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Different Hats of a ScrumMaster

In the Scrum framework, a ScrumMaster needs to wear several hats in different situations. While team coach and facilitator are some of the primary roles of a ScrumMaster that come into mind, the overall purpose goes way beyond just setting up Scrum events, removing impediments, and encouraging the Development Team.

While the books state the ScrumMaster role as a “Servant Leader,” the most crucial factor that determines the success of a ScrumMaster is how much they are able to transform the Scrum Team as well as the organization.

What is Servant Leadership?

Servant Leadership means leading the Scrum Team by serving them. Serving is about removing high-priority blockers. Leadership is no longer a given authority but provided as a service.

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the leader serves. Unlike traditional leadership, where the primary goal of the leader is to focus only on the success of the organization, a servant leader shares power, decision making, the needs and requirements of the employees, and helps them perform as a high-productive team.

A ScrumMaster role is not performed as ‘command and control’ leadership but by ‘empowering and enabling’ teams. ScrumMaster role is to improve the efficiency of Development Team, Product Owner and, in fact the entire organization. The main focus of a ScrumMaster is to enable an open mindset among various roles, units and leaders, in order to make Scrum create value for all the stakeholders.

Let’s take a look at various hats that a ScrumMaster wears.

Facilitator

A ScrumMaster helps Scrum Teams and leaders in decision making. Thus, Facilitator is the hat you wear, well almost every day. Facilitation includes several responsibilities such as:

  • Facilitating Scrum events.
  • Facilitating decision making for Development Teams, Product Owner and stakeholders.
  • Facilitating difficult conversations.

Facilitating Scrum events:

A ScrumMaster facilitates the following Scrum events:

  1. Sprint Planning
  2. Sprint Review
  3. Sprint Retrospective

Yes, a Daily Scrum is not facilitated by a ScrumMaster unless the Development asks to. Instead the ScrumMaster should focus on making the Development Team self-organized so that they can conduct their own Daily Scrum, in order to make a plan on how to execute the work in the reminder of the Sprint.

Facilitating decision making and Facilitating difficult conversations:

It is possible that a Development Team or a Product Owner or a stakeholder do have conflicting opinions, and it is challenging to arrive at a decision.  A ScrumMaster facilitates in such a situation, helps to arrive at a decision. A facilitator takes a neutral stance viz. doesn’t take either of the sides, helps the participants to discover new ideas, different paths of problem solving and channelizes the discussions towards a decision. A facilitator may ask critical questions to ignite the thought process within the participants.

Impediment Remover

This hat reflects the “Servant” facet of the ScrumMaster role. Since ScrumMaster responsibilities includes eliminating impediments that paves way for faster delivery, it will be one of the top responsibilities for the ScrumMaster.

The Scrum Team can run into various impediments. For example, lack of skills, knowledge gap, unstable test environment, unavailability of Product Owner or a stakeholder, and various other factors. In such instances, the Scrum Team members will look up to you for resolving the impediment as soon as possible. Serving and supporting the team helps you establish a great teamwork atmosphere, and promote faster delivery.

Coach

As per Wikipedia, Coaching is a form of development in which the coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing guidance. The learner is sometimes called a coachee.

The coach unlocks the coachee’s potential to maximise the coachee’s performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them to do.

A ScrumMaster acts as a coach at times. Rather than providing decisions to the Scrum Team or the organization, the ScrumMaster helps to decide what is the best course of action to be taken in a given situation. To help people grow and improve, you don’t have to do their work but enable them to find the ideal, most suitable way of working. This work is more oriented towards people where the ultimate goal is to help people and organizations grow and become better. A ScrumMaster needs to guide people without being bossy or authoritative, which is considered as one of the most challenging facets of the job. To perform this responsibility better, a ScrumMaster should have good analytical skills, good negotiation skills, good communication skills. But more importantly, the ScrumMaster should have great listening skills.

Technical Coach

A Development team is ‘self-organizing’ and ‘cross-functional’. For organizations going through a transformation, technical expertise may be required until Development Teams become cross-functional. There is a need to introduce engineering practices that help to develop high quality products. Therefore, a ScrumMaster with technical expertise would readily need to wear the corresponding hat to introduce technical practices, coach Development Teams hands-on until they become more independent.

Some examples where technical coaching will be useful are (but not limited to):

  • Pair Programming
  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Testing
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Simple Design etc.

Mentor

A ScrumMaster acts as a mentor at times, based on the experience gathered over the years. During a difficult situation, the Development Team may look up to ScrumMaster as a mentor to resolve their impediments. Or the Product Owner may need help about various techniques available in the industry to prioritize the Product Backlog.

These are situations, where the ScrumMaster can utilize their experience to solve a problem and help the Scrum Team.

Teacher

The ScrumMaster wears the hat of a teacher at times. You may have to teach the Scrum Team, the organization, stakeholders about the following:

  • Agile Manifesto – Values and Principles
  • Scrum Framework
  • Scrum Values
  • How to do Scrum right?
  • And many more..

The ScrumMaster also helps the organization to plan and adopt Scrum in the organization.

Modern management

Besides focusing on continuous improvement, a ScrumMaster also needs to focus on people and their emotions, personalities, and experiences. One should also ensure a sustainable development, so that the Scrum Team as well as the organization sustain over a longer period of time. A ScrumMaster needs to always ask – Do you want to go faster, or do you want to go longer?

Wrapping up

Large organizations are looking for ScrumMasters who can be change agents and not just coordinators. They are looking to leverage the Agile way to working to build awesome products & services, in evolving market conditions and changing customer preferences. While you need to wear different hats as a ScrumMaster, it is improbable for someone to excel in all these aspects right away. Like for the teams and organizations, it is also a continuous learning journey for the ScrumMasters too.

The key to becoming a successful ScrumMaster is to be Agile yourself and ready to wear different hats as per the situation.

References:

  1. Scrum Guide from www.ScrumGuides.org

About the Author:

The author, Suresh Konduru, is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) certified by Scrum Alliance, and is based out of Hyderabad, India. He has more than 22 years of working experience in Fortune 500 companies globally.

He conducts workshops for Scrum Alliance flagship certifications such as Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). These are interactive zero Power-Point sessions conducted across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi and other cities in India; as well as in USA, Europe, APAC regions. Suresh uses real-world examples, group learning activities to make the workshops learning as well as fun. Trained more than 6000 students globally.

Suresh also consults for Fortune 500 organizations in product development, Agile transformation and change management initiatives.

He runs ‘ASK’ program – a lifelong free mentoring program for his students registered through PremierAgile.

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