Scrum Master: the Heart of the Team

By Nathan Cavet
Published: 20/01/2021
definition backgroundScrum Master: the Heart of the Team

No, a Scrum Master is not an invention from a mad scientist. It might sound new to your ears, but this job is at the center of project management nowadays.

The Scrum Master (SM) is a full-fledged member of the Scrum team that develops complex projects in an agile manner. The SM is unrivalled in creating a cohesive work environment that invites everyone to deploy their potential, to move towards project success.

What are the Scrum Master missions, training, skills and qualities? And how is it different from the role of Project Manager?

What is a Scrum Master?

Role

The role of the Scrum Master is to create a favorable environment for the Scrum team to get involved and work efficiently. The SM plans, guides, accompanies, supports and motivates team members by facilitating communication and cooperation.

servant leadership scrum master© scrum.org

True guarantor of the Scrum methodology within the team, the ScrumMaster assumes the role of coach and of a servant leader. The role of the SM is not part of a hierarchy and takes a holistic approach.

Responsibilities

  • Applies and enforces the Scrum methodology to the entire team by passing its values and principles (e.g., organizing and facilitating workshops)
  • Organizes and leads various Scrum events
    • the sprint retrospective: which provides an opportunity to discuss the past sprint to highlight what worked well and what did not work well. This is part of the process of continuous improvement.
    • the sprint review: a meeting that takes place at the end of the sprint (before the retrospective) to present the items achieved during the sprint, including the overall progress of the product
    • the sprint planning: another meeting which takes place at the beginning of each sprint and which allows to frame and prepare it well
    • the daily scrum: a short daily meeting that allows everyone to share the progress of the sprint and report a blocking point
  • Helps the Product Owner to:
    • determine and prioritize objectives
    • improve the management and planning of user-stories
    • anticipate obstacles
    • transmit information to developers
  • Helps the development team meet their commitments by:
    • removing obstacles
    • accompanying them in the reflection
    • motivating them with a positive attitude, ideas and innovation
    • protecting them from outside interventions that could slow them down
  • Ensures that a smooth relationship between the development team and the product owner
  • Ensures visibility of project progress to stakeholders through indicators or tools such as the burn down chart
  • Identifies dysfunctions and blocking points in the aim of finding solutions

Hard skills

There are 3 major hard skills to be a great Scrum Master:

  • a complete proficiency in the Scrum Agile Methodology
  • web project management
  • knowledge of the technical sector

Soft skills

Here are a few qualities a Scrum Master needs to have:

  • 😎 relational ease: incredibly important to create bonds with different people in the company
  • 🤝 empathy: it is necessary to like people to help them
  • 🗣 effective communication skills: enormously important when there is a need to highlight the work of the team or to share information with diverse types of people
  • 🤓 organization: to apply the Scrum method, to follow the project in detail and to identify problems
  • 🧠 creativity: there is always a need to break the routine and find new ways of creating and animating workshops
  • 🧐 curiosity: to find novel resources and carry the team beyond the Scrum pattern

The outlook for development

There is no ready-made path for the Scrum Master. However, here are a few directions the SM can take:

  • Product Owner: to work on a job product-centered
  • Agile Coach: a role with similar missions but at a more strategic and transversal level in the company
  • Project Manager: a similar role to project manager at a more strategic level

Salary

As for lots of jobs, the salary varies depending on the city or country, the experience, the type of company and the importance of the project.

Here is an example of the salary of Scrum Master in the UK

scrum master salary uk © reed.co.uk

Scrum Master vs Project Manager

The Scrum Master does not manage a team. The SM is here to support and help the development team and the Product Owner. The role of the SM is to coach rather than to lead, and to make the atmosphere and environment pleasant for workers.

The Project Manager takes the place of a leader and has an essential role in decision making. The Project Manager has to manage the team and is the person responsible for accomplishing the project objectives.

project manager scrum master management company team leadership© Visual-Paradigm

How to become a Scrum Master?

Training

If a technical background is not necessary to fulfill this role, a Scrum Master has trained in engineering school, in computer science or in web project management.

There are diverse certifications to become a certified scrummaster. The Professional Scrum Master (PSM) has 3 levels of certification:

  • PSM I, which validates the knowledge and application of the basic principles of the Scrum method
  • PSM II, which focuses on solving more complex problems
  • PSM III, which allows the principles to be applied to complex projects or teams, in diverse types of companies, to solve distinct types of problems

Free learning

Many of the active Scrum Masters are self-taught and here are a few tips to help you:

  • Know the Agile Manifesto and agile practices by heart
  • Watch videos
  • Attend conferences and meetings
  • Read articles on the Internet about:
  • Succeeding with agile
  • The Scrum Guide
  • Agile project management
  • Scrum for dummies
  • Practice repeatedly to make the theory yours

The secret to success? To be passionate about agility and the Scrum method.

The Scrum Master toolbox

To carry out the mission, the SM has many available tools.

Tips for recruiting a Scrum Master

  • be careful with the job description: make sure it shows how familiar you are with the role of Scrum Master.
  • avoid stereotypes HR questions and get straight to the point: what interests you is his practical vision of the Scrum methodology
  • insist on failures: being able to talk about them comfortably allows you to detect certain human qualities that are appreciated such as a sense of responsibility or humility
  • Test them with a real-life exercise: it is essential to see if the potential future SM goes along well with your team and if the person knows how to adapt
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