The Scrum Master (SM), in the Scrum process, requires individuals to wear many hats and perform well in varied situations. Although the roles of facilitator and team coach often come to mind when thinking of the SM, this crucial role goes beyond “removing impediments” and providing moral support to the rest of team. Below, I’ll break down some of the areas that the SM is in charge of and the ways a successful SM leads to successful product delivery and client satisfaction.
Although sometimes the SM is considered to be superfluous, seen as a passive observer (making sure that stickies get moved on the board, or on JIRA, for example), dozens of client engagements with Rangle have shown me how paramount this role is.
Here are some of the key areas in which the SM shines as a modern manager in software development.
SMs work on getting the team to improve practices, both technical and interpersonal. How to go about enabling this continuous improvement? During early stages, it’s all about teaching and coaching the team through the rules of Scrum, getting them up to speed if they’re not familiar with the process. Simultaneously, the SM also conveys the value of doing things in a particular way in Scrum. For example, starting with the daily standup, helping them understand that this quick meeting isn’t about reporting progress but more about sharing what you’ve done, what you will do, and how the rest of the team can help you remove roadblocks (eliminating the infamous impediments).
More Action, Less Passive Observation
I hear the stories about SMs becoming counselors at some companies. This is not what SMs do. It might sound harsh, but I think these SMs hide behind their “coach” role to have an excuse not to take action and move forward. Instead, when the process slows down and backlogs start to pile up, it is the SM’s job to actively coach their team through roadblocks, understand why problems took place and come up with a list of future actions to keep them from happening again.
People are great. People are also hard. Personalities, emotions, and past experiences should always be taken into account. Just as the humanity of the end-user is always a top of mind priority when we build applications here at Rangle, we take the same approach introspectively, making sure that the personal lives of the members of our team are healthy, productive and happy. Managing people is not about squeezing as much work as possible out of them, but about coordinating them to get to their goals, which always align with the goals of the team. SMs can bridge development work with business goals while taking into account how the team is doing and feeling on any given day. They also help stakeholders breakdown their work and facilitate continuous improvement such as Lean Metrics and prioritization.
The main driver when it comes to prioritization during an epic is business value. In fact, everything we do in a Scrum Team is about generating value for the organizations we partner with. The Product Owner (PO) is really instrumental in determining the priority order of what we are trying to accomplish. The business value-add comes from the work we do on the cases that he prioritizes. These cases are created at first try to meet the desired need or deliver value and then later to iterate on the feedback that we received on that initial delivery. When cases are created by the PO, he or she helps to define the value to the business. Then, through "Backlog Grooming" and "Sprint Planning", we refine and prioritize those pieces of work.
The SM plays a crucial role in facilitating the whole process, making it easy for the rest of the team to always remember priorities, aiding them to avoid getting lost in the everyday and always bringing their minds back to the importance of business value.