Few Roles are as Misunderstood as the Scrum Master in Agile Software Development

The project manager is not a scrum master

The primary difference between a project manager and a scrum master is that: the project manager is responsible for meeting the project objectives — ensuring that the scope, time, quality, and budget are met. Whereas the scrum master is responsible for empowering the scrum team by facilitating, coaching, and mentoring the scrum team. The project manager follows the control approach to deliver results meeting the project requirements, whereas the scrum master follows the servant-leader approach to help the team solve the problems. When we have a closer look at the nature of work between the project manager and scrum master, there are not closely aligned. Both roles are having differences in their fundamentals and yet both are important.

The product owner is not a scrum master

The product owner is one of the most important roles in the Agile team. The Product Owner is the true driver of the team, who is the prime responsible for maximizing the product value. They work closely with the customers to understand the customer needs and demands. They determine and prioritize the work for the development team. The scrum master helps the product owner for maximizing the product value. The scrum master collaborates with the product owner to shape the product backlog and ensures the product development aligns with the product vision. The Product Owner and the Scrum Master work together closely, the former is a driver of the agile development team and later is a facilitator of the agile development team. If you ask a question: Can a product owner act as a scrum master? The answer is ‘No’. This is because product owner is a full-time job; switching roles will impact the product backlog and difficult to fulfill customer needs and goals. Also, the focus will shift from building innovative products to monitoring teams and completing tasks within deadlines. As there will be many diversified tasks on the product owner’s plate, both value of the product and the development team will suffer.

Understanding the scrum master’s role better

To understand the scrum master role better, it is important to understand how the scrum master serves everyone in a scrum team. The primary responsibility of the scrum master is to manage and promote the Scrum framework as defined in the Scrum guide. Thereby showing the team how to correctly follow the Scrum framework:

Conclusion

Despite many understandings, the scrum master is crucial for extracting maximum benefits from the Scrum. However, many have assigned this role as additional work to project manager or product owner; and do not consider scrum master as a full-fledged role — this is a myth! The scrum master isn’t the team’s manager; instead scrum master is a team’s facilitator, coach, mentor, and very knowledgeable of Agile. If a scrum master tries to manage a development team, it’s nothing but pulling away from the development team from truly self-organized.

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Bora Siva Kumar Reddy, PhD

Bora Siva Kumar Reddy, PhD

Project Manager at Ericsson R&D | Co-founder of ProExamini