What is a Scrum Master? How does the role fit into a Project? These questions are critical for anyone who wants to explore Agile Development.
The role of Scrum Master may sound like a mythical character that you would play in a role-playing game, such as Dungeons & Dragons, but in reality – it is a very important job that requires strong teaching and coaching abilities.
The Scrum Master is basically a facilitator and liaison for the Agile Development Team. Scrum is the methodology, which allows a team to self-organise and implement changes quickly, in accordance to Agile principles.
The Scrum Master helps everyone to understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.
In this article, we will guide you through the Scrum Framework, the responsibilities of a Scrum Master, both the challenges and benefits of the role, the certifications and soft skills you need for the role and common Scrum Master interview questions.
Alright, let’s get started!
What Is The Scrum Framework?
Before we can look at what is expected of a Scrum Master, we need to understand the concept of the Scrum Framework. Scrum is growing in popularity in the Software Development environment and essentially is a simple framework for effective team collaboration on complex projects.
The common misconception is that Scrum and Agile are the same thing, mainly because Scrum is focused around continuous improvement, which is a core principle of Agile, however Scrum is the Framework for getting work done and Agile is a mindset.
Scrum will help you start thinking in the way of delivering value to your customers and practice building Agile principles into your everyday work. The Scrum Framework is lightweight and heuristic, simple to understand but also can be difficult to master it.
What Are The Roles In A Scrum Team?
The Scrum Framework includes three roles:
• A Product Owner
• A Development Team
• Scrum Master
Scrum Teams are both self- organising and cross functional, the Scrum Team will choose how best to accomplish work, rather than being directed by others outside of the team. This team model within Scrum was developed to optimise flexibility, creativity and most of all productivity.
What Are Scrum Events?
Events are used in Scrum to create regularity and minimise the need for meetings. All of the events in Scrum are time-boxed and ultimately ensures that the appropriate amount of time is spent on each task.
The duration of a Sprint is fixed and cannot be shortened or extended.
Scrum encourages you to hold five key events during a Sprint, which help you to improve your knowledge and become more effective in the future. The Scrum Events are:
The Sprint is an event itself and contains of all of the work and other events that happen during the time-boxed period of Development.
Sprint Planning is time-boxed to maximum of 8 hours for a 2 to 4 week Sprint, but it can be shortened for smaller Sprints. It is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to organise the event and help others to understand its purpose.
Sprint Planning will answer the following questions:
• What can be delivered in the increment resulting from the upcoming Sprint?
• How will the work needed to deliver the increment be achieved?
In Sprint Planning, work is selected from the Product Backlog - a list of all of the tasks which must be completed within the project and pulled into the Sprint Backlog - a list of all of the tasks which must be completed within the Sprint.
The Sprint Goal is also set during the Sprint Planning meeting and is the objective for the Sprint. It will guide the Development Team on why it’s building the increment and help them to keep the goal in mind throughout the Sprint.
The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team to orchestrate activities and plan for the next 24 hours. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint and it optimises collaboration and performance.
The Sprint Review is at most a 4 hour meeting for a 1-month Sprint held at the end of the Sprint to inspect the increment and adapt the Product Backlog if necessary. In the Sprint Review, the Scrum Team and Stakeholders will collaborate about what was accomplished in the Sprint.
The Sprint Retrospective is where the Scrum Team reviews the Sprint and how future Sprints could be improved and how they should do it.
In the Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum Team will discuss:
• What things went well in the Sprint?
• What could be improved in the Sprint?
• What will be improved in the next Sprint?
What Are Scrum Artifacts?
Artifacts in Scrum are used to represent or value to provide transparency and opportunities for inspection and adaption. The Scrum Framework was developed to promote communication, openness and transparency. The Scrum Artifacts are:
The Product Backlog is a detailed list of everything that is needed in a product. It is a list of requirements for any changes, which need to be made to the product.
The Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog and it is never completed. The Product Backlog is dynamic and changes what the product needs to be in order to be competitive and useful.
The Sprint Backlog is the set of Product Backlog items, which has been chosen for the Sprint and includes the plan for delivering the product increment and realising the overall Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog is a forecast by the Development Team.
Increment is one of the most important deliverables or artifacts of Scrum. An Increment is the sum of all the Product Backlog items completed in a Sprint and the value of Increments of all previous Sprints.
What Is A Scrum Master?
The role of Scrum Master was created as part of the Scrum Framework and the name was initially intended to mean someone who is a Scrum Expert and can therefore teach others.
A Scrum Master is typically the term used to refer to this role, even by team who do not follow the Scrum Framework, other terms also include Iteration Manager, Agile Coach or Team Coach.
A good Scrum Master knows exactly what tools and resources a team needs in order to accomplish their goals and is able to remove any roadblocks or distractions that could slow the team down in a Sprint.
Whilst, there are no defined levels of skill for Scrum Masters - in practice there are different levels of experience:
Rotating Scrum Master
This is where team members rotate Scrum Master responsibilities (mostly the administrative ones) amongst each other on a Sprint by Sprint basis.
Part Time Scrum Master
This is where one individual on the team takes on the responsibilities of a Scrum Master in addition to their own responsibilities.
Full Time Dedicated Scrum Master
This is where one individual’s sole responsibility is to become Scrum Master and is best suited for a team learning Agile principles.
This is where on individual does not have a specifically assigned team but works with several teams on certain needs.
The role of Scrum Master does not typically have any actual authority and the professionals who fill this role have to lead from a position of influence and often take a servant-leadership stance.
What Does A Scrum Master Do?
We will now take a closer look at the responsibilities of a Scrum Master in Agile Development. The Scrum Master will:
• Facilitate Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, Sprint Demo & Sprint Retrospective meetings.
• Resolve any conflicts by focusing on the Scrum values of openness, honesty and respect.
• Forecast the number of deliverables possible in an iteration based on evidence.
• Estimate and plan for the whole Software Development Project.
• Coach the team in Agile practices and emphasise on individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
• Help the team members in clarifying goals and actions to achieve the goals.
• Shield the team for any distractions or interference.
• Ensure the correct application of the Scrum process
• Serve the team rather than direct the team.
The role of Scrum Master throughout the whole Scrum process will result in the increase of satisfaction levels of both the end-user and customer.
What Are The Challenges Of A Scrum Master?
The role of Scrum Master can be unclear to many people and some businesses may believe that a Scrum Master is not required, because the Development Team is aware of how to do Scrum themselves and save the organisation money by not hiring a Scrum Master.
In most Development Teams without a Scrum Master, the team could feel as though they are not able to focus on larger goals, as they are way too busy fighting fires or working on new features. There can be frequent interruptions and often Stakeholders and Management do not respect the way the team works.
Scrum Masters are there to help both the organisation and Development Team get the very best out of the Scrum Framework and motivate and inspire the whole team.
The role of Scrum Master is complex, deep and comes with its own challenges. Here are some of the pitfalls of the role:
Sometimes organisations and management can confuse the role of the Scrum Master with a Project Manager and one of the challenges of being a Scrum Master is managing other people’s expectations of your role. Everyone must understand and appreciate that a Scrum Master is a facilitator, guide, process follower and Servant Leader to the rest of the team.
The Scrum Master can also be responsible for carrying out tasks, such as scheduling meetings and events, taking notes, inviting people to ceremonies and other various administrative duties.
Everything Is Time-Boxed
Every event in Scrum is meant to be time-boxed, so you are able to get the most productive results, however it can be difficult to time-box meetings like the Daily Scrum event and the meeting may end up taking longer than the allotted time.
It is the Scrum Master’s job to keep the meetings on-track and most of all, on time. A helpful tip to overcome the hurdle of the Daily Scrum event going past 15-minutes is to ask the team members to stand and hide the chairs, the team members will become tired and finish the event.
Why Become A Scrum Master?
More and more companies are adopting Agile and Scrum to produce high quality products and services and this means that Scrum Masters are in demand. Read the amazing benefits of landing a Scrum Master role:
Huge Earning Potential!
The average salary for a Scrum Master in the UK is £62,500 and as you become more experienced, then you could earn much higher.
Learn A Range Of Skills!
As a Scrum Master, you will learn a wide range of skills from leadership, teamwork, the ability to prioritise and judge risks and strengthen your communication skills.
You’ll Be Relevant & Marketable
Becoming a Scrum Master will expand your career opportunities across any organisation that implements Agile practices. You will be able to prove that you have an Agile mindset and a wealth of Agile knowledge, relevant to every organisation or industry which uses the practices.
How To Become A Scrum Master In 6 Simple Steps:
Now, how do you become a Scrum Master? These 6 simple steps will help you to how to start your career as a Scrum Master with no previous experience.
1. Learn The Basics Of Agile, Scrum & Lean Principles
Before making the move into any new career, you really need to be sure that you will like what you do. You should learn the basics of Agile, Scrum and Lean Principles and familiarising yourself with the Scrum Framework, its values and principles is the first step before becoming an advanced Scrum Master.
Here are useful resources that you can use to dive deeper into Scrum concepts and beliefs:
Scrum: The Art Of Doing Twice The Work In Half The Time – Jeff Sutherland
The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice For Your First Year – Mitch Lacey
2. Choose The Scrum Certification That You Want To Hold
A formal qualification is the best way to become a professional Scrum Master and it will ensure that you are familiar with the basics of Agile, Scrum and the daily responsibilities of a Scrum Master.
A Scrum Certification will allow you to expand your knowledge in the field and demonstrate what you have learned in real life. Prior to choosing a particular certification, you must think about it in regard to your industry and role.
3. Enrol Onto A Scrum Training Course
After you have chosen what type of certification you would like to obtain, then it is time to attend an officially recognised Scrum training course.
Here are some fantastic Scrum training courses below, which can be taken in a public classroom, virtual classroom or online at your own pace:
Agile Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
If you have any questions about enrolling onto these Agile Scrum training courses, then you can have a chat with our friendly Account Managers on +44 (0)1539 736 828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be able to help you straight away.
4. Register For The Scrum Examination
Once you have completed the required hours on the training course, you must be ready to prove that you are knowledgeable and skilled enough to become a Scrum Master with the official examination. You will be required to register for your examination and if you have booked a training course through Purple Griffon, we will handle all of this for you.
5. Prepare For Your Scrum Examination
There are hundreds of helpful resources online, which you can use to study for your Scrum examination. It’s always best to go over your course and revision notes leading up to the day of your exam, no matter how soon after the training course that you take the examination. Read Scrum materials, articles or even watch YouTube videos as revision to pass this vital exam.
6. Update Your Scrum Certification
You will need to renew your certification every few years and you must remember to renew it at the end of this period in order to remain qualified. The procedure of updating your qualification usually requires a fee.
What Soft Skills Do You Need As A Scrum Master?
In the Agile World, every Scrum Master should have the following soft skills:
A key element of a Scrum Master’s role is to help everyone on the team follow Agile principles properly and strong teaching skills are mandatory, especially for teams who are new to the Scrum process. A Scrum Master must know what to do and be able to explain how and why to everyone on the team.
Scrum Teams are made up of a mix of individuals, personalities and work style that could result in conflict from time to time. If a disagreement cannot be resolved amongst themselves, then it is down to the Scrum Master to manage any conflicts, which could slow down the progress of the project.
Boost Your Team’s Strengths & Eliminate Weaknesses
Experienced Scrum Masters recognise their team members strengths and place them in positions to succeed and at the same time, they help their team to reduce issues and weaknesses to reach their full potential.
Become A Great Listener
The skill of being a great listener can make or break a Scrum Master’s career. A good Scrum Master will understand the social and political scene of their departments and even though Scrum Masters have no true authority, they rule by comradery and respect.
What Are Common Scrum Master Interview Questions?
We have put together a list of Scrum Master interview questions and answers, which you can use to test yourself or to interview potential candidates in your organisation.
How do you explain Agile in under a minute?
Agile is a framework of approaches and behaviours that encourage “just-in-time” production that enables customers to receive quality software sooner.
What are the roles in Scrum?
Scrum describes only three roles:
• A Product Owner
• A Scrum Master
• A Delivery Team or Development Team
These roles should ideally be cross-functional and not shared among other projects.
What is the daily stand-up?
Every day, preferably in the morning, the Scrum Team meets for no more than 15 minutes to answer three questions:
• What did you do yesterday?
• What do you plan on doing today?
• Are there any blocks or impediments that keep you from doing your work?
What is the role of a Scrum Master?
The Scrum Master serves the team and shields them from any distractions which could prevent them from completing a Sprint Goal. A Scrum Master also removes roadblocks, helps the team to become self-organisation and serve as a coach who teaches Agile and Scrum values and principles.
How long should Sprints be?
The ideal length of a Sprint is between 1 and 4 weeks, with a 2 week sprint being the most widely used.
What is a Burn-Down Chart?
A Burn-Down Chart shows the amount of work a team has completed, like hours during the Sprint.
Is there a difference between Agile and Scrum?
Yes! Agile is a methodology in which the Scrum Framework falls under. Agile has 4 main values and 12 principles. Scrum has its own set of values and principles; it is a lightweight Framework to help teams to become Agile.
Can you name some other Agile Frameworks?
There are other Frameworks in addition to Scrum, such as Kanban, Test Driven Development or Feature-Driven Development.
Find Out How Much You Have Learned With Our Free Online Agile Scrum Mini Quiz
How well do you know the Scrum Framework after reading this article?
Agile has been shaping the World of Software Development since the 90’s. Our free online 12 question Agile Scrum Mini Quiz will help you to practice Scrum and master it. So, go ahead - take the quiz!
Did you find our ‘How To Become A Scrum Master’ blog article helpful? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.