Scrum Master

What is a Scrum Master, what are his tasks and how many teams can he support in parallel?

Scrum Master – a central role in Scrum

The Scrum Master is a role in Scrum. As a so-called facilitator, he acts as a moderator, mediator, process companion, supporter and coach. Put simply, he helps the development team and the Product Owner – the other two roles defined by the framework Scrum  – to achieve goals together by facilitating the work of colleagues and encouraging cooperation.

The role of the Scrum Master is very demanding:

  • It is his responsibility to create a trusting, open working atmosphere.
  • He encourages interaction and communication with each other.
  • He represents a mindset based on the principles of the Agile Manifesto.
  • He lives and promotes the values of the framework.
  • He is a close observer and must, for example, address unproductive behaviour or offer appropriate feedback.

Through his work the Scrum Master serves the Product Owner as well as the development team and the whole organisation, but without being a servant. As a facilitator he is neither a servant nor a superior of the development team, but acts on an equal footing with the other roles or employees and colleagues.

Scrum Master - some kind of super hero?

Facilitator, not a superhero

There are always discussions about the role of the Scrum Master. Basically these discussions are very important within and for organisations, especially when companies start working agile, or when the role of the Scrum Master and also the cooperation in the team develops over time. A Scrum Master is not a superhero and he should not be. He is not a Feel Good Manager and he is not a hidden project manager. He has no authority to give instructions and therefore no power of decision. And he does not take on a double function as product owner or developer.

The Scrum Master is a Facilitator. And that is a super role. As facilitator he works on the system in the system. He is not a hero who always protects all participants, but he protects the team from outside influences. He helps those involved, depending on the situation and, if necessary, against resistance. He offers help for self-help without creating dependencies. And he does this with heart, determination and courage. And these qualities are synonymous with “heroic”.1 

Scrum Master in practice

The tasks of the Scrum Master

A common misunderstanding is that the Scrum Master “only” moderates the meetings or events. In fact, he works in the direction of the product owner, the development team and not to forget the organisation. He is responsible for the following tasks:

  • He makes sure that the Scrum rules are adhered to, organises the various events and is the guardian of the timebox.
  • He supports the Product Owner and the development team in the Sprint Planning and the selection of Backlog Items from the Product Backlog to be implemented in the next Sprint. Possibly he also moderates the Planning Poker.
  • He moderates the Daily Scrum, where the development team discusses completed and upcoming tasks on the way to the sprint goal. In some organisations he updates the task board.
  • He takes care of the impediments that were discussed in the Daily standup meetings, if the development team cannot eliminate them on their own.
  • He moderates the Sprint Review and thus the presentation of the generated increment.
  • He leads the retrospective, which may include feedback for his own work, and where he also actively shares his observations.
  • He assists the development team in cross-functional teamwork, development towards self-organisation and also in increasing productivity.
  • If necessary, he supports the Product Owner in the exchange with stakeholders, so that they can develop a good understanding of the agile approach. In addition, he offers help with methodical questions, especially since he is by definition a Master of Scrum – i.e. he has mastered the framework.

Of course he also works with other Scrum Masters in order to establish or consolidate the procedure in the company and increase its effectiveness. If there is a Scrum of Scrums within the organisation, he takes care – often in a rolling order – of the event and the exchange between the participants. And sometimes he also supervises the introduction of Scrum, although this is often the responsibility of an Agile Coach. 

The number of teams per Scrum Master

In development practice there are always questions about the number of teams that a Scrum Master can manage at the same time. In this discussion, an erroneous understanding of the role primarily becomes apparent, because even if he is responsible for adhering to the rules, he is not the manager of the team or teams. A facilitator does not decide; he promotes and supports.

The actual answers vary from one to a maximum of six teams. The number 6 results from a small calculation: one Scrum Master spends approximately 13 hours per 2-week sprint in team meetings. 13 hours x 6 teams / 8 working hours per day = 9.75 days that he would sit in team meetings during the 10 available working days. He had only 2 hours for necessary preparation and follow-up of meetings, for coaching, individual discussions or escalations. More teams do not work mathematically, much less – one or two teams – probably makes the most sense.

The salary of a Scrum Master

How much money does a Scrum Master earn in Germany? It is difficult to give a general answer to this question as it can depend on various factors – work experience, industry, employer, location, certificates, negotiation skills, supply and demand etc. On Gehalt.de2 you will find the following information:

  • More than 9 years of professional experience: 77,870 Euro per year
  • Between 7 and 9 years of professional experience: 62,965 Euro per year
  • Between 3 and 6 years of professional experience: 58,124 Euro per year
  • Less than 3 years of professional experience: 54,510 Euro per year

Scrum Master Certification

There are numerous organisations that offer different certificates for Scrum Masters. The two best known are probably the

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM), offered by the Scrum Alliance3,
  • and Professional Scrum Master (PSM), offered by Scrum.org4.

The main difference between CSM and PSM lies in the type of certification: CSM is based on a combination of training – conducted by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) or a Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) – and a test. The PSM separates training and certification, so a Professional Scrum Master has passed a test but does not need to have attended an official training. Furthermore, a PSM training does not have to be conducted by a certified trainer.

In addition to CSM and PSM, the two organisations mentioned above offer additional certifications. For the Scrum Alliance these are

  • Advanced CSM (A-CSM),
  • Certified Scrum Professional (CSP),
  • Certified Team Coach (CTC),
  • Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) and
  • Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).

And at Scrum.org these are in addition to the Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I),

  • Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II),
  • Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III), and
  • PSM Trainer (PST).

Obviously the Scrum Alliance offers significantly more certificates than Scrum.org. In addition, the Scrum Alliance demands a recertification every 2 years. At Scrum.org this requirement does not exist.

In most cases, certification only takes a few days. It would be a misbelief to assume that the possession of a certificate alone is sufficient to master the framework or the tasks and activities of a Scrum Master. In reality it is similar to a driving licence. This entitles you to drive a vehicle, but the owner of the driving licence can only drive a car really well many years later and only if he regularly drives, drives and drives.

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Everything important about the framework at a glance.

  • Events
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  • Artefacts
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Knowledge on 32 pages to take away.

Challenges for companies

What is a good Scrum Master?

To know the principles of Scrum with its roles, events and artefacts is not enough to be a good Scrum Master. Ideally you don’t take on the role as a beginner either. Opinions differ as to the required IT skills and industry knowledge. If you believe many job advertisements, IT skills – e.g. in the form of completed degree programmes – are required. However, if you speak directly with Scrum Masters, often technical knowledge is not necessary. Knowledge of the industry and/or domain, on the other hand, is considered useful. And certificates are seen as an entry ticket or prerequisite for receiving job offers. As proof of expertise, however, they are almost completely useless (even if the certification industry naturally judges this differently).

It is clear that a Scrum Master should embody the values that the framework sets:

  • Commitment to the team and the organisation to do their best.
  • Courage to address and change things.
  • Openness to create a basis for feedback, new ideas and trust.
  • Focus on aspects that are important for improving cooperation and focus on content work in the various meetings.Respect for the people behind the roles and tasks, and for the perspectives and achievements of those involved.

In addition, various skills such as empathy, analysis, group moderation and communication strength are certainly beneficial. Probably all these in combination make a good Scrum Master, don’t you think?

Impulses to discuss:

If the Scrum Master contributes significantly to creating value in the company, shouldn’t he be better paid?

Notes:

[1] German synonyms for heroic
[2] Gehalt.de: Das Gehalt eines Scrum Masters
[3] Additional information about Scrum Alliance
[4] Additional information about Scrum.org

Ideally a Scrum Master develops his knowledge continuously. Here it is worth taking a look at Meetups, Open Spaces, Coach Camps or conferences.

Are you interested in more information? Here you can find details about ScrumButs, the rules of Planning Poker or scaling with Scrum of Scrums.

In our blog you will find numerous post from the field: 

t2informatik Blog: The Black Box of Scrum Team Building

The Black Box of Scrum Team Building

t2informatik Blog: The superfluous Scrum Master

The superfluous Scrum Master

t2informatik Blog: My Wish List to Scrum Master

My Wish List to Scrum Master