A ScrumMaster is like…

Every so often someone asks what the title ScrumMaster means. Some assume it implies mastery of a subject, such as a Zen Master, or a master carpenter.

My friend Bryan Stallings gave the best answer I’ve heard so far:

When I work with those new to Scrum I explain this subject as follows…

I ask them to tell me what a Master-of-Ceremonies does. They tell me about events such as the Oscars and explain that an individual with this role is responsible to ensure that the event progresses as planned, that they facilitate the transition from one phase of the event to another, and that they step in should anything unplanned occur.

I then ask that they describe to me the responsibilities of a Quartermaster in the military. They explain that a Quartermaster provides the troops with all that is required for their success and comfort, and sets-up suitable circumstances.

I of course agree with them and then I proceed to explain that like a Master-of-Ceremonies, a ScrumMaster is responsible to ensure that the Scrum process progresses effectively from event to event, that a ScrumMaster also steps in should an obstacle to success be encountered. Additionally, I explain that like a Quartermaster, a ScrumMaster shoulders the responsibility to provide the team with all that is necessary to ensure their success, comfort, and suitable circumstances.

Obviously, mastery of coaching a team to self-organize and helping teams and learn how to deliver working software every iteration is a study that can consume an entire career. In the meanwhile, Bryan’s definition gives a good place to start the journey.