What ScrumMasters Really Do?

ScrumMaster is a new trending job title these days. Almost all software development firms and product development companies have already hired or will be looking soon for a ScrumMaster.

Still, if you talk to people who are hiring ScrumMasters and even to the folks who are already fulfilling the role, you'd find quite some hot questions in the air:

What does a ScrumMaster do?

Is it a full-time job?

How is it different to a project manager?

Do you still need a project manager in any case?

And how many ScrumMasters do you actually need?

There are much more questions related to the role, but they all boil down to the list of responsibilities and focuses.

So here one of the statement to consider:

Yes. I really think so. Anything project and delivery related is not a direct ScrumMaster's responsibility. Of course everything s/he does on daily basis might (and should) influence project and product success and all that. But it is not what ScrumMasters should be focusing on.

So what is the right focus for a ScrumMaster? Where does s/he have to put his attention and energy on?

As you can see, there are several horizons a ScrumMaster can be looking at: short-term - project focus, mid-term - product focus, longer-term - happiness and culture focuses.

So why shan't ScrumMasters be looking at the nearest and the most pragmatic front-line which is raising success (closure, acceptance) of projects?

As Tom Northup once said: 

"All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting.

If we want different results, we must change the way we do things."

So by focusing on the short-term wins (current release, next milestone, ongoing project) we are not really changing anything in long run. We are not improving the system. We are just managing stuff under our feet. And it is a never-ending game.

That might be an interesting, well-paid and needed job... But in the end, is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Think of the example:

  • one day a sink in your office kitchen gets blocked
  • you volunteer to fix it (because you are a good citizen, you have some basic skills, maybe you even have some experience with that)
  • you fix it and now it is fine agin
  • ...
  • the same thing with the sink happens again in few weeks
  • you are called to help out
  • you come and fix it
  • ...
  • damn! it is broken again
  • no one has any doubts now that it has to be you fixing it this time (moreover, maybe you didn't properly fix it before and that's why now it breaks again)
  • you sigh
  • and then you come and fix it
  • ...

What did others learn about sinks? Not much - they just learned that they need to call you. And what did you learn? Oh, quite a lot. You're now an expert in kitchen sinks (well, maybe in just one very special kind of sink).

The same process usually happens with other narrow(ing) specialists within development teams, including project management jobs. The more you do it, the more you do it.

So what should ScrumMasters do if not pushing for project and product success? I believe the big goal of ScrumMasters is changing the organization. And they have quite a few tools and levers to do it:

That's basically it.


Having in mind this picture and the focuses of a ScrumMaster, you shall be able now to find the answers to the questions in the beginning of the article.


Still struggling to find them out? Please comment here and I'll try to help out.

Or even better - come to one of our Certified ScrumMaster classes where we discuss this for hours and hours.


Hey and if you're hungry for details - here you go, read this: A Day In A Life Of A ScrumMaster.

Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Fabrice Aimetti (Wednesday, 01 July 2015 00:18)

    Thank you Alexey, that's a great post! I've translated it to french : http://wiki.ayeba.fr/Quand+un+ScrumMaster+a-t-il+termin%C3%A9+%3F
    Regards, Fabrice