Agile‎ > ‎

The Referee/Coach Scrum Master

posted Mar 26, 2015, 2:54 PM by Anjuan Simmons   [ updated Jul 21, 2016, 6:44 PM ]
When people ask me what a Scrum Master does, I often use the analogy of a referee. In any sport, the referee is not the center of attention and often disappears into the mechanics of the game. However, the impact of the referee is present in every play. The role of the referee is to make sure that everything happens in accordance with the guidelines of the game.

Scrum Masters do the same thing. We make sure that the Scrum Development Team works in accordance with the guidelines of Scrum. That means that we actively remove practices that are against the guidelines of Agile Software Development (specifically, Scrum).

However, Scrum Masters are more than just referees. We are also coaches. We coach the Product Owner about ways to manage the Product Backlog. We coach the Development Team in how to practice Scrum more effectively. Also, we coach the organization by tailoring other Agile methods to the needs of the company.

Here's an email I received from a client asking for clarity about how the Development Team would practice various aspects of Scrum. I've removed any identifying information from the exchange, but it's a good example of an email driven coaching session:

Great questions! My answers are below:

Below I have summarized what I believe is true for a sprint-would you mind giving it an eye and then correcting any confusion that I have or adding to it? I would greatly appreciate it.

Planning- sounds like what it is- getting together to determine what cards to current sprint board

Yes, we get together with the Product Owner and take cards of the top of the Product Backlog, solve them, size them, and then see what we can commit to for the Sprint Backlog.

Tasking- This where you will assign cards to me for testing in addition to ad hoc testing for this sprint

-during this time after tasking is where we are testing, reporting, and documenting

-half way through the testing is the next meeting

Tasking is the process of taking the cards that were sized during the Sprint Planning meeting and breaking them into tasks. These tasks are the things that need to be done for the card to meet the team's Definition of Done.

Backlog Refinement- Where the entire team reorders, reassess and then line up the next important cards in the backlog for the next sprint?

Yes, this is similar to Sprint Planning, but it is for the next few sprints. This makes the next Sprint Planning meeting more efficient and effective.

Review and Retro- Reflection meeting- what we did well, what we can do better.

Yes, the Sprint Review is where the team reflects on the work that was done (with the Product Owner) and the Sprint Retrospective is where the team reflects on the people and processes (the Product Owner is not required to attend).


When do we release into production?

This is still being determined. We are currently looking at a few Release Candidates that will happen every few sprints. Stay tuned! :-)

Once we release, did we build in a cushion to address customer support issues?

We size customer support issues into every sprint, and we probably should plan for more than usual after a release.

As always, thank for your help and insight.

Thanks for these great questions!