If the role of Product Owner is rather well understood, it’s not the same for the role of Scrum Master. No, the Scrum Master is not a project manager and his role is totally different.
Sprint of a Scrum Master
Obviously the role of Scrum Master is not 100% identical to what I wrote below; each company has its context, but I will enlighten you on the role of a Scrum Master as a whole.
The smile of start
It’s stupid to remember that, but a Scrum Master must come with a smile; he is the facilitator of the team and his doctor when that is necessary. When he arrives at the office with a big smile, he shares the desire to spend a good day with the team.
He says hello to everyone, asks how each person feels and tries to find the right words to start. Sprint starts very often on Monday morning so this action is even more necessary because if you didn’t know that, Monday is the least productive day (and yes!) of the week. The return to the work isn’t a happiness for everyone.
His smile and his nice phrases that will have a certain influence on the mood of the team, can improve the productivity of the team. I think you will understand that the scrum master will do this action every day and not only the first one.
If a member arrives late, the scrum master will not forget to say hello to him to show that each member of the team is essential. Feeling important for the team is a source of motivation.
Moreover, sometimes some more retired members need this comfort to motivate themselves; it’s not uncommon to see a member of the team less loved than others for different reasons hence the fact that the scrum master have to be attentive to everyone without exception.
Sprint planning Meeting
Like any self-respecting sprint, the sprint will start at the meeting that prepare the sprint backlog to develop during the sprint. The scrum master will help the product owner to animate it with a good mood so that it’s more enjoyable; However, it doesn’t replace the role that the product owner must take.
In case of disagreement between developers or between the developer and the product manager, it’s possible to solve various problems. He really becomes a coach and a coordinator at this ceremony.
The scrum master doesn’t hesitate to remember the current goals of the sprint and will ensure that the team of developers give to their ability to achieve the goal. If this isn’t the case, the developers and the product owner have to negotiate the sprint content and on the sprint goals.
The sprint start
When the Scrum Master is not in ceremony, he has a lot of things to handle in reality; this is why we prefer to avoid the integrated Scrum Master because it would be forced to neglect a number of elements for lack of time.
He is attentive, he regularly look at the team to see if there are no blocking points. If he sees for example a developer get upset, he will intervene to know if he can help or even ask others to help him. This is really a highlight of the Scrum Master: he helps the team in real time. He will do the same thing with the Product Owner who sometimes needs help. The Scrum Master is a facilitator in the team.
A Scrum Master works on the image of his team and regularly goes to talk with the customers (without doing too much) or the stakeholders so that a regular contact exists. It’s often more enjoyable for the team to work with happy customers who appreciate some team members than indifferent customers. So if your Scrum Master often talks about the sun and the latest fashionable car with the customers or stakeholders of the team, don’t panic, he does his job. A good contact with all the people with whom the team will work is essential for a better development especially in problematic situations.
The Scrum Master is also the keeper of good practice and a coach of the team. He will remember the rules when necessary (with pedagogy and smile) to the team or people outside in interaction with the team.
The Sprint Review must be presented by the Product Owner who will be accompanied by the Scrum Master. Me particularly, I like the duo presentation that shows that both have a good relation and accomplices.
They have to prepare the Sprint Review to offer a course and quality content. If the presentation part of the product is often managed by the Product Owner, the Scrum Master will often provide graphics of any type to present the progress status of the product: Burndown Chart, Burnup Chart, Impediment Donut… There are many graphics the he can present. It will propose those that are adapted to the context and that will allow all the guests to the review to clearly visualize the progress of the product: reasons for possible delays, prioritization performed …
When we invite all customers, stakeholders or sponsors in the Sprint Review, we are pleasantly surprised to see that many people want to attend. But it often happens that they are less and less present in it. The Scrum Master will regularly create a friendly contact with the different peoples; so, he can try to bring them back to this ceremony.
The sprint retrospective are too often overlooked whereas it’s the most important meeting of a Sprint; but unprepared, it will have less sense and will become almost problematic. The Scrum Master will have to take some time to prepare it. It’s essential that each retrospective be different to avoid a feeling of monotony quickly installed.
To make a SWOT to define axis of improvement at each session is a source of boredom for the team and even source of demotivation. It’s a source of demotivation because defining axis of improvement is important but we can’t implement all of them in a single Sprint; if the problems repeat at each session, it will be rather counterproductive.
The team members have to come out of this ceremony with a smile and with the feeling that their presence was useful.
Some Scrum Masters go out of the office with the team to change the scenery; it’s obviously a very interesting method. We often see his love for his role during this ceremony.
Contrary to popular belief, the Scrum Master has a decisive role on the first sessions. He referees and allows the team to understand what is expected. However, it becomes useless in daily with time.
Over time, he will stand aside and just make a few reminders if needed. Here is the type of reminder often necessary during the first sessions:
- you will talk about the details together after with those interested
- we don’t take out his mobile phone in full daily
As soon as the automatisms are in place, the scrum master will no longer have to come to the daily. He may come from time to time to check that everything is working well.
If the Scrum Master is not a project manager, he helps the Product Owner create a schedule or even a roadmap. He does this through various more or less complex practices to know what the team can deliver over time (never forgetting the notion of variable scope). These different practices can take time at the scrum master.
Other ceremonies for the Scrum Master?
He will animate other ceremonies if necessary like Priority Meeting. Some time, he will propose new practices to the team that will accept them or not. To have this capacity, the Scrum Master will regularly read a lot of things about agility on internet or books; he will find new scrum practices or others that could help the team to be more and more productive.
It will also help the Product Owner in the smooth running of the Product Backlog Refinement always necessary to refine the backlog.
Conclusion scrum master
I tried to describe a complete Sprint of a Scrum Master; I can assure you that he needs 100% of his time to do a job well done. He is essential to this Scrum team.
Over time, it will be possible to share it with another team (if possible co-located) when the team will become more autonomous. However, don’t rush this type of practice because you will take the risk to disorientate the team.
with this article, you surely understand better now why it’s not a classic technical project manager that can exist in other organizations (waterfall, V cycle). He isn’t a manager, doesn’t write technical docs but he does a lot of things.
Feel free to share your experiences in this area.
Here is an article on the role of the scrum master: The role of Scrum Master