A scrum master is a person responsible for adhering to the scrum process in the company. A scrum master helps the team to work smoothly and efficiently according to Agile methodology, shows the opportunities to improve the workflow and develop the product more efficiently, bringing more value to customers.

In this article, we will describe the role of a scrum master, responsibilities, and essential skills of the specialist, cover the difference between scrum master and project manager and provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a scrum master.

What is the role of a scrum master?

Agile methodology is becoming more and more popular among IT companies. This approach to project management enables businesses to accelerate the delivery of value to customers. Instead of releasing the entire product, the Agile team gets the job done in small parts. They rely not only on pre-created detailed plans but also on urgent changes.

There are businesses that use only some methods from Agile. However, there are a great number of companies that use all principles of this methodology in their work. This is where the scrum master is necessary.

The main role of a scrum master is teaching the participants of the team to communicate effectively with each other and with business representatives. These people help companies optimize their processes to raise effectiveness. Scrum masters are leaders, but not in the traditional sense of the word, as they have no formal authority over the team.

In some companies, scrum masters play a role of a link between the product owner and the team. They guide the product owner on how to achieve the goals of the business and, at the same time, help in resolving emerging issues during the work of the development team.

The main mission of a scrum master is to create conditions for self-government in the team, and not let this self-government go out due to micromanagement or a directive management method.

In fact, using Agile methodology is becoming more and more popular in the IT-sphere. In the next section, we will review scrum masters’ responsibilities to understand clearly what they do in the company.

Scrum Master Responsibilities

The profession of a scrum master is comparatively new. Moreover, in the ideal Agile world, the team itself manages the processes. However, in real life almost every company that works with Agile needs a scrum master. Below there is a list of the most common scrum master’s responsibilities:

  1. Teaching the team the Scrum methodology. This is the most important task for scrum masters who work with the team which has recently started using Agile methodology. They should help them implement Scrum practices and optimize the way the company works.
  2. “Stand-ups” and sprint planning meetings. According to Scrum methodology, “stand-ups” should be held on an everyday basis. During them, the team discusses current tasks and creates a roadmap. Scrum master also holds sprint planning meetings, where participants evaluate the future work, break it down into sub-tasks, and plan specific actions.
  3. Reviews of the results of the sprints. During the meetings, scrum masters review the results of the sprints and highlight what can be improved. They capture feedback from the team members.
  4. Administration of boards. Every company which uses Agile has a scrum board. The responsibility of a scrum master is to keep cards up to date and check them regularly.
  5. Personal meetings. A scrum master has to hold personal meetings with other team members. The aim is to resolve disagreements about processes and workflow to develop the team and improve the communication of the members with each other.
  6. Consultations. It might be difficult to organize the work according to Agile at once. The responsibility of a scrum master is to exchange views and decide together how to organize the scrum team. Scrum masters might have personal consultations with team members who have certain problems in their work processes.
  7. Reports. Scrum masters should analyze the statistics regularly, as they should understand actual processes in the company.
  8. Removing obstacles. The responsibility of scrum masters is to provide intensive and productive work. They should remove external blockers and help the company deal with internal obstacles.

The Scrum Guide does not list all of the responsibilities of a master. Therefore, scrum master responsibilities may change from company to company.

Now let’s move on and discuss skills essential for every scrum master.

Top 4 Scrum Master Skills

There are certain skills that every scrum master should have. Check them out below.

  1. Ability to use Agile in real companies. It is important to constantly improve knowledge and skills of Agile methodology in order to have an optimal decision in any situation. A scrum master is responsible for organizing scrum processes and should be ready to change the usual way of working.
  2. Leadership skills. Scrum masters are leaders, who motivate and teach the team. Consequently, they should understand who should be given more freedom, and who needs to be micromanaged. A scrum master needs to know how to find an approach to different people and be able to organize an effective workflow.
  3. Strategic thinking. Keep in mind the goal to succeed. A scrum master should understand the strategy and follow it. The ability to analyze current data and plan future actions according to it is essential in the profession. Flexibility in decision-making and logic are important too.
  4. Stress tolerance. Scrum masters face challenges and changes every day. It is difficult for them to work without stress tolerance. They need to be ready for everything. Even in the most difficult situations, scrum masters should motivate the team and look for solutions to the problem.

It takes years of hard work to develop all these skills and become a professional.
Mind that if you have skills 2-4, you can also become a project manager (PM). In the next section, you will discover the difference between PM and scrum master.

Scrum Master vs Project Manager

These two positions may seem the same. However, they are quite different. In this section, we’ll provide the peculiarities of each one.

Both specialists have the same goals. They focus on “how” to get the job done and solve workflow problems through management and coordination. However, their approaches are very different.

Project manager Scrum master
Works from a position of control, plays a traditional role of a leader. Acts as the leader of the team, but does not lead in the traditional sense of the word.
Manages the project and its team, and is the person accountable to the business for achieving the project's goals. Helps the team improve and optimize the processes, but can only advise, not make decisions.

As we can see, PMs are more about management and strong leadership. Scrum masters are more about coaching. They support team members, train them to work according to Scrum methodology.

Now Agile is becoming more and more popular. Lots of successful companies hire scrum masters every day. Learn more about how to get into this profession in the next section.

How to become a scrum master?

We’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a scrum master below. Follow our tips to succeed in the profession.

There are several opportunities to become a scrum master. You can start as a project manager and then master your scrum skills, or you can develop initially in Agile methodology. It does not matter, as qualification plays a vital role in Scrum.

  1. Discover more about Scrum by self-education. The must-have theory is stated in the Scrum Guide. You can also read the books by Jeff Sutherland, one of the founders of Scrum.
  2. Attend courses. Scrum founders and certified trainers conduct training courses and give certificates of Scrum specialists. Scrum master skills are an obligatory basis for everyone. When you have them, you can get specialization for Scrum Master.
  3. Grow as a professional. If you wish to further improve your knowledge and skills of Scrum, after having more than a year of experience in the role of a scrum master, you may take Advanced Certified Scrum Master Training (A-CSM).

Mind that the Scrum certificate is valid for two years. If you want to renew the certificate after these two years, you must get a certain number of Scrum Education Units. They are given for completing Scrum courses, participating in Global Scrum Gathering and Regional Scrum Gathering, teaching Scrum, and other activities aimed at improving your Scrum qualifications. Such a system shows that your knowledge is relevant. This significantly increases the value of the Scrum certificate.

It is not difficult to find a job as a scrum master. However, to become a professional you need to fully accept the principles of Agile and be able to use them for the success of your team.

Congrats, now you know much more about the profession of a scrum master.

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