Scrum master – A job description

May 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Best fit Agile, Blogroll, Out of my mind, Scrum and agile | Leave a comment

Recently I across a job description for the Scrum master role. It started with the mandatory sentence “Scrum master serves and protects the team”. But beyond that followed a long list of activities, mostly of administrative nature, which had virtually no relation to the serve and protect part. This made me start thinking. Here is how I would like rephrase the job description.

A Scrum master must be acutely aware:
• Aware of Agile, not just Scrum
• Aware of the power of agile tool that the team uses, both in terms of how it can help or harm; and
• Aware of the potential of his team members and inhibitions harbored by them

Why does he need to be holistically aware of agile and not just limited to Scrum?
Scrum is a good framework but it is just one way of doing agile. There are others, and those can further enrich the team’s capabilities and make their life easier.

There are agile principles which can guide him when in doubt. For example the one called “Simplicity” is so beautifully defined as “The art of maximizing the amount of work not done”, which can serve him in a vast range of situations.

Why is the agile tool so important?
Initially agile was tentatively tried out for simple cases, hence the manual information sharing and face to face interactions were good enough. But as it has matured over the years, now it is being confidently practiced for much more complex situation, for example bigger projects in offshore development mode.

In such situations using a good agile tool is a must. Otherwise there is an excessive overhead to keep everybody in sync.

A good tool also can capture lot of useful data through the transactions it handles, and provide rich reports based on the data provided it is reliable. This means all the relevant data is in the tool and not outside it.

Secondly, if the tool has to automatically capture the time related information, such information must enter the tool as soon as it happens. It takes discipline to do so, and the Scrum master must take care of it.

The tool provides benefit because it automates lot of manual work. But such automation has its cost and introduce certain degree of rigidity. The Scrum master must understand these aspects and guide all concerned, including the team, in a right direction.

Why do people matter?
People bring unique potential and valuable diversity. But this also introduces its own challenges.

One is the assumptions and beliefs held by the people, which sometimes can severely restrict or distort use of agile.

Secondly neither processes nor tools have any emotions, but people do. This requires very careful handling. The Scrum master should appreciate and accordingly serve and protect the team.

[Note: The term “serves and protects” can sometimes be confusing and open to multiple interpretations. If in doubt, look at a mother who doesn’t feel it below her dignity to do whatever it takes to look after her child’s interests. She doesn’t think twice when the child is threatened by an external or internal challenge and rushes to its rescue. And she leads by example. She truly personifies the role of a Scrum master.]

In short to be effective a Scrum master must grasp the essence of his role and love being one. Otherwise any amount of knowledge or training won’t help much. He should really understand agile in its totality, know the details of the tools used, and empathize with people he deals with both within and outside the team.

 

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