Common Myths about Scrum Masters
- The Scrum Master is the “Scrum Police.” They enforce Scrum rules.
Why is this a myth? There are very few “Scrum rules.” Scrum is designed to be a framework for helping teams execute complex work. When Scrum Masters guide teams in understanding the principles of Scrum and purpose of its elements, the benefits become clear. The Scrum Master is not an enforcer, they are a guide.
- The Scrum Master is the team’s manager.
Why is this a myth? There is no organizational hierarchy on a Scrum Team and the Scrum Master does not have authority over team members. The Scrum Master does take a leadership role in guiding, coaching and mentoring the team; helping remove impediments that the team cannot remove themselves and creating a supportive environment for team members.
- The Scrum Master’s primary focus is on team happiness and acting as a team cheerleader.
Why is this a myth? The Scrum Master’s primary focus is the team’s effectiveness and its ability to deliver value. They identify team and organizational problems that impede a team’s ability to deliver value.
- The Scrum Master is a Project Manager.
Why is this a myth? Scrum Masters are not required to engage in traditional project management activities such as day-to-day management of the project or managing the project’s scope, budget or deadline. They also do not oversee individual team member’s work or tasks. The Scrum Master’s focus is on using Scrum and its principles to help the team improve their effectiveness.
- The Scrum Master is the team’s admin. For example, they manage, schedule and take minutes in all meetings; organize celebrations when milestones are achieved; and are the team’s JIRA administrator.
Why is this a myth? None of the items in the example above are elements of Scrum and they are not the responsibility of anyone on the Scrum Team. If the Scrum Team decides that these activities would help them be successful, they work together to decide who will be responsible for them.
- The Scrum Master must be technical.
Why is this a myth? The Developers on the team are the ones with the specialized knowledge of how to accomplish the work. It MAY be beneficial for the Scrum Master to have an understanding of how Developers do their work in order to serve them, but it is not required. The Scrum Master’s technical expertise is in Scrum and its complementary techniques.
- The Scrum Master removes all impediments or blockers.
Why is this a myth? An impediment is simply a hindrance or obstruction to accomplishing something. We face this kind of hindrance countless times each day whether it’s a locked door that should be unlocked, software that doesn’t work as expected or a question without an immediate answer. Most impediments are resolved by the person that initially faced it. Scrum Team members regularly face and resolve impediments. The Scrum Master steps in to help resolve impediments when Scrum Team members are unable to do so on their own.
- The Scrum Master facilitates all Scrum Events
Why is this a myth? New teams often struggle with how to make their Scrum Events as fruitful as possible. Other teams may have interpersonal dynamics that stymie consensus building. To help overcome these issues, Scrum Masters will often build their facilitation skills (as well as their mentoring and coaching skills). However, this does not mean that the Scrum Master is tasked with facilitating every meeting. Scrum Teams are most effective when they share these responsibilities.
- Having Scrum Master certification is evidence that an individual will be an effective Scrum Master.
Why is this a myth? The first step in becoming a Scrum Master is having knowledge of the Scrum framework and how to use it. It is not possible to be an effective Scrum Master without this knowledge. However, like any profession, being truly effective at the job requires skill, practical experience and professional characteristics appropriate for the role. Certification can provide evidence of a baseline of knowledge, but is unlikely to attest to an individual’s soft skills or judgment.
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The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness and for establishing Scrum as it is defined in the Scrum Guide. Excellent Scrum Masters help their teams deliver value. They can help transform a team that struggles, into a team that delivers value every Sprint.