Agile: Roles – Scrum Master

Funny title, of course. Everyone with no idea about Agile/Scrum always laughs when they hear the title. Scrum Master (or is it Scrummaster?) – What is that? What a goofy title?

Yeah, but it is what it is. You are probably trying to run some kind of Agile/Scrum process, and you need then a Scrum Master :)

But what does a Scrum Master do? Well a lot of it might depend on your process and team but here are a few things (there are probably a hundred more)..

  • Facilitate the Daily Standup/Scrum
    Each day when you meet for your 15 minute standup, the Scrum Master should make things start on time, and keep flowing, and make sure people are answering the 3 questions (What I do today? yesterday? What is in my way?). The Scrum Master should cut off people from going long, make sure things get tabled or moved to a hallway discussion instead of taking of everyones time.

  • Make sure the Burndown/Velocity is being tracked
    The charts! Of course, someone needs to make sure the metrics are being tracked and also displayed. Now depending on your team, it might just mean .. well, nothing but making sure do’ers are updating their burndown correctly. You might have virtual charts. But in some teams, you might need to print the charts for the board, or you might even need to add the burndown yourself depending on your process/system. Keeping track of these metrics is key. You want to keep people informed of your progress every day (at least for the burndown – I like to track velocity as a bullet chart for the sprint and update each day as well).
  • Get all the Stories Ready for Planning
    In some teams, the scrum master might be the only person doing this, in others there may be a group of analysts, etc. But the Scrum Master should be sure to have the stories ready for planning, to score and discuss. Your team probably has a backlog of bugs, features, enhancements, technical debt, and it should be prioritized, but the Scrum Master should be where the buck stops to make sure everything is in order for planning.
  • Facilitate Sprint Planning
    Just like facilitating the daily scrums, the Scrum Master should facilitate the “Sprintly” Sprint Planning meetings. Review, Retrospective, Scoring. Keeping things moving, being an observer but not really a decision maker – that is for the team to do.
  • Be the “Blocker” From Outside Distractions
    Once you start doing Agile, things change, sometimes they have to change dramatically. If your team of do’ers is 3rd level support, or even 1st level support, they are going to need a buffer or blocker from outside distractions. People wanting things now! and support calls and walk ups, and everything else you can think of. The Scrum Master should and needs to learn how to say “No” to everyone when needed. “No, we can’t do that now, but we can look at doing it next Sprint” or.. “No, we can’t look at this right away, but if we get ahead, we can pull it in.. maybe”, or “No, we (just flat out) aren’t doing this”
  • Work with Product Owner on Story Prioritization
    The Scrum Master needs to work with the Product Owner (another Role for another blog post) to get the stories in order, and prioritized. This should happen sometime a few days or week before the Sprint Planning so things can get organized without being rushed.
  • Drive the Process, Improve the Process
    As with everyone involved, the Scrum Master should try to improve the process along the way. There are always way to do things differently which might lead to things running smoother. Change the day of the planning? Print cards? Auto burndown? etc, etc. The Scrum Master should work with the team and Product Owner to help continuously improve the entire process, and the Scrum Master should be the driver of the current process. People have questions on the process? They should ask the Scrum Master.

As you can see, those are just a few of the things the Scrum Master needs to do to help the Agile/Scrum process along. Many times, teams don’t have someone that will take the bull by the horns and drive the process, step up to the role. Other times it is just apparent who the person should be, and in others, it is a well defined role.

The Scrum Master’s role is very important in the process, as much as the do’ers and the Product Owner and others..But they should be the ones that *own* the Agile process and help move things forward.


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