Dragon Boat Race and Scrum | Scrum Roles Compared To Sailing Boat

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Dragon Boat Race and Scrum

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The dragon boat race originated in China several years ago. Usually celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

On the boat, there are

[a] A group of people paddling the boat

[b] A drummer who is beating the drums to encourage the paddlers

[c] A steerer who is steering the boat in a specific direction.

I use the dragon boat race as a metaphor in my Certified Scrum Master (CSM) workshops, that I conduct across the world. The participants watch a video and discuss the three types of people on the boat - Paddlers, Steerer and Drummer. These can be compared to the three roles in a Scrum Team namely Developers, Product Owner and Scrum Master respectively.

The Metaphor:

These are the individuals who are paddling in pairs. They can be compared with a Developers. The Developers consists of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable Increment of Done product at the end of each Sprint.


This is the one who is at the back of the boat, and steering the boat in the right direction- a job typically performed by the Product Owner while developing and sustaining complex products or services. The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from work of the Developers. And has a vision for the product that the Developers creates.


The drummer is at the front of the boat, beating the drums and hence motivating the paddlers. The drummer is comparable to the Scrum Master in a Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps everyone to understand Scrum theory, practices, rules and values. The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team.

Heartbeat or Rhythm:

The pace at which the drummer beats the drums determines the heartbeat of the boat. The Scrum Master is responsible to maintain a sustainable pace of the Developers.

Facing directions:

While the Paddlers and Steerer are facing the same direction as the boat is moving, the Drummer faces the opposite direction - seated in the opposite direction as that of the Paddlers. The focus of the Scrum Master is solely the team. Also the Scrum Master trusts the Product Owner to lead them in the right direction.

  1. YouTube videos on Dragon Boat Race.
  2. Wikipedia.
  3. Scrum Guide

Useful Links:

Certified Scrum Master Online Course OdenseCSPO Certification Course Kuala LumpurCSM Course Training JacksonvilleCSM Online Certification Ho Chi Minh CityAdvanced Scrum Master Virtual Certification Training CarlsbadScrum Product Owner Virtual Training Course CoimbatoreChallenges In Agile Scrum ImplementationAdvanced CSPO Virtual Certification Training Las VegasLeading SAFe Certification Course WellingtonCSPO Course Hartford


Suresh Konduru

The author is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) certified by Scrum Alliance. He has nearly 25 years of working experience in Fortune 500 companies globally in the areas of Agile transformation, Agile coaching, Scrum training, Org change transition, Product development, Project management etc. He conducts workshops for Scrum Alliance flagship certifications – CSM, CSPO, A-CSM, A-CSPO etc. Suresh uses real-world examples, group learning activities to make the workshops learning as well as fun. Suresh trained more than 12,000 professionals and nearly 100 corporates globally. He is rated consistently 5 out of 5 on Google reviews.