In the movies, “the fixer” brings clarity, clear-headedness, and comfort to guide other characters through chaotic situations.
In Agile, scrum masters play a similar role – minus the high drama and heart-pounding soundtrack. They coach and guide teams through turbulent times by removing obstacles and ensuring team efficiency and effectiveness.
If a partner isn’t responding to a request for test data, a product owner isn’t maintaining a steady supply of product backlog items, or the team doesn’t have access to necessary system resources, the scrum master steps in and fixes it.
While they may not be capable of single-handedly resolving all issues, they can identify and work with the individuals who can. The fixer, i.e. scrum master, proactively helps the team avoid interruptions and outside interference that hinders progress.
An often-overlooked aspect of being a scrum master is functioning as the team coach. A scrum master should develop a deep understand of the agile mindset, values, principles, and practices, and continually guide the team on appropriate ways to apply agile to their work.
By extending their coaching influence beyond their immediate team, scrum masters can promote agile theory and adoption throughout their business area, helping to build an environment and culture within which their team and others can thrive.
Scrum masters may take a servant-leader approach, aiming to establish authority and credibility by serving and focusing on the growth and wellbeing of others. They “serve” by facilitating team events, e.g., sprint planning, daily standups, sprint reviews and team retrospectives. They don’t do the work of the team. They further the team’s productivity and effectiveness by ensuring all team events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the agreed upon timebox.
A scrum master also provides support to the product owner by
- Helping to define the team’s mission, objectives, and goals
- Ensuring the product owner understands the need for clear and concise product backlog items
- Helping with an empirical approach to product planning in an often-complex environment
- Facilitating stakeholder collaboration and communication as requested or needed
Like a good fixer who attends to all details, an effective scrum master coaches and mentors their team, facilitates events and removes impediments that inhibit the team’s progress towards achieving their goals.