A Scrum Master Is A Teacher, Mentor, Coach, And Facilitator

A scrum master wears many hats including: teacher, mentor, coach, and facilitator. Part of the art of being an excellent scrum master is being able to flow between these roles fluidly, depending on the situation at hand and the needs of the people involved.

Teacher

This is the act of showing or explaining something to someone so that they acquire new knowledge. The scrum master is an expert in scrum and related agile practices. The scrum master spreads this knowledge throughout the organization, enabling people to engage in their work more effectively.

Mentor

This is a relationship in which a more experienced person helps to guide a less experienced person in the performance of their work. It includes the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, as well as psychosocial support to enable broad on-going development. As the team is engaged in the daily use of scrum, the scrum master helps them use it more effectively. The goal of mentoring is to help the individuals become self-sufficient, and the team to become self-organizing.

Coach

In this activity the scrum master aims to improve the performance of an individual or team, in pursuit of an objective set by the individual or team. While it may include elements of teaching or mentoring, the focus is helping the individual or team to improve their own performance: in other words, helping them help themselves. One of the big differences between coaching and mentoring is who is setting the direction. When the scrum master is mentoring, it is the scrum master that is choosing the areas to focus on for improvement. In a coaching approach, the scrum master is helping the individual or team improve in an area of their choosing.

Facilitator

This is when the scrum master helps the team navigate a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the content of the process or discussion. Facilitate means to make something easier. The scrum master facilitates decisions, communication, and meetings. This aspect of the scrum master role supports the agile value of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” The scrum master develops deep knowledge and skill in the use of processes and tools in order to support the individuals to have more effective interactions.

Cheers,

Chris

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2 Comments

  1. Posted October 14, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    … and also a “policeman” (making sure the organization really adheres to Scrum, and stakeholders do things by the book, rather than chasing the development team or requesting funny progress reports), a “firefighter” (whose the one asking the directors for more budget if the organization is not as agile as it likes to be), a “listener” (ideally – otherwise, someone who is just exposed to a lot of people telling him what they think is the right thing to do) etc…. It’s probably one of the most challenging, demanding, dynamic and rewarding jobs/roles one could think of!

    • Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      I agree that the role is very challenging and rewarding. :-)

      As for the bit about being the police, the Scrum Guide does say this about the role of scrum master:
      “The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide.”
      So yes. And…

      It goes on to say:
      “Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.”

      I prefer not to think of scrum masters as the ‘scrum police.’ I think of the scrum master as a coach that helps everyone use scrum to better achieve the business outcomes and improve the working environment.

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