The role of the Certified Scrum Master in the Agile organization

The role of the Certified Scrum Master in the Agile organization

The role of the Certified Scrum Master in the Agile organization is different from that described in the official Scrum Guide. To get a Scrum Master Certificate you need to take an exam on specific questions concerning this popular Agile framework.

In a truly professional environment, however, in its work, the certified Scrum Master has many more features. Their role is paramount to the entire Agile product development process. The BVOP licensing organization, for example, supplemented its Scrum guide published in the BVOP Agile Guide. In this book, candidates for the BVOP Certified Senior Scrum Master learn much more theory and practice to be ready for a true professional career. Reference: https://bvop.org/scrummaster/

Why do Agile organizations include the Scrum framework?

A project with a large scope, respectively with a long implementation period will be developed, for which there is a clear vision and motivation to review/evaluate the vision periodically and to adapt it to the needs of the market.
The company develops its product
The need has been identified for all participants, regardless of the detail they are working on, not to lose focus from the overall vision of the project – this is extremely important when making the many small decisions that are inevitably made daily by team members in their routine work.
The need for the client (if there is one and respectively the necessary motivation) to be actively involved in the development of the project has been identified, to:

  • develop a product that best meets the requirements
  • create transparency in project management – all stakeholders to have access to information on project progress
  • be able to deliver and review what has been done and to receive feedback from the customer during development

The company has (or wants to create) a team that can self-organize – an independent, collaborative team that can handle a variety of tasks; a team whose members are proactive and cooperative and their focus is to improve the product and increase the efficiency of their joint work

The certified Scrum Master must also know the obstacles in the organizations

Why might an organization decide not to include Scrum in its development processes? Reference: Certified Scrum Master shares best practices, https://projectmanagement.cloudaccess.host/certified-scrum-master-shares-best-practices/

  • Projects are small (eg modifications to existing systems) with too short a lead time, eg tasks that would be completed in several sprints
  • There is no possibility for gradual delivery during the development
  • The client requires a formal definition of project parameters (such as scope, price, delivery time) by signing an order/contract
  • The client does not want to apply Scrum
  • The client does not have the opportunity to apply scrum – there is no motivation and/or no opportunity to broadcast a product owner. The requirements are the result of collective work
  • The company does not have a team that can “learn” to self-organize
  • There is no motivation in the top management of the company to apply Scrum

A certified Scrum Master should be able to help your company

Here are some problems that companies face. The certified Scrum Master must be able to adequately offer his assistance on all topics. Reference: A certified Scrum Master shares the Daily Scrum event, https://projectmanagement.freesite.host/a-certified-scrum-master-shares-the-daily-scrum-event/

Change in the attitude of team members – by default most people oppose the change, especially if they do not understand the potential benefits of the change
Personal qualities and preferences of team members – for example, introverts who have applied for the position of a software developer in certain working conditions, which do not involve intensive meetings with clients, demonstration of work done, etc.
Creating the right expectation in the client (if any) for what is his role in the project – the role of product owner (+ possibly analysts) with all duties, responsibilities, and competencies. Often the product owner is recognized more as a sponsor.
Changing the customer’s attitude so that the customer understands and benefits from the benefits of this model of work – for example, often the customer has the attitude that he will start testing after receiving a functional specification and the functionality is delivered in a test environment
The more difficult formalization of the working relationship between the two companies (if there is a client) – the more difficult it to define project parameters and criteria for measuring progress
The more difficult predictability and planning of both the versions within the project itself and the employment of the team within the organization itself

A real example situation for professional Scrum specialists

Let’s look at this exemplary but potentially real situation. And then carefully consider the possible moves of the Scrum Master role or Agile coach. Reference: Responsibilities of the Scrum Master role, https://projectmanagers.joomla.com/11-responsibilities-of-the-scrum-master-role.html

Your director invites you to a meeting in his office. You walk into his office and he introduces you to Mr. James, Risk Manager in Finance.
The Director tells you that he understands that your Scrum team is undergoing a regular inspection and plans to appoint Mr. James as Project Manager and Project Inspection Expert.
Mr. James introduces himself to you, shares his biography and professional experience in the field of financial analysis and risk management, and believes that he will be very successful in implementing you, as managing the entire team and inspecting the entire project daily.
Mr. James is ready with his presentation, and they are both looking you in the eye, looking forward to joining the conversation.

The certified Scrum Master can approach as follows

For a start, I will congratulate the director and meet, quite businesslike and collegially, my new colleague, Mr. James.

I will introduce myself – as a Scrum master of the team and I will emphasize that Scrum is used in the organization of the project. Reference: What is it like to be a Scrum Master?, https://projectmanagers.edublogs.org/2020/09/14/what-is-it-like-to-be-a-scrum-master/ I will explain that we have made an analysis of the situation and, after a discussion with the director, we have come to the conclusion that Scrum is the most logical choice for the organization in this case. I will explain that the director was also interested in other methods, such as Kanban, Kaizen, Waterfall – ie. is aware of the basic principles in all of them. Reference: Presentation of Kanban and Scrum methodologies for the team, https://projectmanagement.jdevcloud.com/presentation-of-kanban-and-scrum-methodologies-for-the-team/

He asked me to choose the most suitable one, and I explained what exactly is required and what is assumed in all these methods.

Then I will move on to the more essential part. I will explain that there is no role as a project manager in the structure of Scrum. This role may be relevant for other types of methods and frameworks, but not for Scrum. I will explain that this is an explicit rule in Scrum.

I will explain that I do not doubt the qualification of my new colleague as a specialist in his field, but I will emphasize that Scrum has a development team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. Risk assessment and project management, as well as inspection (whether daily or not), is something that depends solely on the Scrum team, organized in the above 3 roles. Of course, there may be, and even quite often are, a team or employee involved in risk assessment and inspection, but this employee is not part of the Scrum team, and more importantly – not even the right to intervene directly in the work of the team. Neither on a daily level nor a completed sprint level. This is clearly outlined in the Scrum guide and there are no exceptions. So project managers are not accepted. Even really professional certified project managers. Reference: The qualities of the certified project manager – Project Management, https://projectmanagement.over-blog.com/qualities-of-the-certified-project-manager.html

If Mr. James wants to join the company, he will be part of the director’s support management team and is expected to carry out his direct orders. But since both the director and Mr. James are currently being informed, they are not part of the Scrum team.

He will not “manage the whole team”. The Scrum team manages itself, not through external directorships or managerial positions.
I will also explain what an inspection in Scrum means and why there is an inspection.

Inspection, like all other events in the work of a Scrum team, is something that the Scrum team wants and actively seeks and participates in. They are not organized by anyone outside the Scrum team, namely by the team itself. The team is obliged to attend and actively participate and contribute to these events. Because Scrum suggests that the team must be effective and better at what it does, there is a need, at specific and specifically planned and cyclically recurring intervals, for the team to be able to compare its work with the past, to give a clear assessment of how the work was done, what the obstacles were, if any, and how to remove these obstacles at a later stage. The team needs, in each 14-day sprint, to “stop”, compare, and possibly adjust or adapt their work – to factors on which the effectiveness of the team directly depends.

The risk of the project can also be a factor – what Mr. James wants to deal with, but the risk of the project is not something that the Scrum team directly deals with and discusses at its Scrum events. At these events, only the work that was planned, that was done (or not done) is discussed, and there is an opportunity to discuss obstacles and possible improvements. Project risk is not a “task”. This is part of the planning of the whole project, which is under the umbrella of another type of management in the organization. Thus, risk assessment is something that indirectly affects the work of the Scrum team, and in any case, must first be discussed with a wider range of managers before the consequences of the decisions go down to each Scrum team. The Scrum team will then review them and possibly assess how the situation can improve. But again, this is not a task and an event that happens every week and would even severely disrupt the cyclicality of other events (as they are all planned).
In conclusion, I will add that the inspection as such is something that is conducted by the participants in the Scrum team and only by them. Outsiders do not attend these meetings, as this is not implied by this framework and in some cases would even negatively affect the Scrum process – totally shifting the focus of the Scrum team.
I would recommend Mr. James to discuss his decision with the director and I would emphasize that I, as a Scrum master, am not an employee who must be informed or has a real role in having a new risk manager. But I will enjoy fruitful collaboration, just as part of different teams with different functions.

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Author: Anton Radev

Front-End Web Developer

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