According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules.
The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.
The role of a Scrum Master is one of many stances and diversity. A great Scrum Master is aware of them and knows when and how to apply them, depending on situation and context. Everything with the purpose of helping people understand the spirit of Scrum.
The Scrum Master acts as a:
- Servant leader whose focus is on the needs of the team members and those they serve (the customer), with the goal of achieving results in line with the organization's values, principles, and business objectives.
- Facilitator by setting the stage and providing clear boundaries in which the team can collaborate.
- Coach coaching the individual with a focus on mindset and behavior, the team in continuous improvement, and the organization in truly collaborating with the Scrum team.
- Conflict navigator to address unproductive attitudes and dysfunctional behaviors.
- Manager responsible for managing impediments, eliminate waste, managing the process, managing the team's health, managing the boundaries of self-organization, and managing the culture.
- Mentor who that transfers Agile knowledge and experience to the team.
- Teacher to ensure Scrum and other relevant methods are understood and enacted.
- Impediment remover solving blocking issues to the team's progress taking into account the self-organizing capabilities of the Development Team;
- Change agent to enable a culture in which Scrum Teams can flourish.
This series contains my personal experiences acting as a Scrum Master. Besides these experiences, I’ve added my most important findings while researching the eight different stances studying books, articles and videos.
The Scrum Master as a Servant-Leader
Servant-leadership is fully in line with the Scrum values of courage, openness, respect, focus, and commitment. It's the backbone of the Scrum Master role and therefore the most obvious one to describe as first. In this part, I’ll describe what servant-leadership is about, the connection with the Agile manifesto and how the Scrum Master acts as a servant-leader.
What Is Servant-Leadership?
It's a philosophy and a set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, to build better organizations, and ultimately create a more just and caring world. It's a transformational approach to life and work that has the potential for creating positive change throughout or society. Servant-leadership focuses on collaboration, trust, empathy, and the usage of power ethically.
Servant-leadership is about:
Serving others, not yourself.
Not leading by title.
Leadership that endures.
Helping people develop and perform as highly as possible.
Selfless management of team members.
Promoting genuine team ownership.
Harnessing the collective power of a team.
What Is a Servant-Leader?
Robert K. Greenleaf, the originator of the term servant-leadership, describes a servant-leader as:
"The servant-leader is servant-first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?"
The servant leader's objective is to enhance and increase teamwork and personal involvement. They create a participative environment, empowering employees by sharing power and decision-making.
Focuses on building a foundation of trust.
Stimulates empowerment and transparency.
Encourages collaborative engagements.
Is an unblocker and empathic person able to truly listen.
Shows ethical and caring behavior, putting others needs first.
Is humble, knowledgeable, positive, social and situational aware.
The Agile Manifesto and Servant-Leadership
The characteristics of servant leadership can also be found within the Agile Manifesto. The values "individuals and interactions over processes and tools" and "customer collaboration over contract negotiation" clearly emphasize the focus on collaborative engagements, serving others (the team members) and not yourself, and boosting team performance by supporting individual growth.
Principles of the Agile Manifesto that also characterize servant leadership are the following:
"Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done."
"Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project."
The Scrum Master as a Servant-Leader
The Scrum Guide describes the Scrum Master as the servant-leader for the Scrum team. A Scrum Master is not master of the team, but a master at encouraging, enabling, and energizing people to gel as a team and realize their full potential. A Scrum Master is a servant-leader whose focus is on the needs of the team members and those they serve (the customer), with the goal of achieving results in line with the organization’s values, principles, and business objectives. The Scrum Master leads by example, by respect, and by the ability to influence the organization for the Scrum team and its effectiveness. The Scrum Master should also lead by values, by courage and commitment, but also by stubbornness — stubborn by having strong beliefs and the intention to change the organization.
As a servant-leader, the Scrum Master is responsible for:
Setting up Scrum as a servant process, not a commanding process.
Guiding the Development Team towards self-organization.
Leading the team through healthy conflict and debate.
Teaching, coaching, and mentoring the organization and team in adopting and using Scrum.
Shielding the team from disturbance and external threats.
Helping the team make visible, remove, and prevent impediments.
Encouraging, supporting and enabling the team to reach their full potential and abilities.
Creating transparency by radiating information via, for example, the Product and Sprint Backlog, Daily Scrum, reviews, and a visible workspace.
Ensuring a collaborative culture exists within the team.
Servant-leadership proves to be the backbone of the Scrum Master role. Its philosophy and practices increase teamwork and create an environment in which individual growth can flourish and endure. As a servant-leader, the Scrum Master can help the team act upon the Scrum values of courage, openness, respect, focus, and commitment and realize their full potential.
Servant Leadership: a Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert K. Greenleaf.
Scrum Mastery by Geoff Watts.
Scrum: A Pocket Guide by Gunther Verheyen.