Career / Management

Be a Scrum Master, Not a Scrum Manager

by Team Nuggets
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Published on October 2, 2017

It is easy to think of the Scrum Master as the manager of the project, but if you're doing Scrum correctly, then you know that this is not the case. One of the key principles of Scrum is that all members are equally important and that they are all working toward the same objective: getting the product ready.

Scrum teams consist of highly skilled, independent, self-managed individuals who perform equally, as far as the Scrum process is concerned. We will take a look at some key reasons why you need to be a Scrum Master, and not a Scrum Manager when trying to get the best out of your team and getting the product into the hands of the Product Owner.

Your Team Needs Coaching, Not Managing

Just as a sports team consists of highly specialized professionals, so too does your Scrum Team. Your Scrum Team contains individuals who possess talents that need to be utilized effectively and with guidance, so taking on the role of coach or manager is a smart one.

You will want your team members to get involved in the project with a clear understanding of timeframes and the expected completion dates. Luckily, Scrum is highly effective at helping teams get to work and keep an eye on milestones and key objectives.

You also don't want your team to get too bogged down in the daily minutiae of the project, so having them each play to their own individual strengths is key to your project's success. As the Scrum Master, you are the subject matter expert, which means that you have an overall understanding of the product, the product owner's requirements, and your team's abilities in relation to this undertaking are unparalleled. You'll be a project ninja.

Part of your coaching role is also to help build up your team in areas where they may be lacking. New team members who join your project may be unsure of the Scrum principles, so you will want to take on the role of a mentor so that you can ease them up to speed with the rest of the group. Your end goal is to increase the group's proficiency in Scrum while delivering on their sprint backlogs.

Staying On Track Means Keeping Focused

The daily Scrum meeting is vital for your project's success, as Scrum is dependent on clear and open communication. If the daily Scrum meeting starts to veer off course from the daily prescribed three questions, then it is the Scrum Master's role to steer things back on track and get everyone heading back in the right direction. Instances where this happens need to be dealt with in such a way so that you don't stifle the openness of your Scrum meetings, but at the same time maintain group discipline without coming across as being inflexible.

You will want to keep a careful eye on your user stories in your Product Backlog and offer assistance wherever there are delays, so be sure to concentrate on your team's progress as often as you can without micromanaging anyone. When the Scrum Master knows what is happening as the team heads toward finishing the release backlogs, it is really important for the Product Owner to be kept in the loop with progress. The Scrum Master is said to "manage" the Product Owner, but we need to think of "management" in this instance as more of a supporting role that is one of reassurance and facilitation. The Scrum Master must also ensure that the Product Owner operates within the Scrum framework and that they don't try to add their own methodologies into the mix as this can cause issues with your progress.

Clearing Obstructions Leads to Success

While all of the members of the Scrum Team are all equally important, it is important to remember that the Scrum Master shoulders the lion's share of responsibility. As such, they will have more authority when there are obstructions that are hindering the progress of the project, and very often they will have direct communication with the organization's management teams and decision-making structures.

The management team is relying on the completion of the project to happen on time and in full so their cooperation is usually very powerful. After each sprint has been completed, a retrospective meeting is essential so that any snags and obstacles that were encountered can be managed or removed by revising the process for the next sprint phase of the project.

Team members who are having issues with their tasks can alert the Scrum Master of their issues and continue working on another objective while the Scrum Master takes up the matter with management. This frees up the team from unnecessary meetings and breaks in continuity and lets them continue with the task at hand.

Then, when it comes to charting progress and mapping obstacles, both past and present, one of the most valuable visual tools in the Scrum arsenal is the Burn Down Chart. This chart provides a real-time snapshot in graphical form from which a trend can be mapped out with a highly accurate projection, giving the Scrum Master and Product Owner vital information when it is needed.

Leading From the Front

A Scrum Master really has to be a multi-talented individual when we look at the core responsibilities that they have to take on. They have to be: The SME, the coach, the driving focus, the remover of roadblocks, the Product Owner "manager" and much more.

Very rarely is there any time for a Scrum Master to sit around and do nothing, but when these rare lulls present themselves you can be sure that they will normally dive right into the action, perhaps even completing some stories themselves, because that's how a Scrum Master leads his team to success.

If you're just starting with Agile methodologies, Scrum Master and CBT Nuggets trainer Simona Millham recently completed her Scrum Essentials course.


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