Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What on Earth is a ScrumMaster?

This past week I completed the Certified ScrumMaster Course (CSM). Over drinks on Friday night, I mentioned this in passing to some friends. “What the heck is a ScrumMaster?” was the overwhelming reply. It’s a weird name, I’ll admit.

Well, before I took the ScrumMaster course, I figured that the ScrumMaster was an Agile Project Manager, who made sure the team followed Agile practices, facilitated the daily scrum and schedules sprints.

However, the course revealed another side to the ScrumMaster, that of a coach and shepherd. The ScrumMaster acts as a shepherd as they shield the team from external influences and over-commitment, and empower the team to make decisions, instead of making decisions for them. The ScrumMaster is the coach that cheers on the team, ensures they follow the rules (and enforces them through peer pressure), and teaches them how to self-organize and work with the Product Owner.

The ScrumMaster is really a facilitator, rather than a manager. In fact our ScrumMaster course instructor revealed that it would be best if the ScrumMaster were not a project manager or technical person; it was better if they were not, as they would rely more on the team to make decisions. It is best if the ScrumMaster is not a team member, as there would be a tension between oiling the machine and producing product. Any employee could be a ScrumMaster, if they have the right personality for the job; the kind of person that is approachable, trusted, people-oriented, and detail-oriented. I have read several articles implying that QA people make good ScrumMasters, as they have the right mindset (perhaps we are used to taking one for the team, being jammed at the end of the waterfall for so many years). ;)

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