The Role of the Scrum Master on Agile Learning Teams

scrum master

When discussing the implementation of Agile, the term Scrum often comes into play.

Scrum is one of many frameworks used to implement an Agile process. Put another way, Agile is the philosophy and Scrum is the methodology, or the specific set of rules to follow.

According to Scrum.org, Scrum allows teams to work on complex projects and deliver high-value products by approaching problems flexibly and adaptively. It is simple and serves as an easy-to-implement way to handle projects. The Scrum framework allows projects to pivot and encourage continuous feedback, which can more accurately fulfill shifting needs.

Gosh, this sounds a lot like Agile!

Indeed, they are closely aligned, not just in terminology but also in practice. According to the last Scrum Alliance report on “The State of Scrum,” 58 percent have participated in an Agile transition and 89 percent of Agile users use the Scrum approach.

These statistics show the importance of the Scrum Master, who holds the team together and who is integral to the success of projects built with the Agile philosophy in mind.

Moreover, it’s an in-demand job: search on the keyword string scrum master on job search site Indeed.com yields 5,138 results.

As Agile has been making its way into L&D, the role of Scrum Master will become more relevant and important, as it relates to building learning experiences.

One of your L&D team members may not necessarily hold this specific title, but their responsibilities will certainly mirror those of the Scrum Master.

Source: Scrum.org

Servant-Leader

Scrum.org explains that the Scrum Master is a servant-leader: she helps those outside the core team understand which of their interactions are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the team.

This is especially helpful when working with subject matter experts (SMEs), who do not work full-time with L&D to develop courses. SMEs are brought in on a short-term basis to provide the valuable content on which courses are built.

As such, the Scrum Master on a learning project is the vital link between several stakeholders.

Service to the Product Owner

One of the largest responsibilities of the Scrum Master is to the Product Owner—perhaps the department manager requesting a specific training—ensuring that goals and scope as dictated by the Product Owner are fully understood by all members of the development team.

One of the biggest skills required is backlog management, essentially prioritizing those components in order to ensure completion. In this sense, the Scrum Master is not simply an order-taker to the Product Owner, but rather an advisor helping to decide which courses, elements, or features need to be pushed to the front of development.

This is possible because the Scrum Master on the L&D team is aware of currently available resources and can advise the Product Owner appropriately.

Service to the Development Team

In this capacity, these elements comprise perhaps the more traditional or expected role of the Scrum Master:

  • Coaching the development team
  • Helping the team understand the importance of Scrum and Agile
  • Facilitating events as needed, i.e, sprints and daily standups
  • Removing impediments to the team’s success

Because of the rather tactical nature of these responsibilities, this is usually what people think of when considering working with—or becoming—a Scrum Master.

Indeed, these tasks require soft skills, such as empathy and the ability to work well with others. More than simply tacticians, Scrum Masters or those leading Agile-based projects must incorporate these skills in order to see their projects through to completion.

Service to the Organization

Finally, the Scrum Master is expected to demonstrate the principles of Scrum—and by extension, the Agile philosophy—throughout the organization at large.

We’ve written before about the need to communicate the success of learning projects built on Agile. This not only validates your hard work but also helps learners understand the process that went into building that learning experience.

This component is baked into the requirements of becoming a Scrum Master. Of course, the main responsibilities of the Scrum Master are to the Product Owner and the development team—and by extension, the end-user, who is the learner.

However, by helping the organization at large understand Scrum and Agile, the Scrum Master can help kickstart projects throughout the organization based on these methodologies. The Scrum Master can help bring about changes that can affect large groups of employees.

Indeed, the Scrum Master—even if part of the L&D team—can wield great influence throughout the organization as a whole.

Want to see how Agile Learning can help the digital transformation journey for your training team? Check out this free ebook!

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