Scrum Master

Scrum Master

List of contents:

  1. First things first
  2. Relation to other roles
  3. When your heart wishes details
  4. Example

Let’s try understand once and for all what does the notion "Scrum Master" mean and what are the duties of a Scrum Master.

Jeff Southerland, one of the developers of Scrum, has managed to change the common idea of a team manager. His philosophy reflects the inner meaning of a relationship both in work groups and in society in the most accurate way.

First things first

It is possible to say without any hesitation that a role of a Scrum Master is one of the main roles in Scrum. It should be noted that aScrum Master doesn’t give orders, but deals with the problems that the Scrum Team stumble upon.

Any question that remains unanswered during the working process can lead to a bigger problem and the aim of the Scrum Master is to reveal such questions.

Such openness results in growing trust within the Team. And trust creates an certain atmosphere which improves the speed and the quality of the work. A Scrum Master should do his best in order to maintain this atmosphere.

Scrum Master is also responsible for the progress of Sprints.

Scrum Master conducts Daily Scrum Meetings.

During meetings, a Scrum Master should make sure that the communication within the Team is effective, and that the Team is being focused on the right goals.

A Scrum Master interacts not only with the Team, but with the Product Owner as well. He may help the Owner create the Backlog.

Summing it up, the main functions of a Scrum Master are:

  • • getting rid of the problems within the Team;
  • • revealing the unanswered questions;
  • • maintaining a friendly relationship within the Team;
  • • keeping track on the progress of Sprints;
  • • conducting Daily Scrum Meetings;
  • • conducting meeting prior to Sprints;
  • • helping the Product Owner with the Backlog.

Relation to other roles

Scrum Master as a Product Owner’s assistant:

  • • Makes sure that the Product Owners knows how to use Backlog in order to maximize the value of the product;
  • • Tries to find more effective ways to use the Backlog;
  • • Helps the Team to create more comfortable and qualitative Backlog elements;
  • • Serves as a facilitator during meetings. Both when necessary and on demand;
  • • Uses versatile methods in development and management processes.

Scrum Master and the Organization

  • • Interacts with other Scrum Masters in order to maximize the effective usage of Scrum within the Organization;
  • • Suggests changes which are supposed to improve the effectiveness of a Scrum Team;
  • • Provides help to any employee interested in Scrum. Assists in Scrum integration.
  • • Provides coaching within the organization which is planning to adapt Scrum;
  • • Plans the stages of Scrum integration.

When your heart wishes details:

Scrum Master – an assistant, not a boss

What does the notion "official" mean? If we try to give a simple explanation, an official is a person which serves the public and deals with any problem that appears in his area. Unfortunately, in real life it isn’t always like this. We all know what happens, when an official stops serving the public and begins acting bossy, acts superior to other people and thinks that it is the public that must serve him. It is not good at all.

Scrum Master plays curling

Scrum methodology can be compared to the game of curling. Let’s look at it from the point of view of a Scrum Master.

The main rules of curling:

Scrum Master example
Scrum Master example 2
Scrum Master example 3
  1. The game is played on a special field with a track and a "target".
  2. One player slides a stone towards the target.
  3. During its movement the stone rubs against the ice and can stop either behind or before the target. Players perform sweeping. Sweeping is a process of rubbing the ice, which allows the stone to slide faster due to the emerging thin layer of water. A sweeper performs the following functions:
    • doesn’t touch the stone;
    • creates the proper track for the stone, leading it to the target.

It is possible to say that a sweeper moves the stone? On one hand, the stone is being slid by another player and sweepers aren’t allowed to touch the stone. But the stone moves in a certain trajectory due to the sweepers’ actions.

Thus, a sweeper can be compared to a Scrum Master. A Scrum Master also influences the progress of his team without affecting their work directly.

An example

We’ll show you one example from the point of view of different roles. In this case we’ll pay more attention to the Scrum Master’s point of view. We will also describe several difficulties, that may seem banal and far-fetched, but they will help you understand what should a Scrum Master do in such situations.

The development of an online-store from the point of view of a Scrum Master

In order to build a great online-store one must decide how it will function and look. A certain "wish-list" should be created.

Such a "wish-list" is created by the Product Owner. It is the person which has a clear image of the final product in his head. It should be noted that during the working process some ideas are discarded and some new are added. We will not pay much attention to the role of the Product Owner, as we talk about a Scrum Master’s point of view.

Anyways, here is the “wish-list” created by the Product Owner. He lists what he wants in his online-store. Such a list is called "Product Backlog". Let’s take a look at it.

Subject Name Description Status Value Release
Catalog management Add a Product A form which allows creating a new product. It should include an image of a product, its name, its price, and an ability to use a discount. In work 2 Release 1
Catalog management Remove a Product Removing a Product both from Edit page and from a List of Products In work 2 Release 1
Order Payment Usage of different payment systems In work 10 Release 2
Order Log In Log in with social networks In work 1 Unscheduled
... ... ... ... ... ...

One of the main functions of a Scrum Master is to assist the Product Owner in keeping the Product Backlog. First of all, a Scrum Master should take a look at this list and help the Product Owner.

How could have a Scrum Master commented on this Backlog? First of all, the "Payment system" point sounds rather vague and general. How many payment systems should be supported? Which are the main ones? The same question appears concerning the social networks. Should Facebook be supported? Should Google + be supported? Which of the two is more important and should be included in the first release?

Uncertainty in the Product Backlog will ultimately lead to uncertainty in Scrum Team working process. Revealing such uncertainties and getting rid of them is one of the primary functions of a Scrum Master. Another mistake is planning the development of the payment module for the second release, because a payment module is the most important feature of an online-store. New Backlist allows us to divide the tasks. Some of them will be included in the first release, and some should be put to the second.

Let’s see how can we improve the Product Backlog:

Section Name Description Status Rating Release #
Catalog management "Add a product" feature Develop “add a product” feature, which includes the following field: Product Name, Product Image, Product Price, Discount or No discount. In development 2 Release 1
Catalog management "Remove a product" feature "Remove a product" feature, allowing the removal of a single product or several products using bulk selection In development 2 Release 1
Order Payment C.O.D. payment feature In development 10 Release 1
Order Payment Implement Visa & Mastercard payment support In development 10 Release 1
Order Payment Implement PayPal payment support In development 10 Release 2
Order Sign Up Sign Up via Facebook In development 1 Not planned
Order Sign Up Sign Up via Google+ In development 1 Not planned
... ... ... ... ... ...

Now we see it has become more specific. Of course, we didn’t provide a perfect Backlog as an example, but only those which can show us how are things done.

As soon as the Backlog is ready, it is time to start planning Sprints. A Scrum Master takes part in each stage of a Sprint, including the first meeting, together with the Product Owner, a Scrum Team, users and managers. Let’s say, for example, that the goal of the first Sprint (Sprint Goal) is to include the option of adding\removing Products and to design a Product page. This will allow us to to fill in the Product catalog, while other tasks are still in development stage. Such an approach can accelerate the overall progress.

The second meeting is conducted by the Scrum Team and the Scrum Master. The tasks which the Team will certainly be able to accomplish are added to the Sprint Backlog.

If it turns out during the Sprint, that the Team isn’t able to complete all the planned tasks, then the Scrum Master discusses which tasks can be moved to another Sprint. He discusses it with the Product Owner. In our example we see, that the Scrum Master decided to exclude the tasks related to the design of the Product view. The main goal of the Sprint – to add the functionality of adding\removing Products will still be achieved.

Scrum Master conducts Daily Scrum Meeting.

In this example Scrum Master raises the same questions:

  1. What was accomplished yesterday?
  2. What will be done today?
  3. Have you encountered any difficulties?

Possible answers:

  1. Added the Products tables to the database;
  2. "Add\remove a Product to the DB" form;
  3. Accumulated discount scheme isn’t complete.

After receiving the answers the Scrum Master creates a certain Action Items list. Usually it included the following fields: What? Who? When?

What to do Whom to discuss with Due date
Close the question, concerning the discount system Alex 24 hours

The final stage of a Sprint is the product demo – Sprint Review Meeting. This event is conducted by the Scrum Master. It usually lasts for 4 hours. An agenda for the meeting is created by the Scrum Team and the Scrum Master decided who will speak and when.

Scrum Team

Scrum Team

Product Owner

Product Owner



Sprint Backlog

Sprint Backlog

Daily Scrum Meeting

Daily Scrum Meeting

Sprint Review Meeting

Sprint Review Meeting
Project Manegement
Project Manegement

Time of Scrum Time