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SAFe Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities

19th Feb, 2024
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    SAFe Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities

    With the steep upward trend in the adoption of agile practices across the IT industry, various frameworks have gained momentum. This has led to an appetite for exploring new ways of working and setting performance benchmarks. More and more organizations are looking for people who can help them effectively run in a new environment comprising frameworks based on Agile and its variants. 

    Hence, the demand for certified SAFe® Scrum Masters has gained momentum in the last couple of years. The organizations, now, realize the criticality of this role for the implementation of scaled agile and its practices. The best CSM training will help in boosting your knowledge. 

    What is SAFe?

    SAFe helps in scaling the agile practices up to the enterprise level. The organization as a whole works together in delivering a solution to the client. All the layers have their purpose and deliverables. It has been designed to “continuously and efficiently deliver value on a regular and predictable schedule.”

    Over the years, the Scaled Agile framework has evolved as one of the highly appreciated frameworks across the IT industry. The scaled agile framework has different configurations that can be used for the need of the organization. The model is made in such a way that it can cater to all sizes and complex environments. 

    There are different SAFe roles that are needed to implement the outline across the enterprise. In this article today we will talk about one of the most vital roles that serve the different layers of the organization, that of the SAFe Scrum Master.

    What is SAFe Scrum Master?

    A Scrum Master in the SAFe enterprise context is a servant leader who helps the teams achieve their goal through constant coaching, mentoring, and smooth facilitation of processesIt is the Scrum Masters who ensure that the team is focused and knows the tasks they have to accomplish in the time given. Along with this, when we talk about SAFe, the scrum master is required to interact with different teams such as Product Management and Portfolio management teams, or other release trains to ensure alignment. The role calls for the facilitation of Team and Program Level events for effective program execution.

    What are SAFe Scrum Master Roles?

    The responsibilities of a Scrum master in SAFe agile expand beyond those of a traditional Scrum Master in SAFe. According to Agile Framework (SAFe), the Scrum Master is a servant leader for the agile team who ensures that the agreed-upon agile process is properly followed by educating the team on numerous frameworks and methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, and SAFe. So, it makes sense that a SAFe Scrum Master should have more than just the Scrum framework.

    Furthermore, Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, and Full SAFe are all higher-level components of the SAFe framework, designed to bring a team's agile practices throughout the company. The organization can make use of these various setups as it sees fit. The concept's adaptability means it may be used in settings of varying complexity and dimensions. So, SAFe Scrum Masters are crucial for helping at all company levels. Going for SSM certification will help you master the role of Scrum master. 

    SAFe Scrum Master Roles

    To ensure that SAFe Lean-Agile Principles are effectively implemented across the company, they will need to collaborate with the wider Scrum Master community, which may include Release Train Engineers and Solution Train Engineers.

    SAFe is built on a foundation of Lean and Agile concepts, which are transparent throughout the framework. Therefore, an SSM role includes these values. A SAFe agile team's Scrum Master is in charge of helping the team adopt SAFe and improving the flow of value by using a wide range of Lean tools and techniques. There can be various SAFe, Agile scrum master roles in an organization based on requirements, such as facilitator, Support RTE, Mentor, Lean-Agile Lead, etc.

    Responsibilities of a SAFe Scrum Master 

    1. Kaizen as the way of delivery: The SAFe Scrum Master helps the team to learn from their mistakes and instills a sense of ownership for their actions and commitment. With the facilitation of the team retrospective, they try to surface hidden emotions and find new effective ways of improvement. Also, they help the team with problem-solving methods to create a better self-organizing team.  
    2. Towards achieving sprint/release goals: The SAFe Scrum Master helps the team in creating increments that not only add value but also improve productivity. They help the teams to become more predictable. With effective facilitation, the team comes out with positive outputs after the end of each ceremony. The SAFe Scrum Master helps them through planning their iterations and scaling them up to the release planning level. They help organize the PI events which require certain pre-work for better PI outputs.   
    3. Achieving the objective of release train: As part of scaling agile, the SAFe Scrum Master helps in aligning the teams with larger release trains, ensuring the common organization goal is met. 
    4. Support the product owner for product backlog management and prioritization: The SAFe Scrum Master assists the Product Owner to manage the backlog and helps them with prioritization and estimation methods to define a healthy backlog.  
    5. Being a change agent for SAFe adoption: The SAFe Scrum Master serves as a pillar in the implementation of scaled agile and its practices. They coach the different layers in the framework by participating in the Scrum Master Community of Practice and supporting the organization’s coaches.  
    6. Manage impediments backlog and remove them: Many times, the implements go beyond the scope of the team's work span, and in such cases, the Scrum Master can reach out to external entities in getting the issues resolved. This helps in the timely execution of the sprint. 
    7. Endorses SAFe practices: SAFe offers direction to support the teams in continuously improving the quality of their deliverables and adhering to the Definition of Done.  
    8. Displays Lean-Agile leadership: Reveals the actions of a Lean-Agile Leader with a Lean-Agile Mindset. Helps the team embrace SAFe Core Values, adopt and apply SAFe Principles, and implement SAFe practices.  
    9. Facilitates SAFe ceremonies: Facilitation is yet another activity in the bucket list of responsibilities. Facilitation of events, like the Daily Stand-up, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective ensures the optimal team performance and meeting of the timelines. The SAFe Scrum Master comes up with innovative ways to make the ceremonies effective and fruitful. 
    10. Builds a highly motivated and self-organized team to deliver high business value: This is one of the main responsibilities of the SAFe Scrum Master. The focus is on improving the team dynamics and functioning. The Scrum Master coaches the team on self-organization through coaching/activities. The SAFe Scrum Master ensures the team maintains healthy relationships, by handling internal conflicts and challenges. Conflicts arise but being emotionally intelligent and keeping the dynamics healthy helps the team to move ahead.  
    11. Understand team dynamics: Every team in Agile has its own way of working together as a group. They create their working agreements which are usually lightweight, but as they are committed to following certain rules, the SAFe Scrum Master is responsible for emphasizing that work is carried out in accordance with those rules. The rules can be around ceremonies, quality, deliverable timeline, or just around communication. It can be anything that helps the team to stay bonded, transparent, and disciplined. 
    12. Manage the dependencies with other teams involved in the program: The SAFe Scrum Master helps the development team to constantly expand in terms of interactions and working rapport with other teams. They represent the team in the Scrum of Scrums (SoS) meeting, which helps the team to stay updated on the latest developments in terms of backlog, dependencies, risks, or other concerning areas. It helps them to be ready for any upcoming challenge. The Scrum of Scrums helps the team build active associations with the System Team, Architecture, and Shared Services, etc. Not only the Scrum Master, but the complete team holds the responsibility of creating a working relationship across the teams. 
    13. ART Ceremonies: In the Scaled Agile framework, apart from team ceremonies, the SAFe Scrum Master has to assist the team in setting the groundwork for Agile Release Train activities, which includes PI Planning, focusing on laying out a plan for an entire release, System Demos, and the Inspect and Adapt.  
    14. Facilitates estimation from Feature to story level: The development teams need support in understanding the estimation of the backlog items both at sprint and release level. The SAFe Scrum Master helps them identify models that can be used for efficient estimation of stories and features. Estimation helps the team in planning their work for upcoming sprints, which in turn, helps in the overall commitment.
    15. Improves organization agility: Along with working through their teams, the SAFe Scrum Master is required to work collaboratively with other Scrum Masters, management, and stakeholders to help the team stay aligned with the committed goals, and promote improvement towards the overall development of the Value Stream. The SAFe Scrum Master has to focus on both internal and external team activities to ensure effective and timely deliveries.  
    16. Contributes to the Success of Team Both Before and During PI Planning: The success of Program Increment planning meetings is directly correlated to the contributions made by Scrum masters. Throughout the entirety of the session, they serve as the workshop facilitators as well as the coaches of their Scrum team. The primary responsibility of this function is to facilitate and provide assistance to the team during the breakout sessions, where most of the planning takes place. This may need a heavy-handed approach, such as giving templates for the draught plan review and being hands-on during the task breakdown. This will depend on the maturity level of the team.

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    How SAFe Scrum Master is different from Non-SAFe Scrum Master?

    In a Scaled Agile framework, the teams at the development level follow methods/frameworks that can align with the organization's goals. The team can adopt Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc., or any other framework that works best for their requirement. A SAFe Scrum Master does not specifically have to work on Scrum implementation if the team is following another method.  

    However, when implementing SAFe Scrum, the Scrum Master has to live and follow Scrum practices and scale them across all teams. A SAFe Scrum Master not only supports the development team with all the responsibilities of a Scrum Master but also helps in running SAFe activities and gets involved in continuous improvement at all layers. In contrast, the Scrum Master in a non-SAFe team focuses only on the development team and its timely deliveries including impediment removal and risk mitigation. In short, the role also gets scaled up!

    Skills & Competencies to Look for in a Scrum Master in SAFe

    1. Powerful Scrum and Agile Instruction

    Scrum masters are employed for the primary reason of monitoring team adherence to Scrum and Agile principles. Scrum is a framework for managing projects emphasizing frequent, iterative, and incremental delivery. While the concept may appear basic and uncomplicated, Scrum has its vocabulary and phrases that managers need to learn to apply the framework effectively. Therefore, familiarity with these frameworks and jargon is crucial.

    2. Efficiency in Organizing

    Scrum masters also need to develop a highly effective method of organization. Scrum teams need structure and planning to keep things on track. Thus, Scrum masters need a system to keep everyone on track.

    3. Expertise in Technical Matters

    Scrum master's primary responsibility is collaborating with the Product manager to develop a process that maximizes the team's productivity. However, prior technical knowledge and experience are prerequisites. Scrum's primary goal is to facilitate the creation of software programs by teams, with the insertion of as few obstacles as possible. Therefore, Scrum masters should be familiar with the language and procedures of the technical community.

    4. Behavioral Abilities

    While technical know-how is essential, it only accounts for a part of a project's overall performance. For the rest, cultivating soft skills is the only option. The best Scrum masters would have mastered these fundamentals of leadership.

    5. Ability to Instruct and Guide Others

    The Scrum master's primary responsibility is ensuring that all team members follow Agile processes as intended. Therefore, excellent didactic skills are required, particularly for teams just beginning to adopt the Scrum methodology. You just can't only know what to do as Scrum Master; you also need to be able to articulate the why and how to your team.

    6. Conciliation of Conflict

    Scrum teams consist of individuals with different perspectives, personalities, and approaches to their job, which can lead to occasional disagreements. It is the Scrum master's responsibility to handle any conflicts that arise within the team that might hold down the team's development if the team members cannot do so.

    How to become a SAFe Scrum Master? 

    To become a SAFe Scrum Master, you must undertake scaled agile framework training through accredited institutes. They not only provide an in-depth understanding of the topics but also teach how to enforce the implementation journey. The participants get to learn how to create high-performing teams. 

    The certification signifies that the person is ready for the role and can help the organizations realize their goals. The course completion is followed by an exam to access the candidates’ knowledge. A  SAFe Scrum Master Agile training is the first order of business. This training will introduce you to Scrum and the SAFe framework. If you are a fresher, getting trained based on the SAFe Scrum master job description is essential. 

    ThSAFe Scrum Master plays a critical role in scaling Scrum across the enterprise. To achieve success in this role, he or she must have skills in collaboration, emotional intelligence, and servant leadership attributes. It is not about just working with the teams, but with the organization as a whole.


    We must understand that the major SAFe scrum master's responsibilities are to assist the team in accomplishing its objectives. They accomplish this goal by instructing others in SAFe ScrumXP and SAFe, coaching others in these frameworks, putting SAFe principles and practices into operation, coaching others in their implementation, and finding and removing bottlenecks to flow. Therefore, it’s important to know the methodologies from the core.  

    Going for KnowledgeHut SSM certification to get trained and certified as SAFe Scrum master is easy and convenient. It will be worthwhile to take the time to finish the training and acquire the certification so that you may advance in your chosen field.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1Who reports to Scrum Master?

    Considering that the Scrum master is the leader of the team, and has direct reports who are developers coaching others on how to do their tasks. Developer team prepares their work, inspects and revises the plan as necessary, and executes it.

    2What should a Scrum Master not do?

    The Scrum master must remain impartial. In a contentious situation, the Scrum master's duty as a facilitator dictates that he must not pick a side or favor one viewpoint over another. Instead, he should act as a mediator to assist the parties in reaching an agreement.

    3What is SAFe Certified Scrum master?

    It is the job of a SAFe Scrum master to ensure that Scrum is implemented successfully inside a business.

    4How is SAFe Scrum master different from other Scrum masters?

    Scrum is an agile methodology that helps product development teams focus on their work rather than administrative hassles. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is an all-encompassing framework designed to facilitate Business Agility throughout an organization. It considers teams, teams within teams, huge solutions, and leaner portfolio management.

    5Is SSM certification worth it?

    When it comes to Agile, SSM certified course lends valuable teachings that can be applied to other flavors of Agile. SSM certification can help you scale up your project management skills.

    6How do I get a SAFe Scrum Master certification?

    You can get SAFe Scrum Master certification and ace the skills required to be a scrum master.

    7How long is SAFe Scrum Master certification valid?

    All SAFe certifications are only valid for one year. You need to renew your SAFe certifications post one year by paying the renewal fee.


    Deepti Sinha

    Blog Author

    Deepti is an Agile Coach by profession and Freelance Trainer with over 11 years of industry experience working primarily with healthcare & finance clients in delivering business. She has played a wide variety of roles in the graph of her career, whether it be, management, operations or quality. She likes reading fiction, management and loves to write her experiences. Her colleagues mostly describe her as very detail oriented person with a knack of creativity and imagination. And yes, she loves feedback more than her coffee!!

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