Be who you are – Essentials of a ScrumMaster’s role

A ScrumMaster is a lot of things – Mentor, Guide, Buddy, Coach, Shoulder to cry upon, Teacher, Specialist and many more ..

But, if we think deeper….Can one person really be all of these at once??

I think the nearest super humans we know, who can pull of all of these responsibilities without batting an eyelid , is our mothers who can be awake at 4 am every morning, work till 1 am in the night and be raring to go once more at 4 am.

But obviously, we can’t be like our moms (even if we try), more so in a professional setting, so as a Scrum practitioner ( Read again, I did not mention ScrumMaster ), before you can decide to become a ScrumMaster or a Trainer or a Coach, you need to understand and decide who you are ..else just like our furry friend in the video , you might be thinking…ok now what?

Now, the next dilemma is how do I know what I want to be and where I want to be. So, here is a simple matrix to help you understand:

Excerpted from adoption of Choosing a Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation. Douglas P. Champion, David H. Kiel and Jean A. McLendon by DandyPeople

As a ScrumMaster you are a teacher, coach, mentor and facilitator, but in your profile and future vision if you lean towards the other roles, may be its time for a realignment of priorities and career expectations.

Do reach out to your coaches and mentors to help you understand your own self better and then decide accordingly


PS: A little bit off the track, but unfortunately, most of the “Agile coaches” Job descriptions advertised these days, expect you to be a Hands-on expert (on everything!) and then when you take up that role, the misses and disappointments start popping up!!

Choose Wisely…. Does your future organization really understand the role of an Agile coach or a ScrumMaster?

Facilitating Events – The Essentials of a ScrumMaster’s role

A ScrumMaster wears multiple hats for a Scrum team – Facilitator, Mentor, Coach, Teacher ( and many more)..

While all these responsibilities sound similar ( and most organizations think so too), there is subtle and clear difference between each of these responsibilities, the ScrumMaster has to handle.

For today’s discussion though, I am not going to go into details of the other roles but focus on facilitation and the role that SM plays as a Facilitator.

Just to remind the readers about what facilitation means, here is a little definition excerpt of the word ‘facilitate’ from the Cambridge dictionary

“To help people deal with a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the process, discussion, etc. yourself: “

Now, that definition itself is important to understand.

The key part here is SM is not involved in the decision making or discussions rather they are ensuring that the team is able to discuss freely and (possibly) reach a solution. That means, as a facilitator for different team events (Including the Sprint, Sprint planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Retrospective), they are not participating but rather enabling the team to reach their stated goals for the event.


As a facilitator for an event, you need to be clear about your role :

Are you a FACILITATOR?

OR a Scribe?

OR a Listener (The Fly on the wall) ?

OR an actual participant ?

Make sure that your role is clear to all the participants of the event beforehand so that they are clear about their expectations from you

Once you have established your role as a facilitator, the next step is to prepare for your event (And yes you will need time to think and plan about it). For any event that you need to facilitate , think about the following

Who is the audience/ participants?

How are they going to participate in the event ?

When is the event going to start and end

What is the agenda and what is the expected outcome of the event?

Make sure that your attendees have all this information beforehand so they can come prepared to the meeting

(and not just sleepwalk to the meeting a la Dunston 😉)

Next as the time keeper, as you get to the day and time of the event, make sure it starts on time and you have sufficient quorum to start the event.

Once the event starts, it is important that as a facilitator you make the environment easy for people to discuss the issue at hand, the team is on the right track towards achieving their event goals ( they might need course correction frequently) and they are ultimately able to reach a conclusion at the end of the event.

But as the event is over, you have one last thing to do before you take your facilitator hat off: Make sure you gather, record and publish the outcomes, collect feedback and feedforward on how you can make the next event better for the attendees and how you can help them better as a facilitator


This short description of your role as a facilitator aside, Facilitation is an art and science by itself. Fortunately, These days there are plenty of books, videos and sources which can help you practice and better your art as a facilitator. So, practice the art to help your team effectively.

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) provides you a lot of resources and opportunities for you to collaborate and learn the art of professional faciltation

ScrumAlliance Advanced Scrum Master course also contains multiple learning objectives which help you learn the details of this very interesting field of knowledge


Here is wishing you some interesting reads and experience in your journey as facilitator till we catch up again to discuss more about the essentials of the Scrum Master’s role.

Is ‘Agile’ a substitute for your messy culture?

800 teams , more than 100 organizations that I have coached to build an Agile culture and practices, but a peculiar thing that I have noted.

I probably had not paid attention to this earlier, but as I was looking back and analyzing the pre and post transformation status of lot of my clients, I was almost amazed on how I missed it!

What I realized was for almost half of my customers who went for an Agile transformation, Agility was not about being more flexible or faster time to market or better employee satisfaction (though these were the stated goals) , what my team and yours truly ended up doing was, focusing on bringing discipline and actually documenting and tracking some KPIs (Where there were none!).

You must be wondering if my coaches are advising more documentation and tracking, how can it be called Agile?

Sample this: The project managers of one of the very large and global organizations, track their progress not in terms of days and hours but rather in weeks. Task A would take 8 weeks, Task B would take 16 weeks and more. All this is documented not in any tool or spreadsheet but in a powerpoint slide set and that is updated only by the Project Manager.

The culture is almost perfectly “Agile”.. team members decide the timelines, there is a great camaraderie between team members across the team, they respond to change as needed based on market conditions and change the plan, almost too good Agile … a perfect Agile team….!!!

BUT …..

…they deliver their projects on an average from 18 months to 27 months even though the mandate is 6 months or less for an average project.

…Whenever the status is updated, it is not in terms of number of hours (or days ) pending but just a simple percentage, 50% done, 80% done etc.

Because the organization is truly Agile and cares about its employees, employees reject team and project meetings half an hour before the meeting, because they simply couldn’t come to office that day or were too busy with other stuff.

So, would you call this organization Agile or not Agile. As a coach, if I call for the enterprise to be more disciplined first before using Scrum practices, would I be exaggerating?

Does Agile comes with just the employee friendly rules and culture or there’s more to it, which is as important as setting up a nice team culture?

I await your comments and any similar experiences you have in your organization?

Manifesto for Agile Software Development (in Hindi)

चपल संगणक भाष्य विकास के लिये घोषणा पत्र

हम निरंतर संगणक भाष्य विकास की उन्नत तकनीकों की खोज कर रहे हैं और अन्य जनों की इस खोज में सहायता कर रहे हैं ।

इस शोध के आधार पर हम

प्रक्रियाओं और उपकरणों की बजाय मानव और उनके पारस्परिक संवाद
व्यापक प्रलेखन की बजाय सक्रिय संगणक भाष्य
आनुबंधिक वाद विवाद की बजाय ग्राहक सहयोग
स्थिर योजना की बजाय परिवर्तन अनुकूल प्रतिक्रिया

को ज्यादा कारगर मानते हैं ।

हालांकि बायीं और दिए गए विषय भी महत्तवपूर्ण हैं, परंतु दाएं दिए गए विषयों का महत्व ज्यादा है ।

12 सिद्धांत
  1. हमारी सर्वोच्च प्राथमिकता जल्द और निरंतर संगणक भाष्य वितरण के द्वारा ग्राहक को संतुष्ट करना है
  2. बदलती जरूरतों का संगणक भाष्य विकास के अमृत काल तक भी स्वागत करें। चपल प्रक्रियाएं परिवर्तन का ग्राहक के लाभार्थ प्रयोग करती हैं ।
  3. दो सप्ताह या दो महीने के भीतर निरंतर संगणक भाष्य का वितरण करें। कम समय सीमा ज्यादा अपेक्षित है ।
  4. वाणिज्यिक गणमान्य एवं विकास मंडल के सदस्यों का परियोजना के दौरान प्रतिदिन साथ काम करना अपेक्षित है।
  5. परियोजना में उत्साही व्यक्तियों का समावेश करें। उन्हें अनुकूल माहौल व सहायता प्रदान करें और उनकी काम संपूर्ण करने की क्षमता पर विश्वास रखें ।
  6. विकास मंडल के सदस्यों से संवाद का सबसे अनुकूल तरीका उनके सम्मुख हो कर संवाद करना है ।
  7. सक्रिय संगणक भाष्य ही प्रगति की प्रमुख निशानी है ।
  8. चपल प्रक्रियाएं सतत विकास को बढावा देती हैं।  ग्राहक,  विकास टोली और उपयोगकर्ताओं को मिलकर विकास की एक स्थिर गति रखनी चाहिए ।
  9. तकनीकी उत्कृष्टता और अच्छी संरचना चपलता बढ़ाती हैं।
  10. सादगी– गागर में सागर भरना- अत्यंत महत्वपूर्ण है।
  11. सबसे अच्छी वास्तु, जरूरतें और सरंचना स्वावलंबी समूहों के द्वारा विकसित किए जाते हैं ।
  12. नियमित अंतराल पर विकास मंडल के सदस्यों को अपनी प्रभावशीलता परखनी चाहिए और उससे उत्तरोत्तर बढ़ाने के लिए अपने व्यवहार में परिवर्तन करना चाहिए ।

The various hats of a Scrum Master

Process Champion, Facilitator, Buddy, Coach, Mentor, Ear to listen to, Shoulder to cry upon, The friend you can confess with, The non-judgmental listening box, the savior, the rescuer and more…

Well, if you combine all these adjectives , what you get is your Ideal Scrum Master.. but..

but but.. nothing in this world is IDEAL not your wife or husband , girlfriend or boyfriend … and the checklist to find one is something like this :D…

But this is what gets your there, yes, right there up to the top.. but then the question arises, how do we take those first steps to become that ideal one?


Well, unfortunately, no institute or certification can guarantee you to be perfect in your work as a Scrum Master and be able to handle every single situation. But, for sure, these are things that can be learned, imbibed and practiced.

So, let’s start this journey. TBH, there is no one good place to start, you can go in any order you want but make sure you learn and practice as much:


Scrum Master as a facilitator:

By definition, facilitation means to make an action or a process easy or easier.

So , here you are not an expert but much rather helping your Scrum team, your unit, your management complete the processes in an easy way. This could be a sprint planning event or that difficult meeting with the client or conflict resolution between two team members, you are helping the team go through those seamlessly by calling for the meeting, identifying the right agenda and people, identifying a suitable place and ensuring that the event goes on smoothly and the event goal is reached. You may actually feel like Doraemon, and rightly so…

There are many facilitation techniques that you should be aware of here including effective listening , non verbal communication, visual facilitation, facilitated conversations and more and it’s important for Scrum Master to learn as many of these to help the team

Scrum Master as a teacher:

A teacher is the one who shares his knowledge with those who listen and want to learn. It require skills, attention , preparation, practice and patience.

Imagine being on a stage, with 800 eyes focusing on every move that you make, every word that you say, every expression that you give. If you cannot engage your audience and they sleep mid-way through your play, you have lost the plot.

As someone who is expected to know Scrum framework and Agile philosophy in and out, you would be expected to teach Scrum to your team, your business stakeholders, your customers et al. So, it’s time to tighten your seat belts and practice as much as you can.

Scrum Master as a coach:

This is where it gets more interesting. As a coach, you may not answer all the questions but you are there to help them find the answers.

Yes, that’s where it gets difficult too.

To keep your mouth shut, to help them learn.

It’s easy to jump in and be the shining knight in the armor and solve all the problems of your team, but for the team to be self organized, it is important that you ask them the right questions, so they can discover solutions by themselves . Yes, they would hem and haw and fail occasionally, but that’s part of the learning process the team has to undergo to be in-charge of their own destiny and be truly self-managed.

There is so much material available on the web today about how to become a good coach , there are so many instant potion classes which claim to make you a coach in three days; but, to me, it’s truly a journey, where you discover yourself too as you help your team

Scrum Master as a mentor and guide:

Mentoring is the longest engagement out of all the above. This requires that you are invested both in the outcomes as well as the process. You are there with your team and team members, almost through the lifetime.

This is where you are helping them identify their team and personal goals and helping them as a teacher, facilitator or a coach at every step to help them reach those goals. So, it requires patience and perseverance and yes, true Agility (Responding to change over following a plan).


Ok, to summarize, you are almost like a parent to your team. Being there for them , always, in many forms, many situations and many ways.

Enough of reading…

Now, go figure out and make a plan how you are going to put all of the above in action from tomorrow morning 😀