The 7 Essential Roles To Be the Best ScrumMaster

Coach Facilitating Team

The ScrumMaster[1] is seldom a ‘Master of Scrum;’ but the ScrumMaster’s primary responsibility is to help the Scrum Team use and improve its use of Scrum. This isn’t simply for Scrum’s sake; it’s because the Team needs to get better at doing what the Product Owner[2] needs it to do. In practice this means that the ScrumMaster works with the other Team Members to help the Team produce Quality Results[3] at a rapid, though Sustainable Pace.[4]

The ScrumMaster is a leadership role that is unique to Scrum. Even though it’s a leadership role, it comes with no management power. In this sense, the ScrumMaster is frequently referred to as a “servant leader,” leading by example without management authority. Any authority that the ScrumMaster has is a moral authority that is granted to the ScrumMaster by the Team.

The ScrumMaster uses this moral authority to help the Team improve its internal processes; to help the Team become more cross-functional, self-organized, self-managed, and self-aware; and the ScrumMaster works with the Organization and the Team to manage the impediments and constraints that are affecting the Team.

Not only that, but there are many essential roles to the ScrumMaster. Each of these essential roles is familiar to us, but the combination of them is special.

The 7 Roles

  1. Facilitator

The ScrumMaster is constantly working with the Team, helping it get better. The ScrumMaster facilitates many of the Scrum Ceremonies or Events. Additionally, the ScrumMaster facilitates the Team’s self-organization, ensuring the Team follows the Scrum process.

ScrumMaster Roles - Facilitator
2. Mentor

The ScrumMaster mentors the Team as to what Scrum is and how to use it. The ScrumMaster may also help Team Members improve their technical abilities in whatever way he or she can.

ScrumMaster Roles - Mentor
3. Referee

The ScrumMaster acts as a referee in escalated internal disputes and external disputes that heavily impact the Team. This is a special case of the Facilitator role but is common enough that it needs to be called out separately.

ScrumMaster Roles - Referee
4. Conscience

The ScrumMaster acts as the conscience of the Team, especially when it comes to the Team Values. When a Team Member (or the Team as a whole) is not living the Values, it is the ScrumMaster’s job to make this fact visible and try to do something about it.

ScrumMaster Roles - Conscience
5. Canary

The ScrumMaster acts as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to process. That is, if things aren’t going as they should, the ScrumMaster should be the first to notice the ‘process smell’ and bring it to the Team’s attention, helping to remove whatever impediments necessary to resolve it.

ScrumMaster Roles - Canary
6. Impediment Manager

One of the ScrumMaster’s primary responsibilities is to manage the impediments[5] or constraints that are getting in the way of the Scrum Framework or keeping the Team from reaching their full potential of producing a quality product. Sometimes the ScrumMaster does this by empowering and encouraging the Team to manage its own impediments and constraints, but more often the ScrumMaster must work with the Product Owner, Business Owner, or others in the Organization to help resolve these impediments.

ScrumMaster Roles - Impediment Manager
7. Bridge

The ScrumMaster brings his or her skills to the Team. Often, the ScrumMaster understands how the Organization works and acts as a bridge to help the Team adapt to the Organization and help the Organization adapt to the Team. Often this bridge work is in tandem with the Product Owner.

ScrumMaster Roles - Bridge

Whatever It Takes

A great ScrumMaster juggles these seven essential roles and does ‘whatever it takes’ to help the Team get better so that the Team can do the work the Product Owner requires. Because of this ‘whatever it takes’ attitude, the ScrumMaster often needs to take the cultures of the Team and the Organization into account. There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to specific situations that may arise for the ScrumMaster – it is all situationally dependent. Not all ScrumMasters are appropriate for all Teams, and ScrumMasters must constantly be self-evaluating to determine if they are effective. If they are not, they owe it to their Teams to refine their skills and work toward a path of improvement.

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As Always. Stay Agile.

Notes and Sources

1-5 “ScrumMaster,” “Product Owner,” “Results,” “Sustainable Pace,” “Impediments.” Accessed January 5, 2018.