job.
    Paul VII
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    Paul VII

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    06 Oct 2013 10:01 PM
    Remember that there are always the following:

    - Stakeholders who want to discuss upcoming projects with teams
    - Live/Production issues and discussions to facilitate
    - Problems with team members lack of understanding of how best to deliver
    - Lack of understanding with Agile

    Even when all the above is done there will always be numerous ways to improve. Trust me, a scrum master's work is never done : )
    Charles Bradley
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    Charles Bradley

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    07 Oct 2013 10:45 AM
    P. Ross,

    As I read your replies here, I can't help but think that you feel as if your team is perfect and wildly successful in the market place? Having said that, you mention no plans of expansion or new Scrum teams coming online.

    So, would you say that your team is perfect and wildly successful in the market place? If so, why? If not, why do you think they are not?
    adascalu
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    adascalu

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    11 Oct 2013 04:21 AM
    In a small organization with one development team I find it very believable that once the self-organizing part of the definition of the development team is achieved, the practical activities of the SM will start to dwindle.

    Unless there will be new Scrum teams in need of organization/coaching, eventually the existing team will be able to perfectly manage the entire process and will only need the SM every now and then for a question or so. Unless the PO changes and a new relationship will be in need of management, one can say congrats: you've achieved the Scrum ideal.

    The team is self organized, the process is streamlined, clients are happy, etc, etc. In this case the best advice would be to start sharing your experience step by step and help other SM achieve this. At the same time, taking a few letters of recommendation underlining this achievement will allow you to find a new Scrum challenge.

    Honestly, I do hope that one day I will have achieved the same.
    Ian Mitchell
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    Ian Mitchell

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    11 Oct 2013 05:12 AM
    > In a small organization with one development team I find it very believable
    > that once the self-organizing part of the definition of the development team
    > is achieved, the practical activities of the SM will start to dwindle.

    It's believable, but it isn't viable.

    I agree with Charles. Success should breed success. If a team has mastered Scrum superbly, then that can be expected to translate into new opportunities. "Pull" doesn't normally remain static once a team has demonstrated it can deliver.

    Of course, it is theoretically possible that a team is serving a closed market, that equilibrium has been reached, and that there is no scope for increased pull. Yet if this is the case then there is reason to be very worried indeed. All it takes is for one disruptive innovation to arrive, or for a known market threat to become real, and the finely balanced engine will break down.

    If I was a Scrum Master in such a company, I'd be trying my best to coach the higher-ups about the dangers they face and what to do about them. I'd try to explain innovation accounting, the need to develop and test new MVP, and the need for an adaptive organization to continually address emergence. Chances are they are in an innovation arms race and don't even know it. I'm afraid that if they rest on their laurels they could face a rude awakening.

    Charles Bradley
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    Charles Bradley

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    11 Oct 2013 12:47 PM
    +1 to Ian, and while there will be small and corner case instances where a SM will be less involved/needed *at times*, the need never goes away, because the only thing constant is change, and SM's are the ones that help coach and guide that change. There is always a new VP, a new developer, a new PO, or a new company direction to support.

    Also, if your team is not constantly trying to achieve higher levels of success and practice, then there is probably a another competitor out there doing that... and you will be put out of the market if you don't adapt.

    Scrum and Continuous Improvement is not just about development practices, but is also about market practices. If your team is "killing the market"(in a good way), then it will take a lot of effort to stay on top. If your team is not "killing the market," then there is a need for a SM to help guide your team to higher levels of success.

    Jeff Sutherland once mentioned that part of an Agile performance review should be whether your product is lauded in the press, and considered the market leader in it's space. If your team is not there, then you have some work to do, and some more improvement to make.

    Sometimes teams new to Agile/Scrum think that the battle is over once they're doing sprints and using the right terminology int the right ways, etc. But that's not the end -- that's just the beginning... often times after the mechanics are down, it's time to work on the culture of innovation and superior technical practices(TDD, Test Automation, ATDD, Paired Programming, etc).
    Charles Bradley
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    Charles Bradley

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    11 Oct 2013 12:49 PM
    And let's not forget the "market practices" too -- those are a part of Scrum, primarily driven by the PO, but the Dev Team can get involved in that too.
    Michael P. Barone
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    Michael P. Barone

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    28 Jan 2014 04:27 PM

    Posted By Charles Bradley - Scrum Coach and Trainer on 11 Oct 2013 01:47 PM
    +1 to Ian, and while there will be small and corner case instances where a SM will be less involved/needed *at times*, the need never goes away, because the only thing constant is change, and SM's are the ones that help coach and guide that change. There is always a new VP, a new developer, a new PO, or a new company direction to support.


    Bravo, Charles!

    The company that diminishes the need for ScrumMasters is doomed to failure. Or at least in need of a rescue mission which costs a lot of money.

    "Everything is running fine!" - Says management...

    Until all of a sudden dates start to slip. Why? Because your part-time SM is not at the helm alerting management of the forecasted slip early enough to avoid slippage. That is another one of the responsibilities of a SM. To watch reports and statistics and report when the slightest hint of danger appears. Part-timers are only watching a few times a sprint. A SM worth their weight in salt checks daily.

    When companies rest on their laurels they will watch the Agile/Scrum framework collapse under its own weight.

    If it a small team that stays together over time, maybe they can get away with it. But that isn't the norm. Typical SMs have 2-3 teams assigned to them.

    My $0.02

    - Michael Barone
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelbarone/
    Sandeep Kamat
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    Sandeep Kamat

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    29 Jan 2014 10:50 AM
    Congratulations P Ross . The way you have described your scrum team it seems they are indeed functioning at an optimal level and its a pleasure to experience software being developed in pure Scrum fashion.

    However, unless your organization has immediate plans to expand their dev team, I would start looking for another Job or try to go into one of the other scrum roles PO or dev team (if technical).

    Also, let us not forget that there are usually two more roles in any dev team who can do the ScrumMaster job once the team as become mature at Scrum The Engineering manager and the Architect. I know scrum does not recognize these but the reality is that they do exist. There roles in existing pre-scrum organization also will face the same issue of what will they do once the scrum team becomes mature as some of there previous job functions (command and control) goes way . In this case they will try to take over some of the SM duties.

    Scrum Master tends to be full time role in the initial 5 to 6 sprints. After that it starts to become more of a iteration management type of role. .Even some of the techniques mentioned above like continuous integration, automated testing , automated deployment , multiple environments , performance testing etc which use to take several sprints to put in place are now available as SaaS and can be implemented at a click of button.

    Scrum Master role being 25% is more agreeable. You would need to be a Scrum Master for 2 to 3 teams to justify a full time role.

    You can also try to go into either a Product Manager type of role or into an Architect role depending on your background. If you have non technical back ground then looking at some of the PO function like business analysis, story grooming, acceptance testing or coaching the peripheral organization (sales, marketing, legal , etc ) on Agile would make sense. Organizational change and coaching also makes sense but as you mentioned in a small organization already sold on agile that might not that big a deal and in larger organization its will be more than likely that you will be completing with other SMs for the one role.

    If you have a technical background then doing some of the architect type of function and some hands on coding would make sense.
    Sandeep Kamat
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    Sandeep Kamat

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    29 Jan 2014 10:58 AM
    Congratulations P Ross . The way you have described your scrum team, it seems they are indeed functioning at an optimal level and its a pleasure to experience software being developed in pure Scrum principles.

    However, unless your organization has immediate plans to expand their dev team, I would start looking for another Job or try to go into one of the other scrum roles PO or dev team (if technical).

    Also, let us not forget that there are usually two more roles in any dev team who can do the ScrumMaster job once the team as become mature at Scrum The Engineering manager and the Architect. I know scrum does not recognize these but the reality is that they do exist. There roles in existing pre-scrum organization also will face the same issue of what will they do once the scrum team becomes mature as some of there previous job functions (command and control) goes way . In this case they will try to take over some of the SM duties. I am not sure if this is happening in your case.

    Scrum Master tends to be full time role in the initial 5 to 6 sprints. After that it starts to become more of a iteration management type of role. .Even some of the techniques mentioned above like continuous integration, automated testing , automated deployment , multiple environments , performance testing etc which use to take several sprints to put in place are now available as SaaS and can be implemented at a click of a button.

    ScrumMaster role being 25% is more agreeable. You would need to be a Scrum Master for 2 to 3 teams to justify a full time role.

    You can also try to go into either a Product Manager type of role or into an Architect role depending on your background and interest.

    If you have non technical back ground then looking at some of the PO function like business analysis, story grooming, acceptance testing would make sense. Coaching the peripheral organization (sales, marketing, legal , etc ) on Agile and organizational transformation is some other other areas you can look at but as you mentioned in a small organization already sold on agile, it might not take significant effort and in larger organization its more likely that there will be other SMs that will be completing for that one role.

    If you have a technical background then doing some of the architect type of function and hands on development would make sense.
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