Scrum Master, Servant Leader

Have you ever heard the title Scrum Master and wondered what does it mean? What do they do? How do they add value?

The Scrum Guide defines the role as,

“The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.

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.”

A key word I focus on here is servant-leader. Robert K. Greenleaf  is one to have first coined the term in his essay, “The Servant As Leader” written in 1970. The Scrum Master puts the team’s needs before their own. Their highest priority is to serve their team.

Having been a Scrum Master at multiple organizations and worked in different roles in collaboration with Scrum Masters, I have found that the value a Scrum Master brings to the table for an organization has the potential to be great.

A Scrum Master and their skills bring value through:

  • Facilitation
  • Collaboration
  • Helping to remove impediments (team and organizational level)
  • Coaching the team and organization in many areas including Scrum and it’s values
  • Being a change agent and helping to build transparency around problems
  • Developing relationships throughout the organization to learn and drive positive change for their team and customer

The Scrum Guide mentions three areas of service for the Scrum Master:

  • Service to the Product Owner
  • Service to the Development Team
  • Service to the Organization

The area I find the most difficult to drive change is at the organizational level.  I find that this is usually due to a lack of alignment and understanding from the top down of what the Scrum framework is and what it means to be Agile. This means leading by the Agile Manifesto and it’s 12 Principles. An ideal way to help drive change and awareness is to invest in people, continue to build transparency around problems with data, and through helping leadership to consistently see problems.  A Scrum Master can greatly help in this area through the skills mentioned above.

What are your thoughts on a Scrum Master role? What experiences have you had in working with a Scrum Master?



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