The ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring the correct use of the Scrum process. Because the ScrumMaster is usually the most well read on Scrum, always trying to improve the team’s understanding of Scrum, facilitating the Scrum meetings, and developing new ways to develop relationships and structures that allow Scrum to thrive, he is the most able to guide the team in its use of Scrum. This authority holds within the Scrum Team where the ScrumMaster is a member and overrides any external authority as applied to that team. However, this does not mean that the ScrumMaster becomes a guru that withholds learning and understanding and guards it as if it is a treasured jewel. Instead, it is also the responsibility of the ScrumMaster to enable understanding, learning, and action so that the team advances together. Having this authority allows the ScrumMaster to stop any argument about the Scrum process, and ensure that the team is focused on action. If the ScrumMaster does not have final authority on the correct way to use the Scrum process, it is very likely that the Scrum Team will flounder, argue, and limit the progress of the team by not continually improving how they use and interact with the elements of Scrum.
To learn more about the correct way to use the Scrum process, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.
The Scrum Team needs a great deal of help from their ScrumMaster. This help includes: removal of obstacles, advancement and reminders of the Scrum principles and practices, ongoing facilitation of effective Scrum meetings, accompaniment of the Team Members to develop new skills, building of relationships with those outside the team, and ongoing advancement of the use of Scrum by the team. With all of this, the ScrumMaster responsibilities are quite difficult to master. The ScrumMaster must prioritize the most important work to be done, possibly using a list much like the Product backlog. If the ScrumMaster is working with two teams, for example, at some point in time he will have to decide which team to work with for a given problem. Which team is more important? If he choses another team, won’t the other team feel left out and un-protected? One of the most important duties of a ScrumMaster is to remove obstacles as the team identifies them in a timely manner. This responsibility is extremely difficult in some ways since many obstacles have cultural or organizational issues at their root. For a Scrum team to be effective, it needs a ScrumMaster who is full-time. One way to imagine this question is by comparison to a sports team. If the team is a bunch of kids doing the sport for recreational reasons, then its perfectly legitimate to have the coach also working with other kids teams. Not much is on the line. On the other hand, if the team is a professional, world-class team, you would never accept a coach who also wanted to work with another world-class team. The time, the conflict of interest would not allow such an arrangement. Do you want world-class, high performance Scrum Teams? The ScrumMaster should only work with one Scrum Team.
To learn more about working with only one scrum team, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.
The Sprint Retrospective is a key meeting where the team discusses how to improve. Like the other meetings in Scrum, the ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring it occurs and that it is well-facilitated. There are three main purposes of the Sprint Retrospective: honestly review how the last Sprint was conducted in all aspects including skills, relationships, processes, environment, culture and tools; discover the key aspects of the previous Sprint that need to be carried forward or improved; and, plan how the Scrum Team will improve the way it does work. This meeting aids the team in inspecting and adapting the entire use of Scrum and how the team is progressing as a team. The Sprint Retrospective is a check point that helps the team to know its current state, compare to its desired state, identify gaps, and take the needed steps to improve. This meeting is also where the ScrumMaster challenges the team to look deeply at itself and its process without fear. When a Scrum Team fails to hold and participate in this essential meeting, the team is likely to become a Scrum Team in name only without the spirit of Scrum – and therefore lose many of the far reaching benefits that many other Scrum Teams have experienced.
To learn more about using retrospective to help your team improve its processes and teamwork, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.