What Is It That a ScrumMaster Does All Day Long?

1 May 2014

Sugandha Mestri
Tata Consultancy Services


Looking at the three Scrum roles (product owner, ScrumMaster, team member), everyone seems to immediately agree that being a team member is a full-time job. After all, they develop the software all day. Being a product owner is a full-time job as well; they are involved in shaping up the product all day.

Yet often the assumption is that the ScrumMaster's work does not constitute a full-time job. In reality, however, the ScrumMaster role is highly important -- that is the person who manages the Scrum part of the development.

Let's see what it is that a ScrumMaster does all day long.


After considering the issue carefully, people may change their minds about the ScrumMaster's role and the work involved.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



Article Rating

Current rating: 4.8 (8 ratings)

Comments

Ashish Gupta, CSM, 5/1/2014 1:58:07 AM
Good one..
Jai Singhal, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 5/1/2014 9:02:10 AM
Good post Sugandha!

You covered nicely the activities of Scrum Master. Full time role for one Scrum Team depends on time, place and circumstances beside the Scrum Team.

It is a full-time job on a project that delivers every Sprint. For large projects or programs, it is common to see that multiple teams are encountering similar roadblocks as they are working on cadence with inter-dependencies and same cultural and infrastructure. On such large projects or programs, it is effective for Scrum Masters to cover 2-3 teams to leverage the full potential.

When you have one Scrum Master for each team on large project, they seem to be working on resolving same conflicts which becomes counterproductive as they all approach other responsible parties and could lead to chaos. Scrum of Scrum is able to resolve some but not all instances as it is not held daily. Switching the Scrum Master to handle 2-3 teams proved to be effective on those instances.

No doubt that for a project requiring one Scrum Team, Scrum Master is a full-time role. agreed.
Tim Baffa, CSM, 5/1/2014 3:19:09 PM
Effective communication diagram, Sugandha.

@ Jai, I have seen it work before where a Scrum Master is not considered a full-time responsibility, and they actively participate as a team member on the teams that they serve. However, I have seen and experienced difficulty when a Scrum Master serves multiple teams. The Scrum Master effectively becomes a single-threaded point of failure, especially with teams starting out in scrum and needing the guidance of a Scrum Master. Meeting facilitation becomes a nightmare as the multi-team Scrum Master tries to balance attendance at stand-ups, refinement sessions, planning sessions, etc. Most critical is the team retrospective, led by the Scrum Master, and scheduled for each team around the Scrum Master's availability instead of the most meaningful time for the team.
Jai Singhal, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 5/1/2014 6:38:56 PM
@ Tim, as I mentioned earlier, it depends on time, place, and circumstances. For new teams learning Scrum, teams holding Scrum ceremonies at the same time, Scrum Masters working on resolving too many impediments, distributed teams, and small projects with lot of uncertainties demand that Scrum Master be a full-time position.
That being said, for large projects and program utilizing multiple teams working on synchronized cadence have largely found Scrum Master to be part-time role otherwise too many Scrum Masters are running to resolve same issue for multiple teams which result in more chaos.
Scrum Master as full-time role is true for most scenarios. Yet it should not be taken as a rule.
Carlos Monroy Nieblas, CSM, 5/1/2014 6:41:20 PM
@Sugandha: Great summary! concise and complete

@Tim: Defining a person with a dual role of Scrum Master and Team Member may cause more troubles than solutions as that may develop a conflict of interests (The same happens for the Product Owner performing team member tasks).

Jai's proposal is quite reasonable, and its implementation will depend on the maturity level of the teams
Anonymous, 5/2/2014 7:13:08 AM
Nice and interesting article explaining the scrum master responsibilities
Sugandha Mestri, CSM, 5/2/2014 7:40:23 AM
Thanks all for your comments!

@Jai: I agree to your point of having 1 SM for 2-3 teams when they are working on same product, same feature where impediments, inter-dependencies are similar and it is effective to have one person driving it for these 2-3 teams with respective stakeholders. But in such cases, SM needs to manage his/her time for the Scrum Ceremonies (probably SM can have it at the same time for all the teams as they are working on same feature). Also, the teams should have been practicing Agile for sufficiently larger duration. As in the scenario where teams are new or the organization is first time adapting scrum, combining of SM role for 2-3 Teams, I feel, can be risky.

@ Tim : I am of the opinion of not combining SM and Team member role. I feel that SM is a full time job considering he/she is taking care of all the points mentioned above (even if it is for 1 Team). Combining these 2 roles can not only cause the conflict of interests (as mentioned by Carlos) but also can loose focus on some of the important tasks mentioned above due to lack of time (such as Reporting/resolving impediments, Agile Coaching, Collaboration of required stakeholders with the team, Reflecting outside issues to the team through observations)
Tim Baffa, CSM, 5/2/2014 4:26:15 PM
Just for clarification on my previous comment, I am of the strong opinion that a Scrum Master is a full-time position, and I appreciate the thoughts expressed in this thread.

When I have seen the dual SM/Team member work in the past, it wasn't a situation where a team member was "promoted" to SM, but it was an organizational perception on the additional capacity of the SM (again, false belief that the role isn't full-time). The SM would participate in certain tasks during the sprint - again, less than ideal, but for companies transitioning to agile, it is difficult to implement an ideal Scrum structure at the start. Baby steps...
Sanni Babu Yegi, CSM, 5/3/2014 4:02:24 AM
Very nice diagram
Zhang Zhiwu, CSM, 5/4/2014 3:32:11 AM
It's an awesome article. I like it.
Sugandha Mestri, CSM, 5/5/2014 12:35:53 AM
Thanks Sanni and Zhang
Shubhra Bhushan, CSM, 5/6/2014 1:23:04 AM
Loved the article! Good job Sugandha!
susarapu rajanikanth, CSM, 5/6/2014 11:33:24 AM
Yes, a good one!!!
Sugandha Mestri, CSM, 5/7/2014 12:44:11 AM
Thanks Shubhra & Susarapu :)
Michael Kuesters, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 5/7/2014 8:39:17 AM
I like it!

I saw "SCRUM Masters" who thought that Scrum Mastery means "Moderate meetings, cut short the technical discussions, then disappear into the management office".

Good to have some contrast :)
Phalguna Ramaraju, CSP,CSM, 5/12/2014 8:43:58 AM
Good one, I like those pictures with explanations around them!
Vishal Gupta, CSM, 5/13/2014 5:35:59 AM
nicely said..
Dubravka Widmer, CSM, 5/13/2014 2:37:16 PM
So true, great article!
Jocelyn Davies, CSM, 5/14/2014 11:22:42 AM
Nicely put. Love the image!
Marjorie Blanco, CSM, 5/19/2014 11:08:48 PM
Good article. A good topic to build on this article is to list scrum master core competencies.
Sugandha Mestri, CSM, 5/21/2014 5:18:21 AM
Thanks Michael, Phalguna, Vishal, Dubravka, Jocelyn & Marjorie!!
Xavier Carol i Rosell, CSM, 5/30/2014 3:05:10 AM
This clearly and graphically refutes all the people who say "But you ScrumMaster at what do you spend all day?"

Thanks Sugandha!
Annabathula Naga Satya Srinivas, CSM, 5/30/2014 4:03:27 AM
Thanks Sugandha, Loved the article!
Robby Burmeister, CSM, 5/30/2014 11:53:38 AM
This is a very helpful graphic. Do you have a larger version because I'd like to print it out.
Robby Burmeister, CSM, 5/30/2014 11:54:02 AM
This is a very helpful graphic. Do you have a larger version because I'd like to print it out.
Mauro Pupim Jr, CSM, 5/30/2014 2:46:15 PM
Great article!
Manta Mark, CSM, 6/2/2014 1:07:21 PM
A great article. I also have a question. I'm sure it depends on the experience pf the SCRUM Master. What do you think is an optimum number of teams for an experienced SCRUM Master and also for one just starting out. I have my CSM but have not used it as of yet.

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