The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules.

The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

Scrum Master as a Servant Leader of the team

Scrum Master is a true Servant Leader of the team. Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, build better organizations and ultimately create a more just and caring world. A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

Let’s take two simple examples of how a servant leader might address a few common project situations versus a traditional command and control manager. Situation

Autocratic ApproachServant-Leader  Approach
Status taking/reportingMay repeatedly ask what is your status on an item, when will you be done, and why are you not finished yet?Knows the status of items implicitly by virtue of facilitating daily stand-ups, working in team room, and challenging the team to update their stories via their “swim lanes”.
Issue identification and resolutionMay ask why haven’t you fixed this yet, can’t you see I am busy, or can’t you just figure this out on your own?May ask how can we as a team help, how can I personally help, what have you done so far, do you have ideas, and what do you recommend as alternative

Authority of the Scrum Master

Many who are new to the ScrumMaster role struggle with the apparent contradiction of the ScrumMaster as both a servant-leader to the team and also someone with no authority. The ScrumMaster is there to help the team in its use of Scrum. Think of the help from a ScrumMaster as similar to a personal trainer who helps you stick with an exercise regimen and perform all exercises with the correct form. A good trainer will provide motivation while at the same time making sure you don’t cheat by skipping a hard exercise. The trainer’s authority, however, is limited. The trainer cannot make you do an exercise you don’t want to do. Instead, the trainer reminds you of your goals and how you’ve chosen to meet them. To the extent that the trainer does have authority, it has been granted by the client. ScrumMasters are much the same: They have authority, but that authority is granted to them by the team.

A ScrumMaster can say to a team, “Look, we’re supposed to deliver potentially shippable software at the end of each sprint. We didn’t do that this time. What can we do to make sure we do better the next sprint?” This is the ScrumMaster exerting authority over the process; something has gone wrong with the process if the team has failed to deliver something potentially shippable.

But because the ScrumMaster’s authority does not extend beyond the process, the same ScrumMaster should NOT say, “Because we failed to deliver something potentially shippable last sprint, I want Vivek to review all code before it gets checked in.” Having Vivek review the code might be a good idea, but the decision is not the ScrumMaster’s to make. Doing so goes beyond authority over the process and enters into how the team works.

With authority limited to ensuring the team follows the process, the ScrumMaster’s role can be more difficult than that of a typical project manager. Project managers often have the fallback position of “do it because I say so.” The times when a ScrumMaster can say that are limited and restricted to ensuring that Scrum is being followed.

Scrum Master as a Change Agent

They are the organization’s change agents.  Their primary role is to continuously create positive changes.

They create positive change by:

  • Setting up, owning and upholding the process of Scrum
  • Ensuring that the process is followed by all
  • Identifying, escalating and having barriers broken (this doesn’t mean they necessarily do the breaking)
  • Teaching the process of Scrum to all parties
  • Working with Product Owners, managers and the development team (including architects, testers, etc.) to evolve the organization
  • Leading a team to increase their productivity (velocity)
  • Facilitate the roles within the organization to work efficiently, effectively and most importantly, together
  • Being enablers, problem solvers, and more

Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner

The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including:

  • Finding techniques for effective Product Backlogmanagement;
  • Helping the ScrumTeam understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
  • Understanding product planning in an empirical environment;
  • Ensuring the Product Ownerknows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize value;
  • Understanding and practicing agility; and,
  • Facilitating Scrumevents as requested or needed.

The Scrum Master and Product Owner should collaborate well as peers. Although, the Product Owner typically has greater authority in the company, the goal both of them share is creating a viable product through the use of Scrum. To accomplish this, the Product Owner and Scrum Master should make every effort to collaborate closely in the following areas:

  1. Backlog Refinement  – While this is the Product Owner’s responsibility, the Scrum Master is in an excellent position to help the Product Owner refine the backlog. With the results of each sprint retrospective fresh in mind, the Scrum Master can work with the Product Owner to ensure the next sprint is even more in line with reality and set the team up for success.
  2. Enhancing Team Communication – Working closely with the Scrum Master, who works directly with the team every day, the Product Owner can make sure all necessary communications regarding the project and the product vision are clear to the team, and can carry back any necessary messages to other departments, teams, or levels of the organization.
  3. Improving Team Morale – By collaborating throughout a project, the Product Owner and Scrum Master can keep a team’s morale and productivity at the highest levels simply by keeping lines of communication open and setting priorities based on what is reasonable rather than on arbitrary business goals.
  4. Ensuring Cross-dependencies With Other Teams – Both the Product Owner and Scrum Master likely have close relationships with other teams, other owners and Scrum Masters, as well as past team members that may work elsewhere in the organization. Leveraging those relationships can help both to improve the current project and smooth any bumps in the road.
  5. Clarifying the Product Vision – While the Product Owner is responsible for establishing and communicating the strategic vision behind the product, the Scrum Master is responsible for bringing the team on board and making that vision a reality. It makes sense for both to be fully engaged in the vision and be able to clearly communicate it appropriately.
  6. Facilitating Engaging Meetings – While each role is responsible for various meetings, in practice it can be much more effective for the team to see the Product Owner and Scrum Master switch up the norm in meeting facilitation for the sake of maintaining interest and engagement. Each individual will have their own strengths and personal style in facilitation and can use those differences to bring out the best in each meeting. In the most effective team layouts, the Product Owner and Scrum Master are truly partners in a cohesive and mutually beneficial tag-team effort to get the best possible results from their team’s efforts.

 Following is what the Scrum Master should expect from Product Owner

Service Details
Vision and Strategy·         Provide a vision to the team that describes where the product is heading.

·         Communicate the market, the value proposition and the business goals of the product.

·         Formulate a product or release goal for the near to mid term.

Product Details·         Proactively work on the product backlog. Update it with new insights and and ensure that there are enough ready items.

·         Provide direction and make prioritisation calls.

·         Invite the right people and choose the right techniques to collect feedback and data, for instance, invite selected users the review meeting and carry out a usability test.

Collaboration·         Be available for questions and spend time with the team.

·         Buy into the process and attend the sprint meetings.

·         Manage the stakeholders and make tough decisions; say no to some ideas and requests.

Scrum Master Service to the Development Team

The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the Development Teamin self-organization and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Development Teamto create high-value products;
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;
  • Facilitating Scrumevents as requested or needed; and,
  • Coaching the Development Teamin organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.

Solving Impediments for the team

As a Scrum Master, you often have to walk a fine line between facilitating the team to remove their own impediments, and jumping in to remove the impediments yourself. Additionally, there are different levels of impediments that require different approaches: Organizational Impediments, Scrum Master Owned Impediments, and Team Owned Impediments.

An example of an organizational impediment would be something like, “I have a person on my team who is constantly being asked by other managers to take on other duties. As a result, he are never able to properly commit to and focus on the work for this project ” So I would work with managers to remove this impediment either by:

  • Having the person replaced with someone who had fewer distractions
  • Having the other managers take those distracting items off his list of things to do.

An example of an impediment that the Scrum master could own

“The team has been trying to have a meeting with the tech lead from another team for 4 days now. He is hard to catch up with and his calendar is nearly full.” Scrum master should coordinate/facilitate a face to face meeting so that the team is not consumed with administrive hurdles.

An example of an impediment that the Scrum Master should push the team to resolve

“We need to test this feature but we don’t have enough testers.” A Scrum master should guide the team to solving this themselves by “swarming” so that everyone becomes a tester so that we could get items to done.

Scrum Master Service to the Organization

The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:

  • Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrumadoption;
  • Planning Scrumimplementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrumand empirical product development;
  • Causing change that increases the productivity of the ScrumTeam; and,
  • Working with other ScrumMasters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

Who can take up the role of Scrum Master?

  • A Project Manager can become a ScrumMaster if he/she is working in a Matrix organization and has played a coordinator role.
  • A Line Manager (one with reporting authority) ideally should not become a Scrum Master. The reason for this will be apparent when you go thru the next section on what Scrum Master should NOT do.

What the Scrum Master should NOT do

  • ScrumMaster should “NOT Manage the team”. The team will not be comfortable voicing their concerns or blocking issues to a Manager (who appraises them).
  • Scrum Master should “NOT Direct the team”. The team should be capable enough to direct its own effort. The Scrum Masterdoes not assign tasks. The tasks are picked by the team members on their own.
  • The Scrum Master does “NOT drive the team”. The team needs to be self motivated to do whatever they are supposed to do.
  • The Scrum Master does “NOT make decisions on behalf of the team. The decisions are taken jointly by the team and it is upto the team to live by the decisions they have taken.
  • The Scrum Master does “NOT overrule the decisions made by the team”
  • The Scrum Master does “NOT direct product strategy”. The Product Strategy is the responsibility of the Product Owner.

Looking at the above points, now it will be clear why “A Manager” of team will not be a effective Scrum Master. Doing so will go against the principle of having a Self Managed Team.

Skills of a Scrum Master

Interpersonal skills are extremely essential for managing the stakeholders and hence the Product Owner, Scrum Master and Team should have most of the skills mentioned in this chapter.


Communication has been identified as one of the single biggest reasons for Agile project success or failure. Effective communication within the project team and between the Scrum Master, Product Owner, team members, and all external stakeholders is essential. Openness in communication is a gateway to teamwork and high performance. It improves relationships among project team members and creates mutual trust.

To communicate effectively, each team member should be aware of the communication styles of other parties, cultural nuances/norms, relationships, personalities, and the overall context of the situation. Awareness of these factors leads to mutual understanding and thus to effective communication. Project teams should identify various communication channels, understand what information they need to provide, what information they need to receive, and which interpersonal skills will help them communicate effectively with various project stakeholders.

Listening is an important part of communication. Listening techniques, both active and passive give the user insight to problem areas, negotiation and conflict management strategies, decision making, and problem resolution.


Influencing is a strategy of relying on interpersonal skills to get others to cooperate towards common goals. Using the following guidelines can influence team members:

  • Lead by example, and follow through with commitments.
  • Clarify how a decision will be made.
  • Use a flexible interpersonal style and adjust the style to the audience.

Apply your power skillfully and cautiously. Think of long-term collaboration.


Negotiation is a strategy of conferring with parties of shared or opposed interests with a view toward compromise or reaching an agreement. Negotiation is an integral part of Agile and if done well, increases the probability of project success.

The following skills and behaviors are useful in negotiating successfully:

  • Analyze the situation.
  • Differentiate between wants and needs, both theirs and yours.
  • Focus on interests and issues rather than on positions.
  • Ask high and offer low, but be realistic.
  • When you make a concession, act as if you are yielding something of value, don’t just give in.
  • Both parties should feel as if they have won. This win-win negotiating style is preferred but not always achievable. If possible, don’t let the other party leave feeling as though he or she has been taken advantage of.


Networking is a Formal or informal interaction in the organization. It is a constructive way to understand interpersonal and political environment which can impact the effectiveness of project staffing management options. It can also be an effective way to enhance project management skills.

Active Listening

Active listening is a communication technique used in counselling, training and conflict resolution, which requires the listener to feed back what they hear to the speaker, by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, to confirm what they have heard and moreover, to confirm the understanding of both parties.

Best practices of active listening in agile project management:

  • Asking open-ended questions to agile team members
  • Asking for more information
  • Asking for opinions and analysis from agile project participants
  • Be an active listener, listening till the end without interrupting
  • Pay attention: Follow the term active listening absolutely. Give the speaker undivided attention, acknowledge the message the speaker is trying to convey and minimize distractions.
  • Show that you are listening: Along with being a listener, it is essential to show the same to the speaker. Your body language should indicate that you are actually receiving information.
  • Provide feedback: Showing understanding by providing feedback is a good practice of active listening. It is essential for agile leader to avoid clouding their judgment by personal biases and influences.
  • Defer judgment: Always take time before judging. An agile leader should never judge anyone instantly as this will affect future communication between agile project members.
  • Respond appropriately: Being candid and open throughout responding is essential but at the same time being respectful is equally critical.


Leadership involves focusing the efforts of a group of people toward a common goal and enabling them to work as a team. Respect and trust, rather than fear and submission, are the key elements of effective leadership. Effective leadership is critical throughout the project for motivating and inspiring project participants to achieve high performance. Scrum Master is the Servant Leader of the Scrum Team and leads by influence instead of command and control

Team Building

Team building is the process of helping a group of individuals, bound by a common purpose, to work with each other, the leader, external stakeholders, and the organization. The result of good leadership and good team building is teamwork.

Team-building activities consist of tasks and processes with emphasis on communication, conflict management, motivation, and leadership. Developing a team environment involves handling project team problems and discussing these as team issues without placing blame on individuals. Team building can be further enhanced by obtaining top management support; encouraging team member commitment; introducing appropriate rewards, recognition, and ethics; creating a team identity; managing conflicts effectively; promoting trust and open communication among team members; and providing leadership.

In a Agile Project, Team Building is an ongoing process. Changes in a Agile project environment are inevitable. To manage these changes effectively, a continued or renewed team-building effort is required. Outcomes of team building include mutual trust, high quality of information exchange and better decision making.


Agile teams are comprised of team members with diverse backgrounds, expectations, and individual objectives.

The overall success of the project depends upon the project team’s commitment, which is directly related to their level of motivation.

Motivating in a project environment involves creating an environment to meet project objectives while providing maximum satisfaction related to what people value most. These values may include job satisfaction, challenging work, a sense of accomplishment, achievement and growth, sufficient financial compensation, and other rewards and recognition the individual considers necessary and important.


Coaching is a means of developing the project team to higher levels of competency and performance. Coaching is about helping people recognize their potential through empowerment and development. Coaching is used to aid team members in developing or enhancing their skills or to build new skills required to enable project success.

Coaching can take many forms and approaches. In some instances, formal or informal training may be developed to increase technical skills or assist team-building efforts and facilitate consistent interpersonal interactions.

Coaching is also used to address poor performance and to help team members overcome deficiencies in their skill sets. Coaching is distinct from counseling. Counseling focuses on addressing situations where team members “won’t do” something rather than “can’t do.” If the situation is one where the team member is not performing or meeting expectations due to a lack of skill, knowledge, or experience, coaching can be employed to help the team member to develop this skill and thus turn a “can’t do” situation into one of “can do.”

Coaching can be a powerful motivator for teams. As teams develop their skills, abilities, and confidence, their willingness to take on challenging or demanding tasks is increased. This can lead to more effective and productive teams.

Trust Building

The ability to build trust across the project team and other key stakeholders is a critical component in effective team leadership. Trust is associated with cooperation, information sharing, and effective problem resolution. Without trust it is difficult to establish the positive relationships necessary between the various stakeholders engaged in the project. When trust is compromised, relationships deteriorate, people disengage, and collaboration becomes more difficult, if not impossible.

Some actions which you can take to help build trust:

  • Engage in open and direct communications to resolve problems.
  • Keep all stakeholders informed, especially when fulfilling commitments is at risk.
  • Spend time directly engaged with others (including other team members) asking non-assumptive questions to gain a better understanding of the situations affecting the team.
  • Be direct and explicit about what you need or expect.
  • Do not withhold information out of a fear of being wrong but be willing to share information even if you may be wrong.
  • Be receptive to innovation and address any issues or concerns in a forthright manner.
  • Look beyond your own interests.
  • Demonstrate a true concern for others and avoid engaging in pursuits that could be viewed as being detrimental to the interest of others.

Conflict Management

Conflict is inevitable in a project environment. Sources of conflict include scarce resources, scheduling priorities, and personal work styles. Team ground rules, group norms, and solid project management practices. Successful conflict management results in greater productivity and positive working relationships. Some of the guidelines on resolution of issues should be

·         A team issue should be approached openly for lasting solution.

·         Resolution should focus on issue and not on personalities

·         Resolution should focus on present and not past

Following are few Conflict Resolution Techniques

Withdraw / AvoidRetreating from an actual or potential conflict situation; postponing the issue to be better prepared or to be resolved by others.
Smooth/AccommodateEmphasizing areas of agreement rather than areas of difference
Compromise/ReconcileSearching for solutions that bring some degree of satisfaction to all parties involved.
Force/DirectPushing one’s viewpoint at the expense of others; offering only win-lose solutions.
Collaborate/Problem SolveIncorporating multiple viewpoints and insights from differing perspectives; requires a cooperative attitude and open dialogue that typically leads to consensus and commitment

Self Assessment

Self assessment is a process where a individual or organization or a team condicct a comprehensive review of one-self to understand strengths and weaknesses and opportunities to improve. The common characteristics of self-assessment are

  • The main purpose of self assessment should be to stimulate learning and change as well as enthusiasm for self-development.
  • The aim is to commit the organizations key people for identifying and inspiring improvement needs and opportunities to start development activitie and inspire positive change.
  • The goal of self assessment is to identify opportunities for improvement

Why is a Project Manager role redundant in Scrum?

Scrum is often classified as Agile’s ‘project management’ framework and yet the traditional Project Manager role looks redundant in Scrum. The Scrum method defines only 3 roles: Scrum Master, Development Team and Product Owner. Many of the responsibilities of the traditional Project Manager are covered by these other roles:

  • Process focus (Scrum Master)
  • Task allocation (Development Team)
  • Managing issues and dependencies (Scrum Master/Product Owner)
  • Requirements prioritisation (Product Owner)
  • Procurement (Product Owner)
  • Risk management (everyone, via sprint planning, demos and retrospectives)

Since the responsibilities of the Project Manager Role are split up into the three Scrum Roles, the Project Manager Role becomes redundant.