The ScrumMaster's 6 duties in self-organisation

“The ScrumMaster role cannot fill a person’s working day!” Most managers and even most ScrumMasters believe this is true. However, it’s not even near the truth. The ScrumMaster has a very hard job to do. In my ScrumMaster Advanced Pro training I use Dieter Rösner’s framework “The glorious six of self-organisation” (see his postings on this blog here) to highlight and explain all the duties. In short, self-organisation is framed and supported by six elements which lateral leadership roles should take into account when doing their job: the common problem, structure, voluntariness, synchronisation, know-how and development.
So let´s have a look at the ScrumMaster’s job from the position of Dieter’s framework:

  1. Leadership/common problem: A ScrumMaster leads people. He is not a “boss” or a “manager in a traditional sense, nevertheless he leads his people and gives them orientation by helping them to see the “the common or mutual problem”. Every organisation – and a team is an organisation – derives its purpose from the problem it is trying to solve. It´s the job of the ScrumMaster to make sure that there is a problem addressed and that he has established a team that wants to solve this problem. Usually, the problem is defined by the Product Owner but the ScrumMaster makes sure that everyone moves in that direction. In this regard, the ScrumMaster is a leader or shows leadership.
    a. His task is to lead people,
    b. therefore he has the responsibility to do so, and
    c. he needs to gain the skills to do so.
  2. Facilitation/structure: Dieter mentioned that self-organisation needs boundaries (structure). Scrum demands a certain structure and it is always a ScrumMaster’s job to create a structure which allows people to perform. ScrumMasters build this structure on different levels, e.g.:
    a. Team-level: Using Scrum as a framework for creating structure.
    b. Meeting-level: By facilitating meetings and all other communication processes he ensures a clear structure in which team members can perform their tasks.
  3. Voluntariness/change agent: For me, the most interesting aspect of agile leadership has always been voluntariness and its corresponding commitment. Acting as a change agent, I created a believe system and a culture of voluntariness within my own company. It is the ScrumMaster’s job to establish a culture that fosters contribution and the willingness to commit.
  4. Synchronisation/management: Teams, departments and our whole society functions because we are able to synchronise activities of individuals. Ensuring synchronisation has always been the management’s job. So, nothing changes for the ScrumMaster. He acts as a manager to establish communication processes so that everybody involved is able to contribute as productively as possible.
  5. Skills (know-how)/trainer: Someone needs to make sure that team members have all necessary skills for performing a task. In most cases team members take care about it themselves. However, from a meta position it is sometimes easier to assess if a team lacks certain skills (“you do not know that you do not know”). The job of a ScrumMaster is to ensure that a team becomes aware of its own limitations and consequently supports it in gaining new skills by offering/organising … training. As a “head trainer” the ScrumMaster might not be able to train others himself in every occasion, but he is responsible for coordinating all training activities.
  6. Development/coach of a team: It is one part of the ScrumMaster’s duties to provide skills and knowledge as a trainer. However, a team also needs a coach. Someone who works with the team on its development as a team. I am not talking about skills but about mindset, behavior and motivation – we can also call it personal growth. The ScrumMaster sets thought-out measures to let a team grow.

In this short blog post I tried to transfer Dieter’s framework onto the role of the ScrumMaster. Please note that I only focused on the “what” not on the “how”. If you want to know how to do all this … read our free book “Selforganisation needs Leadership” on Gitbook. It is a translation of my best selling book: “Selbstorganisation braucht Führung”.