The scrum master helps the team find the right road.

The scrum master helps the team find the right road.

In the movie Independence Day, the US President played by Bill Pullman, calls on his fellow pilots to help plow the field so that the character played by Randy Quaid can attack the alien craft. Pullman was facilitating Quaid though both a call to action and active participation. The scrum master’s job in most cases is to facilitate plowing the field for the team. This creates an environment for a team to grow and deliver value, while keeping outside influences from sapping the team’s energy. Here is the scrum master’s job description:

  • Responsible for ensuring that the Scrum practices and rules are followed.
    Ensure that the team is disciplined about the Agile practices and techniques that they have chosen to support team effectiveness.
  • Teaches the team by coaching and leading.
    The scrum master teaches the team how to use Agile practices and to deal with issues, rather than jumping in and supplanting the team’s actions.
  • Helps the team understand and use self-organization and cross functionality.
    The scrum master fosters an environment that helps the team become a team, rather than a collection of individuals. The scrum master helps to create this environment by asking questions, sharing problem solving techniques and mediating interpersonal differences.
  • Removes impediments.
    The scrum master facilitates the resolution of bottlenecks that are blocking the team’s progress.  When impediments are outside of the team’s ability to control (for example waiting on a deliverable from another team or vendor), the scrum master acts will pursue the problem so that others on the team can continue to be focused on delivering functional software.
  • Ensures that the team keeps itself functional and productive.
    The scrum master needs to observe how the team is working together and to facilitate action when the team is not performing optimally. The scrum master generally makes sure the team knows where they are during a sprint or iteration using tools like the burn down, burn up charts and card walls so that the team can take action.
  • Enables close cooperation across all roles and functions.
    Teams share work, provide support to each other and swarm to tasks or stories when needed.  In order to provide that level of support, it is import for all roles on a team to cooperate. This means that there can’t be a “us vs. them” relationship between any of the roles on the team. Team sharing and learning sessions are some the the techniques that scrum masters can use to teams learn each others roles and functions.
  • Shields the team from external interference.
    At times outsiders will pull at team. External interference is a specialized form of an impediment that tends to drain time or focus from the team. The scrum master will deflect or absorb as many requests that will take the team’s focus away for meeting their commitments and delivering value.

The scrum master needs to create an environment for the team to prosper. The list above outlines the responsibilities that the scrum master must tackle to be effective. As you can see, a scrum master is more than an administrator or planner. The scrum masters facilitates the whole Agile team in attaining their the ultimate measure of value by focusing on the people on the team’s needs and how they are using the process.

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