Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

The Agile Manifesto (and the agile software development movement) have had an enormous effect on the software development industry. I’ve talked about these influences already. Today, Scrum is the most popular framework for using Agile. Scrum is a light-weight framework, inspired by the agile values and principles, that lets teams build products in an iterative way. Scrum has three roles, or accountabilities – and at the core of the Scrum framework is the Scrum Master accountability. The Scrum Master is a super important role in enabling the success of a Scrum team, and in the success of adopting Scrum in the team’s organization. In this article, I’ll go through the responsibilities of a Scrum Master, and tell you why the role is so important for teams trying to do product development with Scrum.

What is a Scrum Master?

scrum master talking to a team
Scrum master is a key role in the Scrum framework

The Scrum Master is a leader who facilitates the Scrum events and coaches people on Scrum, to ensure the team succeeds. The are fundamentally accountable for the effectiveness of the Scrum team, which is a pretty serious accountability. (Earlier versions of the Scrum guide described them as a “servant leader” – this terminology was changed to “true leader”, to emphasize that the role is a genuine challenging leadership role, and not just an assistant or note-taker).

The Scrum Master is accountable for promoting and supporting Scrum within the team and the organization. The Scrum Master is there to help the team, and to ensure that everyone understands and follows the Scrum framework.

Scrum Master Responsibilities

Here are the primary responsibilities of a Scrum Master:

Facilitate the Scrum framework

The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating the Scrum framework, mainly by facilitating its events. This means they will be responsible for ensuring that the team follows the Scrum framework, and that everyone understands the roles, events, and artifacts of Scrum (aka the “three five three” – three roles, five events, three artifacts). The Scrum Master will help the team plan, conduct, and review each Scrum event (i.e. the Sprint, Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective).

Coach and Mentor the Team

The Scrum Master is also accountable for coaching and mentoring the team on their Scrum journey. The Scrum Master should help the team understand the values and principles of Agile and Scrum. The Scrum Guide doesn’t explicitly mention “agile”, but Scrum is meant to be an instantiation of the agile values and principles. (For what it’s worth, it does mention that Scrum is founded on Lean, though the jury is still out on whether that is genuinely true). The Scrum Master should also help the team identify and remove any obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals.

Remove Obstacles and Impediments

One of the most important responsibilities of a Scrum Master is to remove impediments that stop the team from achieving goals. The Scrum Master is there to help the team overcome any issues that may arise during a Sprint. Though longer term, they should be coaching the team on self-management. That is, owning and resolving their own problems.

The Scrum Master should work with the Product Owner and other stakeholders to remove any organizational obstacles that may arise, and to ensure that the team is focused on delivering high-quality software. Scrum Masters often start off by helping teams with “local” impediments, that are within their ability to control, though over time start looking at broader “global” or organizational impediments. This is where the boundary between a Scrum Master and an agile coach can start becoming blurred.

Promote an Agile Mindset

Although not explicitly called out in the Scrum Guide, many people believe that the Scrum Master is responsible for promoting an Agile mindset within the team and the organization. This means that the team should be focused on delivering working software in short iterations, continuous improvement, teamwork, and collaboration. The Scrum Master should help the team learn and adopt ideas from the agile community such as Systems Thinking, Flow, and DevOps.

Ensure Scrum Artifacts are Maintained

Scrum master with a computer talking to a software development team
Scrum Masters need to help the team maintain their artifacts

The Scrum Master is also accountable for ensuring that the Scrum artifacts are properly defined and maintained. This means that they should ensure that the Product Backlog is kept up-to-date, that the Sprint Backlog is clearly defined at the beginning of each Sprint (and updated during the sprint!), and that the Increment is reviewed at the end of each Sprint. The Scrum Master should also ensure that the team is following the Definition of Done.

And don’t forget that Definition of Done can and should change over time – ask your Scrum Master for help with this if you’re not sure how or why!

Facilitate Communication

The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating communication within the team and with external stakeholders. The Scrum Master should ensure that the team is communicating well. And that everyone has a clear understanding of the product goal / intended outcomes. The Scrum Master can also help facilitate communication between the team and stakeholders, such as the Product Owner, customers, and other teams within the firm. Over time, the Scrum Master shouldn’t need to do this so much. Teams can’t rely on their Scrum Master for this and similar things forever. The Scrum Master should be keeping an eye on the team’s ability to do these things themselves.

Continuous Improvement

Finally, the Scrum Master is responsible for helping with continuous improvement, for the team and the organization. The Scrum Master should help the team identify areas for improvement and should work with the team to implement changes that will help the team become more effective. This is mainly done via Sprint Retrospectives. (Though remember, retros aren’t really continuous improvement!). The Scrum Master should also work with other teams within the organization to identify areas where Agile and Scrum practices can be improved.

As always, it is a fine balancing act – if the Scrum Master is too forward and direct in doing this, the team will never learn these skills. But if they sit back and wait for the team to fail, the team may get discouraged and not learn effectively.


The Scrum Master is a critical role in ensuring the success of a Scrum team. The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating the Scrum events, coaching and mentoring the Scrum team, removing impediments, promoting an Agile mindset, ensuring that Scrum artifacts are maintained, facilitating communication, and promoting continuous improvement. Scrum Masters play a critical role in helping product development teams deliver high-quality product increments in short iterations. So make sure your Scrum team has a good Scrum Master, not just some random with a two-day certificate and no experience!

Do you agree with these responsibilities? Or have some different ideas? Let me know in the comments below.

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