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What is a Scrum Master?

The Accountability of the Scrum Master

Servant LeadershipAs described in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization while serving the Scrum Team as well as the larger organization. 
However, a Scrum Master is much more than this. The role of the Scrum Master has a lot of layers and facets to it. While building awareness around Scrum and enabling greater agility, Scrum Masters also need soft skills that are needed to coach and mentor members of the Scrum Team and others in the organization. Scrum Masters are accountable for helping their teams succeed, and that often means offering them assistance in groups or on a one-on-one basis. They may facilitate exercises, give guidance or help people come to conclusions on their own. Not everyone has the skills necessary to be a Scrum Master, and that is important to keep in mind when considering this career path.
In the end, the Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness as they help the Scrum Team to improve how the team works together to create value on an ongoing basis.

What does a Scrum Master do?

Scrum Masters utilize their unique skillset to do a lot of critical work that helps the Scrum Team and the organization as listed below. 

The Scrum Master:

helps the Scrum Team:

  • By coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality
  • Focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done
  • Influence the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress
  • Ensure that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.

helps the Product Owner:

  • Find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management
  • Provide ways for the Scrum Team to understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items
  • Establish empirical product planning for a complex environment
  • Facilitate stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed

supports the Organization:

  • By Leading, training and coaching them in their Scrum adoption
  • By helping employees and stakeholders understand and instill an empirical approach for complex work
  • Remove barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams

Scrum Master Stances

To be successful, the Scrum Master must wear different hats that depend on the situation or challenge the team is facing. These hats are often referred to as stances, which are described in the whitepaper, The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master by Barry Overeem. In any given situation, a Scrum Master utilizes their important soft skills to act as a Servant Leader, Facilitator, Coach, Manager, Mentor, Teacher, Impediment Remover or Change Agent, depending on the situation at hand. For example, the Scrum Master may facilitate a new activity to help the Scrum Team run their Sprint Retrospective in a way that encourages more participation from the group; they may coach a new Developer who needs some guidance on how to work with their new team; they also may take the teacher stance and teach team members a new technique they learned to handle conflicts with the team. These are just some of the pieces that make up the multi-layer fabric of the Scrum Master.

Learning Opportunities for Scrum Masters

There are many ways to learn as a Scrum Master, from courses to certifications and also our Scrum Master Learning Path for self study. Explore these opportunities: