The Scrum framework is arguably the most popular agile framework today — and the Scrum Master plays a crucial role in its establishment and implementation in a Scrum Team.
One of the key responsibilities of a Scrum Master is to teach the team Agile, establish Scrum, and show them how to create and manage a backlog well. In other words, how to formulate, elaborate, and collaborate on user stories, tasks, and subtasks within the product and sprint backlogs.
Every now and then, especially in newly formed Scrum Teams who are not as experienced with the Scrum framework, a question arises — should Scrum Masters also be assigning tasks to the Developers on the team?
It’s important to remember that a Scrum Master is not a traditional Project Manager, and they shouldn’t be dictating the assignment of work of the team. Instead, their role is to promote self-sufficiency and self-organization between the team’s members. By assigning tasks, the Scrum Master takes away the opportunity for the Developers to plan and prioritize their own work, which is an essential aspect of the Agile methodology and Scrum framework alike.
A Scrum Master’s role is to coach the team on how to make the most of the framework and guide them in creating their own plan, product and sprint backlogs, and sprint cadence. In doing so, the team becomes more efficient and independent in their work, which leads to improved engagement and greater outcomes of the work.
How can the Scrum Master achieve this? A few examples:
Guiding the team on creating a backlog: The Scrum Master can help the team understand the process of creating a backlog, including the principles of creating user stories, tasks, and sub-tasks, and facilitating any necessary discussions to clarify needs and ensure the backlog is estimable, testable, and clear.
Facilitating daily stand-up meetings: The Scrum Master can facilitate the stand-up meetings, and encourage the Developers on the Scrum Team to take ownership of their work by allowing them to report on their progress and identify any roadblocks they may be facing.
Encourage teamwork: the Scrum Master can help to foster an environment of collaboration and communication among team members, creating opportunities for them to work together and share their knowledge, which ultimately leads to more efficient and effective results.
Helping the team to improve: Using the tools of agile such as burndown and burnup charts, the Scrum Master can keep track of the team’s performance and work with them to help them identify areas for improvement. They can show the team how to create an action plan for addressing these areas and follow up to keep them accountable and ensure that progress is being made.
Coaching the Scrum team on principles and practices: the Scrum Master should teach the team how to apply agile principles and use best practices for their day to day work, helping them understand the purpose and benefits of the Scrum framework and make better use of it to build and evolve the product.
And so, if you take away one thing from reading this article, let it be this: It’s not the Scrum Master’s job to dictate the work of the team, but to guide and teach them. By empowering the team to plan and prioritize their work, the Scrum Master is setting them up for success. Rather than assigning tasks, Scrum Masters should focus on coaching and facilitating the team’s abilities to organize their own work.
This leads to a more efficient and successful team — and one that’s better able to reach its product and sprint goals.