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August 9, 2022

What is a Scrum Master and What Do They Do?

*With the collaboration of Pablo Bouzada.

Just like the Product Owner, the Scrum Master is an important figure when starting to work with the Scrum methodology, leading processes so that the Scrum team’s project is successfully completed. And not only that: he also works to spread this work methodology to the rest of the company.

In this article, we talk about the Scrum Master, his functions, and characteristics so that you know how to create this figure within your team and that your entire company benefits from a methodology that is very focused on achieving the best final deliverable.

What is a Scrum Master and what do they do?

According to the 2020 Scrum Guide, a Scrum Master is the person responsible for implementing Scrum among the team and the rest of the organization, both theoretically and practically, and for checking that it is being done effectively.

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

The Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team in different ways, such as the following:

  • Working hand in hand with the Product Owner (we will talk about this later).
  • Training people to self-manage their tasks.
  • Incentivizing to obtain “high-value increments“.
  • Removing obstacles that prevent the team from progressing.
  • Ensuring that all events are carried out in a useful way and within the set time standards.

In regard to the company, the Scrum Master also has other functions or tasks:

  • Advise in the implementation of this methodology.
  • Train colleagues.
  • Again, “removing barriers”; in this case, between internal stakeholders and Scrum teams.

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The Characteristics of a Scrum Master

With these responsibilities, one of the main distinguishing features of a Scrum Master is leadership: knowing how to implement Scrum in the company or keep the teams focused on their tasks denotes the ability to support, accompany and influence others.

We talked before about “eliminating barriers” between internal stakeholders and Scrum teams. Also, the Scrum Master has to detect processes that hinder the development of the project and obtain value in each sprint.

picture about characteristics and responsibilities of a scrum master

The Difference Between Scrum Master and Product Owner

In Scrum projects, you can find several profiles with leadership roles, but each one has very well-defined functions. In addition to the Scrum Master, there is also the Product Owner.

We have already dedicated a whole post to the Product Owner. He is the one who leads the day-to-day work of the Scrum team. He is in charge of preparing the Product Backlog (list of tasks to be done, sorted by priority) and defining the tasks for each sprint. His objective is the final deliverable, and each sprint is organized so that it is one more step, in addition to the previous ones, to achieve this result.

On the other hand, the Scrum Master makes sure that both the Product Owner and the rest of the Scrum Team members do not have any bottlenecks (the “barriers” we were talking about before) to do their work.

In short, both work in coordination to obtain the final deliverable.

In addition, the Scrum Master can participate in the different Scrum events: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

On the other hand, the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner with functions such as these:

  • Define the Product Backlog and Product Goal, and help the Scrum Team understand the former.
  • Facilitating stakeholder collaboration.

Scrum Master vs. Agile Coach

The Scrum Guide defines the responsibilities of the Scrum Master, including coaching the technical team and the Product Owner in Scrum mechanics to facilitate the work of the entire Scrum team. It is also defined that the Scrum Master should be a promoter of Scrum adoption throughout the organization, leading, training, and supporting the management layers to transition from other work models.

This is the theory, but let’s not forget that a Scrum Master must be inside a Scrum team working on a day-to-day basis and usually does not have the capacity or time to do these functions. This is where the Agile Coach role comes in.

Although the responsibilities of the Agile Coach are not as clearly defined as those of the Scrum Master, we can determine his role as the driver of agile methodologies within an organization. It is a job focused on training, leading, and consolidating the transformations of entire companies, so it usually works a lot with the management layer of the company (top and middle management) to support the change of mindset necessary in an Agile transformation.

Logically, if the work of an Agile Coach would remain only in the management team, he would not be able to bring fundamental changes to the organization, so he must work hand in hand with the Scrum Masters to agree and consolidate how Agile is being adopted within the teams, and must support them in good practices that allow Scrum teams to be the spearhead of this transformation. If necessary, the coach will support specific teams in adopting these best practices and will be a reference when doubts or conflicts arise.

It should also be noted that an Agile Coach must know how to apply other tools that allow adopting Agile (XP, Kanban, Lean…) and use them according to the company’s needs.

What are the roles and characteristics of the Scrum Master?

Scrum is one of the methodologies that help companies to create products and services in a more organized way and with continuous review of errors and improvements. We have prepared an infographic that summarizes the roles and characteristics of the Scrum Master so that you can consult it at a glance whenever you want.

And if you want to know more about how to implement Scrum in your company, our team of specialists can help you.

josé manuel blanco
José Manuel Blanco
Content Specialist