Scrum Master – A Project Manager?

I always wondered about the effectiveness of Scrum in developing complex products. An Aha! moment occurred when I recently attended a training workshop on Scrum. I learnt that ‘Scrum is a framework of processes and techniques implemented in developing a complex product.’ This may seem like technical jargon, but Scrum works seamlessly in developing technical and non-technical products (Marketing Campaigns, Product Development, etc) in a planned manner with simple practices that yield powerful results. According to the Scrum Guide, ‘Scrum is lightweight, simple to understand, but difficult to master.’ Scrum theory is based on transparency, inspection and adaptation.

Let us understand now who is a Scrum Master

A Scrum Master can also be referred to as a team coach who promotes and supports a Scrum Team. They teach team members on Scrum framework, rules, values and practices. He (or She) helps them in implementing the practices and ensuring Agile behaviours are in check while ensuring which of the behaviours are missing or need more emphasis (Openness, Trust, Courage, Respect, Empathy) during the practices (Sprint Planning, Daily Standups, Sprint Review, Retrospectives).

‘The Scrum Master is a Servant-Leader for the Scrum Team.’

A Servant Leader imbibes qualities like foresight, commitment to growth, listening, collaboration, trust, empathy and so on. It is interesting to note that, in Scrum, leadership does not necessarily lead to management. Here, the Scrum Master is not bequeathed with the task of managing teams. He only facilitates the team to fulfil the commitments which they themselves have set for themselves.

Consider a normal ‘Project Coordinator’ in this context, he actually manages the teams and gets things done from his team within the stipulated time. Hence, a project coordinator might be handling multiple teams at the same time. This is not the case with a ‘Scrum Master.’

A Scrum Master helps the team to be accountable to themselves. He will never get into the intricacies of managing a team. Being accountable just means that the team members are managing themselves. ‘Accountable’ here means the ability to assign a task to a team and make sure that each member executes the task successfully unless an issue arises and the Scrum Master will achieve it without the intervention of a task manager. If one of the team members fails, then the entire team fails and the Scrum Master facilitates the discussion so that the team works together to find a solution.

An Experienced Scrum Master may manage Multiple Teams and is Responsible for:
• Meeting commitments which the team members themselves have made.
• The team working as a cross-functional unit.
• Heightened collaboration among groups.
• Removing impediments that come in the way of the team.
• Make the team accountable for their commitment towards Scrum framework.
• Coaching the team and training them on why, how and what of Scrum practices.
• Holding the team accountable for creating the highest value product possible.

A Scrum Master helps the Agile team members in managing themselves by following a checklist which comprises:
• Improving the Effectiveness of the Product Owner–Scrum master will help them find ways to maintain the product backlog and release plan.

Reviewing the Condition of the Team – collaborating with team members on their work.
Checking the Engineering Practices – balancing automated end to end system tests and automated unit tests.
Monitoring the Workflow of the Organisation – Scrum Master will do ‘Scrum of Scrums’ to ensure effective workflow in the organisation.
As an ardent learner of Scrum and related frameworks, I want to conclude by saying that ‘A scrum master should not be mistaken for a ‘project coordinator’, but should be rightly called as ‘Project Facilitator’ who helps Scrum teams in achieving phenomenal success.’

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