Scrum Master: A vital role?

“I want it yesterday” is one of the phrases most often heard within a company. The market is demanding more and more speed, more quality and fewer costs. Overcoming these challenges is complicated and it’s also necessary for the company to be agile and flexible. To achieve a successful organizational transformation it’s essential to introduce agile work methodologies into corporations.

The incorporation of “agile” into large corporations is leading to more dynamic and efficient work deliveries. It’s a methodology whose success is based on taking into account that an organizational change must be carried out in order to allocate the necessary resources to the company’s strategic priorities. We must also bear in mind that it’s based on methodological archetypes. The most common ones are the Scrum for teams that develop products and work on projects and Kanban for those who work on request.

On this occasion we’re going to focus on the figure of the Scrum Master. What are his/her duties and why is this profile vital in any task today? Antonio Martín Vivas, Scrum Master at BBVA IT España, provides the keys to finding out more about a position that is in increasing demand among companies.

Q: What does it mean to be a Scrum Master?
A: Being a Scrum Master chiefly means believing in people and being committed to a set of values and a way of doing things.

Q: What are the duties involved?
A: The role of the Scrum Master is to be a leader who serves the team and to be responsible for facilitating its work, helping to create high-value products, overcoming obstacles, protecting it, encouraging its cohesion and promoting self-inspection and continuous improvement. Similarly, another important duty is that of helping the organization, ensuring that the values and the Scrum process itself are understood, internalized and executed properly.

P: Who does he/she report to?
A: I wouldn’t call it reporting. Instead, I’d say that the Scrum Master is there for the team and the organization without reporting to them in the sense in which this term is usually understood.

Q: What’s required to become a Scrum Master?
A: To be a Scrum Master it’s necessary to understand the principles of the agile work philosophy in general and the Scrum concept in particular. Some certification courses are provided, but it isn’t necessary to get a certificate. An equally important asset is having certain team management, communication and negotiation skills.

Q: What’s led to the incorporation of new work methodologies being key for companies?
A: We’ve realized that in today’s world, dominated by the breathtaking speed of change, the old ways of working are no longer valid (or aren’t as valid as we’d like them to be). This creates the need to find a new and more effective way of doing things.

Q: Is the change noticeable? How do teams react?
A:Yes, the transformation is noticeable. I think we can talk of a change in mentality; in general, teams like a well-applied Scrum, as it promotes self-organized and motivated teams, in such a way that they really have control over what they do and how they do it. The problems arise when a member of the team continues with an “old school” mentality and tries to assert it. But that’s also what the Scrum Master is for, to act as a change agent.

Q: In addition to meeting, planning and supervising the team, what does he/she do throughout the rest of the day?
A: The Scrum Master, in addition to being in charge of supervising the team, helps it and advises it.

Q: Does a good Scrum Master have an expiry date?
A: Rather than a Scrum Master expiring, what could ultimately expire is his/her work with a team once it has become a high-performance unit. However, there seems to be evidence that the disappearance of this figure leads the team to relax in certain ways that would lead it away from that status.

In short: think, meet and facilitate. The figure of the Scrum Master is highly important in current-day teams, given that, in addition to the duties involved, he/she has to act as a master of ceremonies to increase productivity and stimulate and take care of the team. It is this figure that is able to create the feeling of a job well done within the team while satisfying the customer’s needs.