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What Is a Scrum Master, and How Do You Become One?

27, Jul 2021
Jasmin Iordanidis
Written by Jasmin Iordanidis, Product Marketing Manager

What is a Scrum Master? The Scrum Master guides the daily Scrum in projects or software development to streamline processes as much as possible. This person applies agile methodologies to guide successful project outcomes.

If you want to become a Scrum Master, learn what defines this role. Explore its duties and how the servant leadership style supports carrying out the various responsibilities it involves.

Find out how the Scrum Master's role benefits product or project development. Finally, discover what qualifications you need to become a Scrum Master and what job types you can apply to complete your studies.

What is a Scrum Master’s role?

A Scrum Master's role is dynamic. They must be flexible and adapt to various circumstances, because the Scrum Master serves a vital role in managing projects.

Every product development project needs a different approach. The Scrum Master must adapt their approach to each position and even play the role of an agile coach at times.

Whatever role the Scrum Master takes on, they play a servant leader role (we’ll review what this is later). So, their responsibilities vary when guiding the team's progress.

Some ways that the Scrum Master works with team members and product owners include:

  • Sprint planning with team members and product owners to check that everyone understands what needs to be done
  • Solving issues such as work estimation, scope creep and over-committing to work volumes
  • Holding daily standup meetings to discuss product issues, backlogs, and any other team member concerns
  • Acting as a facilitator to limit blockers that hold the team back from completing iterations on time. The Scrum Master also handles any roadblocks by improving workflows
  • Having sprint reviews that ensure team collaboration and helpful feedback
  • Holding retrospectives to see how team members can improve
  • Monitoring the Scrum board to ensure that all cards are current and that Jira and other software works properly
  • Hosting individual meetings to get to know and help team members one-on-one
  • Handling portfolio planning tools such as analyzing burndown charts. They use burndown charts and other tools as inputs into what the team needs to build and the cadence levels for their work.
  • Making sure that the team members use agile guidelines in their projects. These guidelines help team members meet stakeholder needs.

At the end of the day, the Scrum Master champions the Scrum process for successful project outcomes.

Servant leadership

Part of answering the question, “What is a Scrum Master”? involves looking at leadership styles. These styles include bureaucratic, democratic, transactional, and many others. One style that fits well with the role of the Scrum Master is to be a servant leader, an approach that works well with small teams.

Servant leaders:

  • Support a team spirit
  • Share responsibility
  • Share decision-making
  • Focus on achievements instead of faults

Servant leaders find solutions which promote workflows and stakeholder satisfaction.

Scrum Master according to Scrum methodology

what is a Scrum Master: GIF of someone saying 'uh oh, someone just put us in a position of responsibility'

The Scrum Guide, written by Ken Schwaber, provides an excellent outline of the diverse responsibilities of the Scrum Master. Here are some of this person’s roles:

  • Adopting the role of an agile coach to lead organizational transformation using the Scrum methodology
  • Planning Scrum applications to help the organization understand how the new iterative workflow process works and adapt to changes
  • Guiding leaders, managers, and other stakeholders in understanding the benefits and applications of the Scrum product development methodology
  • Helping increase the Scrum team's productivity
  • Collaborating with other organizational Scrum Masters within the organization to help team members adopt agile principles
  • Promoting positive working relationships between team members, product owners, and other stakeholders
  • Guiding sprint planning, daily stand-up meetings, sprint reviews, and product backlog items

Scrum Master challenges

While the Scrum Master supports a streamlined workflow, their job is not always as simple as it sounds. Here are some challenges they may encounter:

1. Change resistance

Scrum Masters’ concepts may be new to employees, so Scrum Masters can encounter resistance. Either way, the Scrum Master must create solutions to dealing with any resistance to change.

2. Lack of understanding

Not everyone will understand or even like agile processes. A good Scrum Master must overcome this and to help teams connect principles with practical implementation to assimilate agile practices.

3. Gaining leadership support

Scrum Masters can only do their work effectively if they have the full support of leadership. Scrum processes can be pretty challenging, which initially disrupts old processes, making transformation difficult.

Managers may be afraid that the Scrum Master will usurp their authority. Departments may not want to adapt their processes, but the Scrum Master must use agile coach techniques to overcome fears and unwillingness to adapt.

Unless the Scrum Master has the full buy-in of leadership, any change initiative will derail before it even starts.

How Scrum Master positions can work

Role rotation. Agile teams rotate the responsibility of this role between members. For example, each team member does admin tasks for each Scrum meeting.

Part-time role. The Scrum Master takes on additional responsibilities.

Full-time role. The Scrum Master takes on a dedicated, full-time role. They must have the experience to do this work and skillfully show the team how to apply agile practices.

Guiding many teams. A Scrum Master guides several development teams. They monitor the work progress for several teams.

Agile coach. This Scrum Master role involves coaching teams or other Scrum Masters.

If the Scrum Master role interests you, you should know that Scrum Master jobs are common, partly due to the popularity of the agile method.

Organizations often look for ways to improve product development. They want Scrum Masters to help guide the process to get products to the market quicker.

You can look on LinkedIn for positions for good Scrum Masters. Their research shows that these positions are in high demand, so you can improve your skills with Scrum Master certifications. Your prospects are diverse as you can work in manufacturing, health, government, education, and many others.

Scrum Masters can get a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) qualification. They can also be a Professional Scrum Master.

How to become a certified Scrum Master

GIF from an episode of Lego Masters

Scrum.org offers various resources, including Scrum certifications and training. So, if you want to follow a career in agile methodologies and lead a Scrum team, you can become a CSM or a PSM. You can also opt to train through the Scrum Alliance, which has been operating since 2001.

Hundreds of thousands of Scrum Masters have attained qualifications through these organizations. Both provide recognizable certifications at various Scrum Master levels, so perhaps it's time to boost your career.

You can achieve a Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certificate from scrum.org. This is available at three different levels, including:

  • The PSM I certificate. This certificate shows that students understand Scrum and its applications as per the Scrum Guide.
  • The PSM II certificate is proof that you can apply the Scrum principles and practices in a complex real-work situation.
  • PSM III certificate. This certificate shows that students have an in-depth understanding of Scrum Values and can apply Scrum principles and practices in complex environments and situations.

Anyone who wants to improve their career opportunities can sign up with Scrum Alliance to get their CSM certification. You can become a:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (SCM). This certificate focuses on servant leaders and how to help the Scrum team work together to enact the Scrum framework.
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). This certificate is for anyone involved in the business aspect of projects. If you want to know more about product development, productivity, and meeting stakeholder needs, this one is ideal.
  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD). This certificate is good when you want to know how to apply techniques and tools to build great software products. You will learn how to apply iterative Scrum methods in this certification process.
  • The Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) learns how to improve Agile methodology implementation in each project they guide.

Take your career up a notch.

Easy Agile provides a range of resources to help Scrum Masters achieve their agile methodology goals. In addition, you can access resources such as our learning hub and webinars to improve your skills.

Scrum Masters can also explore Easy Agile Programs for Jira to enhance the software development team’s experience. Another excellent resource is Easy Agile Scrum Workflow for Jira.

Enhance your Scrum Master role with resources that make your work easier by overcoming resistance to new learning curves.

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