42 Tasks for a Scrum Master’s Job

Questions like the following are coming up quite often when I do Scrum training or coaching:

Why should the Scrum Master and Project Manager roles be filled different people? (Quora)

Will a scrum master for a team of 10 be a full time position or can a programmer fill this position if highly trained in agile planning? (Quora)

Behind those questions is the assumption that the Scrum Master is not a full time role. The askers of those questions conjecture that you save money by merging two roles or by placing the duty of the two roles on a single person.

The questions are asked by Scrum master beginners, by product owners, by team members, by managers, by stakeholders of any kind. From the three roles in Scrum, everyone seems to immediately grasp that being a team member is a full time job – because she develops software all day – and that being a product owner is a full time job – because he develops the product all day -, but it seems far beyond imagination what a Scrum master’s job could be and why the heck that would be a full time job, too.

Maybe those who ask don’t know what it is that a Scrum Master does all day long?

Here’s a list of 42 things I’d say are part of a Scrum masters job:

Meetings

  • Facilitating meetings for the team. This includes:
    • preparing
    • moderation
    • postprocessing
  • Holding retrospectives. Retrospectives are special meetings, therefore I count them separately.

Team Dynamics

  • Coaching team members (e.g. with one-on-one coachings).
  • Mediating through conflicts.
  • Helping the team to make decisions.
  • Fostering the developer team’s self-organisation.
  • Mediating the general conflict of goals between development team (high technical quality) and product owner (more features).

Learning

  • Continuing learning regarding everything Agile (e.g. visit user groups, attend conferences, read books, write blogs, etc.).
  • Consulting team members regarding everything Agile.
  • Helping the team to create information radiators.
  • Giving feedback to the team.
  • Encouraging the use of Agile Engineering Practices within the development team (this is a huge field to spent a Scrum Master’s time in, including e.g. one click releases, continuous delivery, feature flags, and many more).
  • Challenge team with Agile management innovations (e.g. FedEx-Days).
  • Exchanging constantly with other Scrum masters in the organisation (e.g. through community of practice).
  • Doing Gemba Walks.

Product

  • Helping to write or split user stories.
  • Helping to write or adapt product visions.
  • Helping to order product backlog items.
  • Helping with the release planning.
  • Being familiar with the team’s work (i.e. the product).

Big Picture

  • Bringing people together who should talk to each other.
  • Keeping in touch with every stakeholder regularly.
  • Helping the team to report to management.
  • Helping to further the Agile community within the organisation.
  • Organizing exchange events like Open Spaces or World Cafés for the team, its stakeholders, and its organisation.
  • Sharing insights throughout the company (micro-blogging, blogging, internal conferences, etc.).
  • Being a contact person for everyone in the team and their stakeholders regarding Agile.
  • Giving learning opportunities to people in the organization (e.g. talks or workshops) and letting them learn important Agile concepts like e.g. technical debt.

Change

Mirror

  • Reflecting Agile and Scrum values to the team.
  • Reminding the team of their arrangements (e.g. policies).
  • Helping the team to continuously improve their process.
  • Reflecting issues to the team through observation from outside of the team.
  • Asking open questions.
  • Checking all the models the team uses (e.g. Sprint backlog, metrics, etc.) and show them differences between the model and the real world.

Miscellaneous

  • Helping the team to keep focus (e.g. by acting as a buffer between external distractions and the team).
  • Helping the team to maintain their Scrum tools (Story board, Action board, charts, backlogs, etc.).
  • Helping team and product owner to find a suitable

You’ve done and/or considered everything mentioned above? Take a break, you must be exhausted.

We believe the Scrum Master is a full-time position for one person on one Scrum teamScrumMaster Manifesto

Other sources I find helpful in this context are:

[Update: Check out the great addition from Bob Marshall in the comments.]

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About Bernd Schiffer

Bernd Schiffer is consultant, trainer and coach for Agile Software Development in Melbourne, Australia. Learn more about him on his homepage or contact him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, XING or LinkedIn.

38 Responses to 42 Tasks for a Scrum Master’s Job

    • Thanks for those sources! That’s another hint that the scrum master’s job is not something you can in your spare time next to your ‘real’ job.

  1. Tom Howlett says:

    It’s a great list. I think when a team is new to Scrum its a very intensive job but once the team is self organising well I prefer to step back whenever I can and get on with some development. After 4 years of being a Scrummaster on the same team I now spend less than an hour a day on these tasks although the team is still moving forward.

    • Interesting. I never would advice a scrum master to be part of one and the same team for more than 2 years. I doubt that she could still have the “perspective from outside in” to challenge the team and kick it out of its comfort zone from time to time.

  2. Pierre Neis says:

    This is a good work, well done Bernd.

    Some of the topics aren’t attending my vision on a ScrumMaster (e.g. Michael James: A ScrumMaster’s Checklist needs to be updated).
    +1 for the Scrum Master Manifesto : I didn’t know it.

    Well done

    Pierre

  3. Some teach that SM role should be temporary. I agree ;-> as soon as ***change is reduced to zero*** (inside and outside the team) then an experienced team might be able organise their meetings, their learning, their communications, cross-team co-ordination, assumptions, habits, obstacles, conflicts… and still get the software done.

    Oh, but if there is ***no change*** you can go back to Waterfall, too! Soooo much more *efficient* ROFL

  4. Paul Goddard says:

    This blog post makes me happy. Thanks Bernd.

    I have always maintained that whilst the focus of the purpose changes with the team over time, the job still exists in a full-time capacity. Someone else also made a good point recently that as the team becomes more productive using Scrum the impediments potentially become bigger, more challenging to the company, not just the team.

    Too many people start out as ScrumMasters thinking it’s a just “process control” and fail to get the true spirit of Scrum into the team.

  5. Bob Marshall says:

    An excellent list.

    I would add one further category, that of “psychology”, with elements like:
    o Envisioning the future (how the team wants the work to work, next month, next year, …)
    o Building and articulating a common goal (aka common purpose) for the team (which may morph or change from time to time)
    o Surfacing team values and ethos
    o Helping everyone inside AND outside the team understand the role of mindset in team performance
    o Helping the team improve its social skills, especially wrt constructive conversations.

    (Maybe some overlap with some other items in other categories).

    And also one other key element missing(?) from your items (can’t immediately see the best category for it):
    o Keeping the team together: protecting the team as a cohesive unit (e.g. from other parts of the business wanting to poach people, or people’s time), even from complete dissolution (aka tear-down)

    Cheers
    - Bob @FlowchainSensei

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  7. Frank Klosek says:

    This is a great summary, focussing on all the aspects and not just keeping the Scrum basics.

    ScrumMasters losad is not just :

    load = nDays*15min + nSprints*(Retro+Planning) hours

    ;)

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  9. Sharna Sammy says:

    I am on an Agile journey – new to it, but totally engrossed in it. This is one of the most useful and constructive Agile info I have received – and all within just this one blog story. Many, many thanks! I WILL be using this info to add to my Agile journey :)

    • Thanks for the kind feedback. On second thought, it’s not surprising that you found something for your Agile journey on my Agile trail, right :D

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  11. roberto says:

    The scrum master has to be a different person from Product Owner. This is obvious! Otherwise we have the old style command-control project manager (or boss!)
    But is very difficult that a company (expecially in Italy) agrees to have one person not productive (they have too many people in burocracy and a lot of boss-lovers in PR!!!)
    However is more easy to put a SM like a team member (the rules of Scrum allow it) and the SM has more priority in doing her/his 42 Tasks than his developement tasks.
    If you start with strong rules, you will defeated. You have to introduce rules step by step. This for the old slow fearful greedy treacherous italy

    • Thanks for your thoughts, roberto. I disagree about you saying that the Scrum Master is “one person not productive”. See the 42 reasons above.
      If those 42 reasons are not enough for a full time job, then I would recommend to introduce a team member as a Scrum Master crosswise, i.e. team member in team A is Scrum Master in team B and vice versa. If you have a team member as a Scrum Master in the same team, you’d end up with lots of conflicts of goals within this one person, e.g. e would have huge difficulties to remain neutral as a facilitator for the team.

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  13. Hello Bernd,
    This post is great! I’ve translated it into french :
    42 tâches qui font partie du boulot de Scrum Master
    Regards, Fabrice

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  17. Adityag says:

    It looks one of the most useful site for Agile & CSM.
    I am new in Agile and have a query — Is Scrum (or any other methodology) is necessary to learn for understanding in Agile?
    regards

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  19. Mohammad says:

    How Scrum Master is different than a release manager? Can a release manager be a good Scrum Master?

    • Hi Mohammad.

      In my experience: no, a release manager cannot be a good Scrum Master. The release managers I know have at least two responsibilities that hinders being a good Scrum Master: a) also being a line manager, and b) being responsible for everything technical to deliver software. While a is in conflict with servant leadership and that the Scrum Master has no power to direct, b interferes with the Dev Team’s responsibility for everything technical.

      To give a more sophisticated answer it certainly would be helpful to be clear about what a release manager is from your point of view.

      Cheers,
      Bernd

  20. Ian Lamb says:

    Great post, but I disagree that in every case SM is a full-time job. On small teams of 4-5 it doesn’t take 100% of your time to do the SM tasks, and I think it’s a good thing if you still do some development work. I believe the SM is really just a member of the team that plays the role of facilitator, meaning the really important tasks first and foremost are resolving blockers and acting as buffer. Really your job is to keep the team moving along at their maximum velocity.

    A lot of the things you listed are great if you have the time, but in certain company/department structures the people management tasks are done by project managers. And I think freeing up your time to do some development keeps you more in touch with how the team is doing and what they’re working on, allowing you to perform your primary role better in my opinion.

    Anyway, just some food-for-thought. Scrum is different at every company depending on the structure and other factors, so the role of SM will vary greatly.

    • Hey Ian, thanks! Well, I’m glad that it works for you the way you described. There are always exceptional environments. What you describe, though, is from MPOV different to Scrum in crucial ways: the SM is not part of the dev team, hence he can’t take over dev work; there are no project managers in Scrum; there aren’t event projects in Scrum; the SM doesn’t need to code with the team to be in touch, on the contrary, it prevents the team from having an outside perspective, something which is immensely important for a Scrum team. Changing the environmental conditions for the SM role, I totally understand how you came to the conclusion that it’s not a full-time job. Why you would change the conditions for the SM role in the first place, well that’s a different topic though…

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  24. Cihan YILMAZ says:

    Hey Bernd,

    Great post, thanks a lot for this much effort.

    I translated it into Turkish and published it at my website.

    “Scrum Koçunun 42 Görevi”
    http://www.yilmazcihan.com/Articles/Detail.aspx?Id=99&scrum-masterin-gorevleri

    I hope this is okay for you.

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