The “8 hats” of a Scrum Master
15 June 2022
The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
Scrum has three roles: Dev Team members, Product Owner and Scrum Master.
In the past article we have deepened the Product Owner figure. Today, we are going to speak about the Scrum Master role.
Let us go back to a metaphor, the hourglass, that we used with the Product Owner. In this case, we can represent the Scrum Master as the hand that moves the object and starts the production process.
When the sand inside the hourglass is subjected to swirling turns, it remains stationary in its cone part, preventing the instrument from achieving its objective, to measure time.
In the same way, the Scrum Master has the responsibility to create a context that allows the Dev Team to efficiently work. A disharmonious environment, a lack of focus on the object, a lack of respect for the framework, a lack of courage to experiment and a lack of interest in working on cross-functionality and self-organisation could create confusion and block the work of the team.
A Scrum Master must have balance: he/she has the responsibility to support the team, defining the direction of the process.
The “8 hats” of a Scrum Master
For better understanding the essence of this role, in this book “The 8 stances of a Scrum Master”, Barry Overeem, professional Scrum Trainer, has described the “8 hats” a Scrum Master can wear while working with a team. Indeed: you can recognise a good Scrum Master by his/her ability to fluidly change different guises, adapting to needs of involved people.
Servant leader. He/she is the spokesperson for Scrum values of courage, open-mindedness, respect, attention and commitment. Under this hat, the Scrum Master focuses on team members and client’s needs, for reaching results that are in line with organisational values, principles and objectives. According to the noble meaning of “servile” = “at the team’s disposal”.
Coach. He/she has the listen attitude. Even if he/she could seem to be a reference domain expert, we expect him/her to stay one step behind the team and to accompany team members, through the best questions, to support their group to find the way to reaching prefixed results
Impediment remover. This hat hides the most delicate responsibility of a Scrum Master: resolution of impediments. He/she has to be able to notice those critical issues that block the team’s progress and require external intervention, which the team alone would not be able to perceive. For doing so, the Scrum Master does not deal directly with problem-solving, but he/she observes and intervenes where the team fails, taking into account the Dev Team’s self-organising capabilities.
Manager. He/she is responsible for managing the process: he/she cares about the team’s well-being, reducing waste, managing self-organisation and promoting the Agile culture. The Scrum Master must provide data and help the team to extrapolate supporting metrics to their work.
Mentor. He/she is a “wise and trusted advisor or teacher”. The Scrum Master has the responsibility to transfer knowledge and experiences to the team, guiding them in adopting an Agile mindset. He/she has to work alongside less experienced Scrum Masters to help them grow their skills.
Change agent. He/she helps to create an environment that enables the adoption of Scrum within the team and the organisation. The Scrum Master also helps the team to use those soft skills that are important for interacting with the whole organisation.
Facilitator. He/she has the task of facilitating the work of the Product Owner and the Dev Team. Contrary to popular belief, his/her responsibility does not only concern events, but the entire Scrum process, in order to ensure a smooth and sustainable pace of the process. Finally, the Scrum Master facilitates relationships, promotes collaboration and creates synergies within the team and with customers.
Teacher. He/she has to ensure that the Scrum framework and other relevant methods are well understood and applied in the organisation. The Scrum Master ensures that the Scrum principles and framework are well understood and put into practice by the members of the organisation. To do so, he/she acts as a guide for the Product Owner and the Team towards Agile practices and principles when they deviate from them.
Fig. 1: The 8 stances of a Scrum Master
A Scrum Master always has these “8 hats” with him/her, which he must be able to wear according to circumstances, even when working with stakeholders and not with “his/her” team. The Scrum Master’s responsibility is, in fact, to support both the Product Owner, the Dev Team and the stakeholders.
The ultimate goal of the Scrum Master is to work to make himself dispensable, so that the team is autonomous from him.
Essential Soft skills for a Scrum Master
Let us conclude, therefore, by listing the skills needed to play the role of a Scrum Master.
- Empathy. Some people are not Scrum Masters in fact, but this characteristic may make them suitable for this role.
- Ability to listen.
- Organisational logic and concreteness.
- Affability and softness. A Scrum Master must be patient, must be able to put up with unpleasant situations and not put responsibility or negative feelings on the other person.
- Direction, in terms of leadership.
- Attention and dedication.