Filling the right roles on your project can make all the difference. Learn the essential roles and how they help.
- Scrum is a lightweight framework that can be incredibly flexible, efficient, and powerful, but, much like a vehicle, the best body style and frame will get you nothing without a powerful engine to move you forward. There are two key roles that exist on every Scrum team: the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. Let's start with the Product Owner, or PO. The PO is the business representative on the team. They're not part-time team members. They show up every day, because they're contributing to the final product every day.
They review all the work the team completes and either accepts it or asks the team to make changes to ensure the highest value is being delivered. Formerly, the business person was represented through requirements documents that were rarely, if ever, updated. On a Scrum team, the PO is always ordering the work and ensuring the team members clearly understand the details of the request, but that's only part of their job. They're also interacting on a daily basis with the stakeholders.
It's not enough for the PO to interact with the team, they must also be in tune with all the changes that are occurring in the business context. As a result, the PO is the keeper of the product vision. He or she defines and manages the backlog of work to be done and the prioritization of those work items. Remember that Scrum allows the scope to be flexible. Since time and cost are locked, the PO is painfully aware that the work must be continuously sorted to highest value first.
They'll also be pushing the team to complete as much work as possible in each short delivery period. Now, if you're wondering how on Earth a team can keep up with these demands, you're not alone. The founders of Scrum recognized the need to counterbalance the PO role, so they created the role of the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master protects the team and protects the process. The Scrum Master is the facilitator who keeps the team within the guardrails of Scrum.
They balance the demands of the PO against the needs of the team. This role is the first safety valve to ensure teams are performing at a sustainable pace. We don't want them to get burned out before they reach the finish line. That's a big statement, if you think about it. Scrum is a framework that doesn't value heroics by teams or individual team members. It values sustainability and open dialogue on what can and cannot be reasonably accomplished.
The Scrum Master is the most visible spokesperson for the team. Scrum Masters value transparency. They'll devise charts and boards to share the team's progress with anyone who's curious or interested in how they're doing. They're also the first escalation point when something gets in the way for the team. The Scrum Master will work to remove any blockers until they're out of the way and the team can continue on. While the PO focuses on what needs to be done, the Scrum Master focuses on how the team does the work.
And one more thing. The Scrum Master also holds the team accountable for their commitments to the Product Owner. They show trends in team performance over time to help the team improve their processes and practices. As you can see, each role is absolutely critical to getting the framework to function properly. If you're lacking one of these roles, Scrum will be far less effective than if you have them both.
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- Understanding the scrum approach to project success
- Solving project problems with scrum
- Establishing your scrum team
- Setting the vision for your project
- Writing user stories
- Setting boundaries for success
- Getting stories done in scrum
- Assessing the team