Scrum gets more and more common as an agile method for the management of projects. Those who want to use the model of Scrum successfully should first take a closer look at the description of the three roles and not mistake the Scrum Master with a Team Leader.
Author: Marion Eickmann, CEO of agile42, www.agile42.com, first published in German in the IX-Magazin 9/2009
As owner of the second important role in a project team that works with Scrum, the Scrum Master communicates between the Product Owner and the Team. He moderates conflicts and takes obstacles that might interfere with the work of the team out of the way. The Scrum Master is not only responsible for the success of a project; he is more likely required to ensure the rules of Scrum.
The role of the Scrum Master
Companies that adjusted to Scrum show more efficiency than before, teams that use Scrum can work more productive and projects are better and easier to plan by using Scrum. All these statements can be true, but only for those who use the holistic Scrum method correctly. A very important part throughout this process plays the role of the Scrum Master. This second part of the Scrum tutorial refers to the responsibilities, asked requirements and limits of a Scrum Master.
Scrum describes three different management roles that make up the Scrum team: Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Development team. These three roles are equal, each with special tasks and responsibilities. The Product Owner, of whom has been an article in the last iX , is responsible for eliciting requirements, prioritize tehm and the most important to present the “vision” and the goal to the team, i.e. what the final product should look like. The development team is responsible for the development of a product, its quality and the technical realization.
The tasks of the Scrum Master and his role in comparison to the team leader of classical methods and their differences are the quintessence of this article. The question for the “agile leader” was asked at the Agile Conference 2006 by Tim Lister (see “Online sources”, [a]).
If you look at the first image you might believe at the first sight that this small brash-looking guy in the front is actually leading the group because he leads the way and goes ahead. But no. The actual “leader” is the chick that is looking around at the very end of the group, checking that there is no danger, surveying and having everything under control.
Figure 1: Crucial question: Who is leading who?
This image demonstrates very clearly the difference between the classical project leader and the Scrum Master. Furthermore it illustrates the role perception of an agile leader who is putting himself back behind the team. The most obvious difference between a team leader and a Scrum Master is represented by the name itself though. Whereas one is leading the team and sets the tasks, the other one is in charge of observing that the team obeys the rules and realizes the method of Scrum entirely. The Scrum Master does not interfere into the decisions of the team regarding specifically the development, but rather is there for the team as an advisor. He only interferes actively when anybody of the team or any other participant of a project (Stakeholder) does not obey the rules of Scrum. Whereas a team leader often gives requirements and takes responsibility for the completion of those, an experienced Scrum Master gives only impulses and advises to the team to lead the correct way, to use the right method or to choose the right technology. In fine the Scrum Master acts more like a Team Coach than a team leader.