Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What does the Scrum Master do all day?

The Scrum Master doesn't plan the release, that's done by the Product Owner and the Scrum team.

He doesn't manage the developers as the Scrum team is self-organizing.

He's not even the guy that gets his neck wrung if the end result sucks or doesn't come together (that's the product owner).

If the product owner is the head that makes the decisions and the Scrum team is the arms and legs that do the work then the Scrum Master is the ooey gooey insides that hold everything together.

So who is the Scrum Master and what exactly does he do all day?

Simply put, the Scrum Master is the guy that manages the Scrum part of development. That means our Scrum will probably have at least these things on his plate:
  • Facilitating the daily standup (but not participating)
  • Helping the team maintain the burndown chart
  • Setting up any retrospectives, sprint reviews or sprint planning sessions
  • Shielding the team from interruptions during the sprint
  • Removing obstacles from the team (that they can't remove themselves)
  • Guiding the Product Owner in his/her role
  • Encouraging collaboration between the Scrum team and the Product Owner
You'll notice a common theme here. Essentially anything here that ties back to Scrum is directly tied to the Scrum Master or the Scrum Master will provide guidance. The point here is that the Scrum team will not overly concern themselves with Scrum and will mostly focus on the job of software development and the Product Owner likewise will focus on the stakeholders and business needs so they'll lean on the Scrum master to guide them in what's needed for the next iteration.

If this sounds like a full time job, that's because it is. The responsibility of the Scrum master is to make certain that Scrum doesn't get in the way of development or customer feedback which will take all of their time. That being said, not every Scrum Master is "just" the Scrum Master. Some teams may choose to elect a developer or tester to become the Scrum Master for the team, this shouldn't be considered the norm but it does occasionally happen so don't feel bad if you discover after your first couple sprints that your Scrum Master just doesn't have enough to keep him busy. Here might be some reasons why that is:
  • Your product owner knows his customer inside and out and is always there for the development team without guidance from the Scrum Master.
  • Your Development team has such a healthy communication culture that a daily standup is redundant and adds to the overall process overhead.
  • The burndown chart and other artifacts are maintained automatically or otherwise incur no overhead on the development team.
  • The team operates free of distractions and can clear all obstructions on their own with minimal overhead.
If these don't describe your team (or even if they do), separate out a Scrum Master for the team for at least one sprint before deciding one way or another how the Scrum Master will fit into your next sprint.

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