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 team — ScrumMaster Manifesto (not online anymore)
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 personal homepage, have a look at his company Bold Mover, or contact him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, XING or LinkedIn.

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