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Confused about Scrum Master role and how it adds value?

Last post 12:46 pm January 3, 2019 by Piotr Górajek
10 replies
07:54 pm December 20, 2018

The role seems to be offering advice 'facilitating' without actually doing anything?

Questions I have:

- Can a Scrum Master resolve development team conflict? How would they do this?

- Can a Scrum Master resolve conflict between stakeholders and Product Owner over say budget, if at meeting? How would they do this?

- Can a Scrum Master attend daily stand ups and participate?

- Can a Scrum Master work with the development team and define definition of done? If so, how?

- Can Scrum Master intervene at daily stand up, if say a development team member is taking too long? If so how, do they take them aside and have a quiet work?

All very confusing about what a Scrum Master actually does, if they are never involved in details - is it a full time job?

09:51 am December 21, 2018

Hello Ronald,

I am Scrum Mastering a team since 6 months now, helped with Agile coach.

For me, the SCRUM has 2 main rôles:

1. Make sure that the team stays in the Agile Framework, participates to ceremonies and respect the agile methodology.

2. Ensure that the team members (and the team itself) becomes autonomous. this is more like a coach approach for everyone.

So, the answer to your questions:

--> The Scrum Master helps team members to resolve conflicts, yes, if they are conflicts between people on how to function, or about respecting others ideas and working as a team. If conflicts are about the solution itself, the Scrum never gives his opinion about any development or technical issue.

--> The Scrum Master do not have any role to take between Stakeholders and the Product Owner. And it is not his role to manage budgets. But he has a role to play about the Dev Ressources Management. Since ressource management has an impact on budget, he has a responsibility to help using the budget the right way. (i.e. all team ressources have to be allocated to tasks, ...).

--> Scrum attends always standups but only as facilitators or last resort impediment solution finder. The Scrum Master must ensure that the Agile framework is respected. For that purpose, they can ask questions about stories and tasks during daily standups, ensure that the board is updated correctly and that impediment are clearly declared. if the team cannot resolve impediment, it is his role to take over the impediment resolution. But keep in mind that, if the Scrum master cannot attend the daily standup for any reason, it does NOT mean that the daily is cancelled. Team should be autonomous... 

--> The team defines herself the Definition Of Done. Scrum Master can only facilitate the workshop for constructing that definition with the team.

--> The Scrum Master, as the guardian of the agile framework, must intervene if explanations are too long, by asking team members to discuss problems outside the daily standup. I personally ask the team before the daily to raise their hand if someone starts analysing an issue during the daily. this dillute this responsibility to the team and it usually works very well. 

--> It is meant to be a fulltime job, but it depends on how many project you work. What is sure is that this role is usually not to be shared by team members since scrum master do not implicates himself in solutions and must be able to take a step back to think about the best way to support the team with an agile state of mind. personnaly, i share this job with a PMO job, for implementing the Agile spirit in the company.

I hope it helps,...




01:38 pm December 21, 2018

- Can a Scrum Master resolve development team conflict? How would they do this?

No. Only the persons involved in a conflict can resolve a conflict. A Scrum Master can and should facilitate this, for example by bringing the involved parties to the table and exploring the different positions so as to make both parties understand the other. That helps the conflict parties to find common ground and resolve the conflict (if indeed it needs resolution).

Can a Scrum Master resolve conflict between stakeholders and Product Owner over say budget, if at meeting?

Again, no. No. Only the persons involved in a conflict can resolve a conflict. And again, the Scrum Master is expected to facilitate this. And again, the first step would be to ensure mutual appreciation for the other's position, so that the PO and stakeholders can then move towards a mutually agreeable solution.

- Can a Scrum Master attend daily stand ups


and participate?

Only if they are also a developer. In teams new to Scrum, it may help in the beginning if the Scrum Master periodically reminds the team of the point of the Daily Scrum, because it is one of the easiest events to get wrong. But such training wheels should quickly be removed.

- Can a Scrum Master work with the development team and define definition of done? If so, how?

I would, in fact, expect them to. The Scrum Master should help the teams find the strengths and weaknesses of their Definition of Done. He should help uncover if the DoD is the root cause of issues that arise. He could run workshops to create an initial DoD - those are all just examples.

- Can Scrum Master intervene at daily stand up, if say a development team member is taking too long?

That certainly depends on the team. Seeing as it's the Scrum Master's responsibility to see that the Daily Scrum is condicted within the time box, it's certainly one possible course of action. I don't think it's the best one.

If so how, do they take them aside and have a quiet work?

Doing this - after the Daily Scrum - seems a more healthy course of action. But I would recommend finding the root cause: Why does the development team member need so much time? Do they have a lot of impediments? If so, why? Or are they just talkative? It's also possible that developers only synchronise at the Daily Scrum, which would explain why they have to talk so much. A Daily Scrum not meeting the timebox is a symptom, and not usually the problem itself.

is it a full time job?

That depends on the team, the stakeholders, the wider organisation, etc.

03:48 pm December 21, 2018

I had similar concerns when I first read about Scrum.  It seemed like the Scrum Master was involved in a lot but didn't really do much.  But then I started investigating topics that the Scrum Master facilitates.  Such as building self-managed teams and facilitation of problem resolution.  There is a lot of work involved in doing all of those things.  But the point that is often missed is that if either of those things are done well, the person responsible for doing them are mostly invisible to the results.  As a facilitator of things, you will not be actively seen as involved.  You work behind the scenes, outside of the public view. When a team starts showing signs of being self-managed, you may not be seen as part of the team because you have been working outside of the team boundaries to remove impediments, to convince others to allow the team the freedom to make their own decisions.  You get very little, if any, of the visibility and recognition. 

Being a Scrum Master can be a thankless job and is not for everyone.  I enjoy it because I savor being the person that helps others be more productive and influential but I don't want any recognition for it. Seeing others ascend is my satisfaction.

A Scrum Master is not in control of other's behaviors.  A Scrum Master influences behaviors to help the individual recognize the benefit of doing things differently.  We also help others to understand that there is no "right way to do things".  I tend to tell people that there is a "right way to do things right now but that may not be the right way to do it in 1 hour from now."  You have to learn how to constantly inspect and adapt.  Scrum is based on empiricism and helping others appreciate those principles is a large part of a Scrum Master's job.

My desk is in the middle of my teams.  I currently coach 2 teams and I have 2 desks.  I split my time between them.  I use my time to observe the team dynamics, the team conversations.  I am constantly looking for something that could improve the team or could possibly damage the team.  Do I immediately call it out?  Not always.  And in some cases I will actually let the team "fail" so that we can discuss how it happened and learn from it.  In that way you turn a "failure" into a success.  Failure only occurs when you repeat it.  If you learn how to prevent that situation, then you didn't fail, you succeeded.

Is it a full time job?  I think so but it is really hard to explain it to anyone that isn't doing the same job.  And it is even harder to go home at the end of each day feeling like you accomplished something.  Those feelings are infrequent. And if you are doing the job right, they become even more infrequent as the team matures.

@Julian answered your questions really well...much better than I could.  But since I had similar questions in the past, I think you might be looking for more than just the answer to your questions which is why I responded.  I am going to leave you with a thought to ponder that is somewhat similar to your original questions.

If a lawyer can't declare someone guilty/innocent or can't punish someone for their crimes are they really doing anything?  Is it a full time job? What is it that they actually do?

04:22 pm December 21, 2018

Another metaphor :

Where is the coach  - What is the coach actually doing when the soccer/football/basket/hockey team is playing the game ?



06:28 pm December 21, 2018

Confused about Scrum Master role and how it adds value?

The role seems to be offering advice 'facilitating' without actually doing anything?

The participants in this thread are offering advice and perhaps ‘facilitating’. Yet I would suggest they have done something which adds value.

Also, bear in mind that a good Scrum Master can be silently present, and might not be seen to be doing anything at all.

09:04 pm December 21, 2018

My favorite metaphor for a Scrum Master is that of a Personal Trainer (i.e. - Strength or Conditioning coach).

They're not involved in the plays, or the strategy.   They don't really "manage" anything.   They simply exist, behind the scenes, to help the individuals and the team as a whole improve.

12:14 am December 22, 2018

Thanks - slightly clearer.

By 'facilitating', does this mean Scrum Master only helps the team when the team asks for help?

12:39 am December 22, 2018

So to be clear, Scrum Master cannot tell people what to do, but is there to help the PO/Dev team with specific problems if approached the SM and 'advices' them?

If that is the case, what actual work is the SM doing, if their advice is ignored?

08:05 pm January 2, 2019

Ronald, the Scrum Master role is anything but passive.

A Scrum Master may not be consulted.   A Scrum Master may have their suggestions and observations ignored.   It is still incumbent for the Scrum Master to increase the visibility and transparency of any practices that run counter to Agile.

Please review the Scrum Master section in the Scrum Guide for more clarity around what a Scrum Master does.

12:46 pm January 3, 2019

Roland, let me put it like this - if there is no value in work of Scrum Master, why do private businesses still demand for this position? It is not artificially created government job position.

Scrum Master often won't remove impediments alone. He creates environment that enables people to work in sustainable peace, where work and goals are transparent, where people respect Scrum values, work as a team and overcome impediments together. You probably saw, that Scrum Master is usually described as a servant - leader, and a true leader helps others achieve more than he could ever imagine that he'll achieve.

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