What Are The Responsibilities of a Scrum Master?

Project Management
Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoLast updated

Looking to jump into the role of Scrum Master?

Agile is one of the most widely used project methodologies. Over 70% of U.S. companies say they use it.

Of it three frameworks, Scrum is the most popular.

And every Scrum team needs a Scrum Master.

There are many duties and responsibilities that come with the Scrum Master position.

In a nutshell, however, they are charged with facilitating the Scrum process and ensuring that development teams follow the framework laid out in the Scrum Guide.

With Scrum's popularity, especially for software development, there is a strong demand for Scrum Masters.

In fact, Scrum Master jobs are expected to grow nearly 40% in the next decade.

Given their importance in implementing the framework, it should be no surprise that they also command high salaries, earning, on average, approximately $100,000 a year.

So, we don't blame you for being interested in becoming a Scrum Master.

Here are the 7 most important Scrum Master responsibilities:

What Is Scrum?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

First and foremost, we should clarify what Scrum is before going further.

Scrum is a project management methodology that has become increasingly ubiquitous across the tech industry.

It is specifically designed to facilitate teamwork (the term "scrum" is a rugby term referring to a group of players).

Scrum consists of a development team breaking down their work into smaller pieces or goals that can be completed in short periods, called "sprints."

From there, scrum teams have a daily standup meeting, or "daily scrum," to evaluate everyone's progress on their particular goal in the sprint.

At the end of the sprints, teams will typically have meetings to review, reflect, and improve before they begin another sprint.

Scrum has become a hugely popular project management framework in software development and other fields as it allows teams to efficiently produce high-quality deliverables at a breakneck pace.

What Is a Scrum Master?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

As the name suggests, the Scrum Master role is charged with keeping Scrum teams on track and ensuring that the framework is operating as it should according to Scrum theory and practice.

In many ways, you can think of Scrum Masters as coaches for their teams. They are responsible for ensuring that everyone understands Scrum principles and stays productive and efficient during the sprints.

If problems or impediments to progress arise (which they inevitably will in any organization), the Scrum Master must figure out how to overcome them.

Fundamentally, all Agile practices center around collaborative team efforts. So, driving these team efforts requires a Scrum master to have many different soft skills., specifically, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

Not only that, Scrum masters need to stay on top of the latest tools, processes, and more that may be involved in the Agile practices in their organizations.

Ultimately, to sum up, the Scrum Master is the member of an Agile team that helps the team understand the expectations, goals, and technical dependencies of their project while helping overcome or eliminate the roadblocks that may arise.

That being said, we can now get into the nitty-gritty of what that may entail. So, here are the 7 most critical responsibilities of a Scrum master.

The 7 Most Important Scrum Master Responsibilities

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Don't let the name of the position fool you. The Scrum Master is not the master of the team or its members.

Instead, they are the master of the Scrum practices themselves. They work with the product owner and the development team to execute, refine, and improve Scrum practices as deliverables are produced.

But what exactly does that look like day-to-day?

What are the most essential responsibilities of a Scrum master?

Coaching the Scrum Team

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

First and foremost, a Scrum Master serves as the coach for both the development team and the product owner.

Not only does this involve motivating the team and keeping everyone on track, but, more importantly, ensuring that everyone understands Agile Scrum processes and has enough training to execute them effectively.

If anyone is confused or unsure of their role on the team, it's the Scrum master's responsibility to help them understand.

Finally, like a coach on a professional sports team, Scrum masters are always looking for ways they can help boost the productivity and performance of their teams.

Keeping the Scrum Team On Track and Productive

Abstract by Dmitry Nikulnikov

One of the Scrum Master's most essential responsibilities is maintaining the efficiency of the development team. It is up to them to ensure that the goals per sprint are actually achievable in that time frame.

Of course, they are also tasked with ensuring team members pull their weight and accomplish their respective goals during the sprints.

As we mentioned previously, Scrum Masters are always on the hunt for new ways or possible improvements to boost the productivity of their teams.

A scrum master is also tasked with facilitating Scrum events, such as planning sprints and sprint reviews, all in an effort to keep development teams on track and productive.

Hosting Daily Scrums

Abstract  by Oleg Shcherba

A crucial part of Scrum is the daily standup meeting, typically called the "Daily Scrum."

These are short meetings in which Scrum teams discuss their progress, bring up problems, and get on the same page during their sprints.

A Scrum Master leads these daily scrums.

These Daily Scrums, being standup meetings, are typically short and sweet. Team members go over things like:

  • What did they do yesterday?
  • What do you plan on doing today?
  • Is there anything getting in the way of your progress?

Scrum masters host and lead these meetings. In doing so, they also keep track of what everyone says, noting their progress, how much time they'll need to complete tasks, and what roadblocks may have arisen during the sprint.

Eliminate Roadblocks For the Team

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

One of the most significant responsibilities of a Scrum master is that of the "impediment remover." In other words, they must eliminate, remove, or overcome any roadblock that may hinder the progress of their Scrum teams.

There are many types of "impediments" that may challenge a scrum master. For instance, team members could be out sick or unexpectedly leave the organization, there may be unresolved team conflicts, the product owner may not be readily available, and many others.

Chances are, members of a scrum team may already have enough on their plate, so when these roadblocks inevitably arise, a scrum master must remove them on behalf of their teams.

Help Prioritize Work on the Product Backlog

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

One element of Agile Scrum is the product backlog.

This is simply an ordered list of work that needs to be completed to develop or improve a product.

The product backlog is a crucial part of sprint planning, as Scrum teams choose items on the backlog that can be completed in a single sprint.

Of course, prioritizing and choosing items on the product backlog isn't always easy or straightforward.

As such, a scrum master helps the product owner (who is in charge of building and maintaining the backlog) refine and break down items on the backlog into clear, precise tasks.

As we mentioned earlier, scrum masters are tasked with maintaining the productivity and effectiveness of the team. Regarding the product backlog, they must ensure that the work being prioritized can be completed in a single sprint.

Act as Teachers for Scrum Teams

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Scrum teams work best when everyone understands the methodology, its components, and why they matter.

Chances are, scrum teams will add new members with little to no experience with Agile practices at some point.

All this talk of sprints, daily scrums, and retrospectives could confuse new employees, hurting their effectiveness as a contributor.

It's the scrum master's job to educate their reams on Scrum theory, practice, rules, and structures.

It's likely only a matter of time before team members stray from scrum processes or practices. After all, Agile Scrum isn't the one way of doing things.

Still, Scrum teams can't be as effective as possible if Scrum practices and processes aren't being followed.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the scrum master to ensure that their teammates understand the methodology so they can execute the methodology as best they can.

Act as an Influential Scrum Leader

Abstract by Dani Grapevine

Scrum masters may be charged as leaders of a scrum team, but this does not mean they have authority or command over these teams as a traditional manager does.

They are similar to product managers in this way. They cannot issue orders to scrum teams, as product managers cannot give orders to development teams.

However, they still must act as leaders nonetheless. In place of hierarchical power, they must lead through influence and credibility.

Scrum masters must prove themselves as experts of scrum methodology, command respect, and inspire trust in their teammates to carry out their duties.

This is, perhaps, one of the most challenging aspects of being a scrum master, as this type of influence requires strong leadership skills. But, it is still significant because, without trust and respect, scrum teams are not likely to listen to scrum masters as they drive the process forward.

Why are Scrum Masters Necessary?

Simply put, a scrum master is necessary to ensure that development teams can be effective when operating under the Agile scrum methodology.

As we mentioned earlier, scrum teams likely have enough responsibility and enough on their plate as it is. However, without a scrum master, all these duties outlined in this article would fall on their shoulders, slowing everything down or derailing sprints altogether.

The scrum methodology involves quite a bit of nuance and detail. Therefore, a scrum master is critical for teaching, coaching, and driving scrum events for new team members who may or may not know much about Agile processes.

At the end of the day, scrum masters are necessary because, without them, scrum teams would struggle (or fail entirely) to effectively implement and follow the scrum framework.

What's the Difference Between a Scrum Master and a Product Manager?

Product managers and scrum masters will likely work alongside one another quite a bit. Still, the roles are distinct from one another.

After all, effective product managers should, ideally, be highly involved in the development teams.

While product managers are undoubtedly invested in the development team's productivity, they are not typically tasked with the project management duties that come with being a scrum master.

Product managers' primary responsibility is to the users or customers of a product. They discover their wants, needs, and problems and help everyone understand the "why" of a product.

They also conduct market research, develop product vision and strategy, and help drive the product's development, launch, and maintenance.

Scrum masters will ultimately help them develop and launch the product, but their roles are, of course, limited to assisting the development teams in implementing and following the scrum methodology.

Are Scrum Masters Different from Project Managers?

At this point in the article, you may be asking yourself, is a scrum master just a different kind of project manager?

What's the difference?

In a sense, yes, scrum masters are a specific kind of project manager. Typically, scrum masters work on development teams, usually with software engineers.

Project managers, on the other hand, usually work in non-technical contexts. Most importantly, however, a scrum master is the agile equivalent of a project manager.

Of course, there are many project management methodologies that organizations can use. However, Scrum masters, by definition, work within the Agile methodology.

A standard project manager is not bound to Agile in the way a scrum master is.

Another essential distinction to note is that project managers are managers, as the title suggests. They may coordinate many of the same activities or have similar duties to scrum masters, but they do so from a more traditional management position.

Team members may see project managers as "the boss." In contrast, scrum masters are usually seen as a member of that team rather than someone giving orders.

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