The Three Main Roles on a Scrum Team
As described by the Scrum Guide, a Scrum is a framework or working container for developing and sustaining complex products whose principles can be applied across industries such as software development, human resources, and marketing. In contrast to programmed algorithmic approaches, Scrum framework adopts a heuristic model, one that respects people’s unique abilities and self-organization to deal with unpredictability and solve complex problems.
What is a Scrum Team?
A Scrum Team consists of individuals working within that framework to meet a Product Goal or provide adaptive solutions to a product problem quickly, or as defined by Scrum Theory, within an incremental time period referred to as a Sprint.
“Scum is built off of empiricism and lean thinking. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is observed. Lean thinking reduces waste and focuses on the essentials.”
– Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, Scrum Guide
The Scrum framework outlines 5 events that take place: The Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and the Sprint Retrospective. First and foremost, we should understand the Sprint as the core of the Scrum process that contains all other events within a consistent, fixed time box. For example, Sprint Planning happens within a time-boxed Sprint, as does the Daily Scrum, Review and Retrospective. The Sprint model also enables the three core pillars of Scrum, transparency, inspection, and adaptation, which we will outline further.
Sprint Planning occurs at the beginning of a sprint, typically 2-hours a week per iteration. The planning meeting allows the Scrum Team to define their Product Goal and the work necessary to complete it. The Product Owner will ensure the planning meeting is fit to discuss important backlog items.
Daily Scrum (or Stand-Ups): a daily, short 15-minute “check-in” for the team to assure tasks are moving smoothly. Questions to ask are: What did I work on yesterday? What am I working on today? What issues are blocking me?
Sprint Review: time allotted to review work and progress completed by each team member, provide feedback, and test iterations. Reviews are meant to be casual, celebratory, and culture driven. Each team member is valued and encouraged in their accountability.
Sprint Retrospective: allocated time to align with core values of Scrum, and assure both agility and effectiveness. Retrospectives are meant to assure that both communication and process are effective, and provide tweaks to embody future success toward the Product Goal.
Scrum Artifacts are the work output or value produced during a Scrum Event. There are 3 main artifacts within a Scum as described by the Scrum Guide: the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog, and the Increment. Each artifact contains a “Commitment” to provide information by which progress can be measured.
Product Backlog: an emergent list of what requirements are needed within Sprints to improve a product, as known as the Product Goal, which can be refined as Sprints continue.
Commitment: Product Goal
Sprint Backlog: a highly visible real time list of accomplishments the Developer team will accomplish during sprints, selected from the Product Backlog. The commitment of a Sprint Backlog is to reach the Sprint Goal as determined in Sprint Planning.
Commitment: Sprint Goal
Increment – a deliverable necessary to meet the Product Goal. There are multiple increments, and if chosen, these can be presented to stakeholders prior to the end of the Sprint for quality assurance. When increments can be put together to create one Product Goal, this is the Definition of Done.
Commitment: Definition of Done
Note: We’ll see the phrase “Definition of Done” within the Scrum framework quite a bit. In Scrum, the Definition of Done is as it sounds: the final increment that meets the quality measures required for a project.
Below you’ll see this Scrum Guide outlines a Sprint:
- A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.
- The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.
- The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.
Forming a Scrum Team
Allocating roles on a Scrum Team, and maintaining them, is not as rigid as it may seem. In fact, the principles of a scrum are built off of a lightweight method of self-organization and continuous improvement, so maintaining a flexible mindset in relation to accountabilities within a scrum team is certainly necessary when approaching the project.
Scrum Teams are typically no larger than 10 or fewer people to remain nimble enough to solve the complex problems within quick Sprints. Cross functional and self-managed, when forming a Scrum Team members are encouraged to ask themselves, “Can we create a valuable, useful Increment (result) every Sprint?”
Note: Scrum accountabilities won’t necessarily change official job titles. For example, an employee can be the Associate Creative Director in an agency, but take on the role as a member of the development team within the scrum team because of necessary graphic design expertise.
Three Main Scrum Team Roles
There are three main accountabilities on a Scrum Team consisting of one Product Owner, one Scrum Master, and the Developer group.
The Product Owner is the primary point of contact, and therefore the most accountable party, between the team and the client. They take a client’s problems and visions, and translate them into work metrics for the Development team. In short, they are accountable for maximizing the value of the work done by the Scrum Team.
The Scrum Guide defines the product owner’s duties as such:
Developing and communicating the Product Goal
Managing the Product Backlog
Stakeholder transparency and management
The definition of a Scrum Master is someone who establishes Scrum theory as defined by the Scrum Guide into practice. We can think of a scrum master as the manager. They assure effectiveness, facilitating communication between team members by organizing meetings and reviewing progress and deliverables.
Scrum Master duties may be summarized as:
- Coaching team members in self management
- Ensuring the team focuses on high value Increments that meet the Definition of Done
- Removing obstacles to team cross-functionality or Product Goals
- Helping the Product Owner plan and organize directly
- Leading the team or organization in Scrum adoption
Development Team (or Developer Team Members)
The Development Team does the work. Developers are the backbone and specified brain power of the Scrum process. According to the Scrum Guide, as Scrum can be applied across industries, the exact duties of Developers will vary per project.
Developer duties may be summarized as:
- Creating a plan for the Sprint and the Product Backlog
- Adapting to changes in the plan to meet the Definition of Done
- Assuring quality work and accountability as professionals
Characteristics of a Scrum Team
The entire Scrum process is based on empiricism and lean thinking, in addition to core pillars that assure the team and process is not only self-managed, but adaptable to change necessary to meet Product Goals.
Empiricism asserts that when we observe our experiences and make decisions from this lens we will have more success. Functioning while “lean” means to reduce waste and excess so we can find the clear answers we’re looking for. Scum theorists would likely agree with the minimalist perspective of today that cutting out all that you do not need from a situation or equation will lead to a clearer, more mindful pathway.
Core Pillars of Scrum
Further, scrum theory abides by core pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
Pillar 1: Transparency
Transparency asserts that the emergent process of the scrum is visible to all team members and those receiving the work.
Pillar 2: Inspection
Inspection is made possible therefore by transparency. Similar to chaos engineering, members of the scrum team must diligently and frequently assess potential outcomes which are typically pre-determined by a set inspection cadence.
Pillar 3: Adaptation
If adaptation had a saying it would be, “When life gives you lemons, try to make them better lemons.” Simply put, assuring that the scrum team understands how pivotal the ability to adapt, and to adapt quickly, is imperative for success. If the resulting product is unacceptable, the team adapts. This pillar is much smoother with an empowered, self-managing team.
- Scrum is a team process abiding by core pillars of Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation, and is largely based on Empiricism and lean thinking
- The three main roles on a Scrum Team are the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the Developer
- Scrum Team roles do not necessarily affect job titles, and they are self-managed and cross functional so as to meet Product Goals efficiently
- There are 5 main Scrum Events and 3 core Scrum Artifacts that contain the adaptable structure by which Product Goals are met