A scrum master is a person responsible for adhering to the scrum process in the company. According to the Agile methodology, a scrum master ensures that their team works smoothly and efficiently and pinpoints the opportunities to improve the workflow and develop the product more efficiently, bringing more value to customers.

In this article, we will describe the role of a scrum master, talk about their responsibilities and essential skills, cover the difference between scrum masters and project managers, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a scrum master.

What is the role of a scrum master?

The Agile methodology is becoming more and more popular among IT companies. This approach to project management enables businesses to accelerate the delivery of value to customers. Instead of releasing the entire product, the Agile team gets the job done in small parts. They rely not only on pre-created detailed plans but also on urgent changes.

There are businesses that use only a few techniques from the Agile methodology. However, a great number of companies use every single principle of this methodology in their work — this is where a scrum master steps in.

The primary role of a scrum master is teaching team members to communicate effectively with each other and with business representatives. These people help companies optimize their business routine to raise efficiency. Scrum masters are leaders, but not in the traditional sense of the word since they have no formal authority over their team.

In some companies, scrum masters play the role of a link between a product owner and their team. They guide the product owner on how to achieve their business goals and, at the same time, help resolve certain issues that can emerge during the development process.

The primary mission of a scrum master is to create conditions for self-government in the team and not let this self-government collapse due to micromanagement or a directive management method.

In the next section, we will review scrum masters' responsibilities to better understand what they do in the company.

Scrum Master Responsibilities

The profession of a scrum master is comparatively new. Moreover, in the ideal Agile world, the team itself manages the processes. However, in real life, almost every company that works with Agile needs a scrum master. Here is a list of scrum master's most common responsibilities:

  1. Teaching the team the Scrum methodology. This is a key task for scrum masters who work with a team that has recently started using the Agile methodology. They should help team members implement the Scrum practices and optimize the way their company works.
  2. Holding "stand-ups" and sprint planning meetings. According to the Scrum methodology, "stand-ups," during which the team discusses current tasks and creates a roadmap, should be held on a daily basis. Scrum master also holds sprint planning meetings, where participants evaluate their future work, break it down into sub-tasks, and plan specific actions.
  3. Reviewing the results of the sprints. During the meetings, scrum masters review the results of the sprints and highlight what can be improved. They also capture team members' feedback.
  4. Working as a board administrator. Every company that uses Agile has a scrum board. The responsibility of a scrum master is to keep all the cards up to date and check them regularly.
  5. Organizing personal meetings. A scrum master has to hold personal meetings with other team members. The aim is to resolve disagreements around certain processes and workflows to develop a team and improve internal communication.
  6. Consulting with the team. It might be challenging to organize the work according to Agile at once. The responsibility of a scrum master is to exchange views and decide how to manage a scrum team together with the team itself. Scrum masters might have personal consultations with team members who have certain problems with their work processes.
  7. Analyzing reports. Scrum masters should analyze performance statistics regularly to understand all the processes a company is going through.
  8. Removing obstacles. The responsibility of scrum masters is to provide intensive and productive work. They should eliminate external blockers and help the company deal with internal barriers.

The Scrum Guide does not list all of the responsibilities of a master. Therefore, scrum master responsibilities may change from company to company.

Now let's move on to discuss a set of skills essential for every scrum master.

Top 4 Scrum Master Skills

There are certain skills that every scrum master should have. Check them out below.

  1. Hands-on knowledge and experience. It is crucial for scrum masters to constantly improve their knowledge and skills of the Agile methodology to have an optimal decision in any situation. A scrum master is responsible for organizing scrum processes and should be ready to change their usual way of working.
  2. Leadership skills. Scrum masters are the leaders who motivate and teach their teams. Consequently, they should understand who should be given more freedom and who needs to be micromanaged. A scrum master needs to know how to find an approach to different people and be able to organize an effective workflow.
  3. Strategic thinking. A scrum master should understand a company's key strategy and follow it, keeping this business's success in mind. The ability to analyze current data and plan future actions according to it, flexibility in decision-making, and rational thinking are essential in this field.
  4. Stress tolerance. Scrum masters face challenges and changes every day, which requires them to be stress-resistant. They need to be ready for everything. Even in the most difficult situations, scrum masters should motivate the team and look for solutions to their problems.

It takes years of hard work to develop all these skills and become a professional. Mind that if you have skills 2-4, you can also become a project manager (PM). In the next section, you will discover the difference between project managers and scrum masters.

Scrum Master vs. Project Manager

These two positions may seem the same. However, they are quite different. In this section, we'll talk about the peculiarities of each one.

Both specialists have the same goals. They focus on how to get the job done and solve workflow problems through management and coordination. However, their approaches are quite different.

Project manager Scrum master
Works from a position of control and plays the traditional role of a leader. Acts as a team leader but does not lead in the traditional sense of the word.
Manages a project and its team and is accountable for achieving the project's goals. Helps their team improve and optimize certain processes but can only advise without making decisions.

As we can see, PMs are more about management and strong leadership, whereas scrum masters are more about coaching. They support team members and train them to work according to the Scrum methodology.

Now Agile is becoming more and more popular. Lots of successful companies hire scrum masters every day. Learn more about how to get into this profession in the next section.

How to Become a Scrum Master

There are several opportunities that allow you to become a scrum master. You can start as a project manager and then master your scrum skills, or you can start in the Agile world right away. Your way of becoming a master matters little because qualification plays the most vital role in Scrum.

  1. Discover more about Scrum by self-education. All the must-have theory is stated in the Scrum Guide. You can also read the books by Jeff Sutherland, one of the founders of Scrum.
  2. Attend courses. Scrum founders and certified trainers conduct training courses and give certificates to Scrum specialists. Scrum master skills are an obligatory basis for everyone, and if you have them, you can be recognized as one.
  3. Grow as a professional. If you wish to further improve your knowledge and skills of Scrum, after gaining more than a year of experience in the role of a scrum master, you can take Advanced Certified Scrum Master Training (A-CSM).

Mind that the Scrum certificate is valid for two years. If you want to renew the certificate after these two years, you must get a certain number of Scrum Education Units. They are given for completing Scrum courses, participating in Global Scrum Gathering and Regional Scrum Gathering, teaching Scrum, and other activities aimed at improving your Scrum qualifications. Such a system shows that your knowledge is relevant and significantly increases the value of your Scrum certificate.

It is not difficult to find a job as a scrum master. However, to become a professional, you need to fully accept the principles of Agile and be able to use them for the success of your team.

Congrats, now you know much more about the profession of a scrum master.

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