Agile can be loosely described as a set of predefined principles or values that are used to manage software development. One of the most used Agile frameworks is called Scrum and is best used for small teams of developers who split their work into cycles, also referred to as sprints, with the aim of developing working software at the end of every cycle. Such a framework needs a person to manage the delicate timelines that are often associated with this kind of software development model. This person is called an Agile coach or a Scrum Master.
A Scrum Master is not your traditional project manager. In fact, Scrum Masters and project managers have distinct differences in their job descriptions. The role of a project manager is to manage project timelines, the scope of the project and the resources used to make sure that the project meets the requirements.
We will now look into a little more detail, the job descriptions of a Scrum Master and why proper agile and Scrum training is important for business success!
Scrum Master Job Description and Responsibilities
1. Coaching the Team
The Scrum Master is responsible for making sure that the members of the team are well trained into following the values of the Scrum framework and Agile practices. The Scrum Master also ensures that the team members are aware of their respective roles and how they will fulfill them while using the framework. Such is also important if new members join the team midway through the project. Team members also need to be coached on how to be accountable, productive and how to get the most out of being self-organized.
The members also need to be coached on how to have a sense of ownership of projects and view them as something they want to do rather than something they are paid to do. It is not the team alone that needs coaching, event management and the company as a whole require coaching,
This is helpful especially when it comes to organizations that are adopting the Scrum framework for the first time.
2. Managing and Driving the Agile Process
The Scrum Master is in charge of how the whole process is played out from the start all through to the end. A Scrum Master manages the scope and timeline of the entire project, which in turn guides them to set achievable goals. Therefore, what the team delivers at the end of every sprint has the required quality and supports the larger business goal.
They are also in charge of making and implementing changes to the process if necessary. Throughout the lifespan of the project, the Scrum Master is required to monitor the schedule performance as well as the cost performance and make alterations where necessary.
The Scrum Manager is also responsible for planning and setting up retrospective meetings and daily meetings. They should plan what can be delivered quickly so that they can prepare the team accordingly. If there is no project manager, it is up to the Scrum Master to document project requirements and proposals, status reports, handle presentations and ensure that they get to the clients.
3. Protect the Team from External Interference
Communication is a crucial aspect during the course of a project. However, when the right channels are not used, it becomes dangerous for the whole project. For instance, there have been cases of disgruntled product owners or operational staffs, event management in some cases, going to an extent of approaching an individual team member with their concerns and new demands, and this affects the individual. The Scrum Manager has the mandate to ensure that they are the guardian of the team, speaking on behalf of the team and not allowing direct access to members in case of any concerns.
4. Managing the Team
Working together is what makes any group project successful and that is one of the duties of a Scrum Master; to ensure that there is adequate cohesion amongst the members of the team. The Scrum Master should invest in creating an environment of openness, respect, and honesty so that the team members can feel comfortable with each other and with themselves.
Such is important, since an individual would be more resourceful if they worked in conditions where they are not being intimidated, judged or discriminated in any way. In the event of a fallout between team members, a Scrum Master is responsible for identifying, resolving and eliminating the source of conflict. It is also in the power of the Scrum Master to appoint a project manager if it is deemed necessary.
5. Foster Proper Communication
Poor communication is arguably one of the fastest ways to ruin a well-planned project, regardless of how good the developers may be. A Scrum Manager needs to be well equipped with excellent verbal and written communication skills to ensure that every piece of information gets to the team, related stakeholders and is delivered accurately and on time.
This starts with the initial scope of the project, and it is even more important when it comes to relaying changes. All important changes of scope, project plan, change in timeline and so on should be communicated as soon as possible to ensure minimal interruption to the workflow.
A Scrum Master should also ensure that there is a good communication flow within the development team internally, in particular, between the developers and the user experience or visual designers. They should also make sure that other relevant stakeholders know what's going on in the company. This encourages transparency and builds up trust across the whole organization.
6. Dealing with Impediments
A Scrum Master should anticipate, identify, track and remove any impediments. Predicting impediments makes the Scrum Master alert to potential threats to the project and ensures that they can easily identify and eliminate them. They find ways to deal with the issues internally, and they can also get help from the larger company or other stakeholders, if it is beyond their power. As part of coaching, the team can be trained to identify impediments themselves or the Scrum Master can select members to remove the barriers once they come up.
7. Be a Leader
A Scrum Master should be a leader to the team. They should be ready to come up with new solutions, and they should be open to receiving new ideas from team members and other stakeholders to make the deliverables meet the required standards. They should be able to work with the team and develop and empower the individuals, helping them achieve their full potential as developers and as individuals. They should also be servant leaders in that, it is not all about giving orders for them; they can also dive in and give a helping hand and work with the developers, which is the traditional meaning of leading by example!
How do you choose a scrum manager? Above is just a summarized list of responsibilities of a scrum master. The responsibilities and duties may vary from one organization to another or from one project to another, but it does not take away the base importance of having a Scrum Master as part of the development team and the organization as a whole.