The role of the Scrum Master – a key player!?

The role of the Scrum Master – a real key player?!

Very early in the process of introducing SCRUM, we had to choose persons for the roles well known in SCRUM. One of them obviously for the scrum master. Knowing waterfall-a-like models from the past and project management we decided to transform project managers into scrum masters.

Why? What was the motivation?

Well, from the books and theory the scrum master personalizes the “big brother” of the SCRUM process. Not having too much experience with the agile process, the logical step is to transform the person looking after processes from the old universe into the new one. Make the project manager the scrum master.

This worked quite well for a while. But suddenly, scrum masters started complaining about their work – too less meaningful work to be done – too less challenges to be looked after – the process became a common tool and so did the framework. The master of ceremony wasn’t so important any more.
But on the other hand we recognized another role in the process to be overwhelmed with organizational, planning, decision preparation, controling, steering and actually leading the team. Which role is it? In books you usually find the role description of the product owner being reduced to owning the back log, giving input to the team and otherwise having quite a nice life. We found this role in our experience being one of the most important roles – but another blog entry for this topic.

What role does the scrum master actually play right now in our teams? We still have  scrum masters. Some teams run the role of the lead developer and the scrum master in one person. Others still have dedicated persons for the scrum master role – but himself actually looking after three teams. Other teams have one scrum master heavily supporting the product owner consulting the backlog prioritization, the user story splitting and how to actually run the team.

Lesson learned?

  • The scrum master needs to be experienced and well-educated about agile processes.
  • After a while, the process is established, the scrum master will start looking for further challenges – and will most likely find them supporting the product owner.
  • Even if the books don’t tell you – one of the most important roles of the scrum master in our environment is to improve the processes and challenge the teams against their commitment.

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