The Scrum Team Roles and Accountabilities

Scrum defines three accountabilities or roles: scrum master, product owner, and developers. Together all three roles make up a scrum team. But how do all of these people work together to deliver customer-delighting products? According to Certified Scrum TrainerTM Mike Cohn, "the short answer is, everyone does everything... no one has a that's not my job attitude"

CST Roman Pichler goes further:

"The product owner maximizes the value the product creates.

"The development team creates products that offer a great user experience and have the right quality.

"The scrum master offers process and method coaching to the product owner, developers, and stakeholders. Additionally, the scrum master acts as a change agent and facilitates organizational development."

Find out what else a few of our trainers and coaches had to say about who does what on a scrum team.

Geoff Watts, Mike Cohn, and Jesse Fewell Describe Scrum Team Roles & Accountabilities

Let's look more closely at each role.

Product Owner Role & Accountabilities

Scrum Role Name:

Product Owner

Product Owner Authority:

The product owner defines the why, who, and what—why it is worthwhile to develop a product, who it is for, and what features it should contain. Product owners own a product in its entirety; they have the final word on strategic and tactical product decisions.

Product Owner Responsibility:

While maintaining the product backlog is important, it is not the only product owner responsibility. The main responsibility of the product owner is to maximize the value the product creates for the users, customers, and for the business. This includes championing a vision, meeting with stakeholders and customers, and knowing when to say "no."

Product Owner Tasks:

To achieve these aims, product owners perform the following activities in Scrum:

  • Set product goals
  • Ensure that the product backlog is stocked with clearly expressed items that help reach the product goal
  • Order the backlog
  • Regularly update and refine the backlog together with the developers
  • Collect feedback from users, customers, and stakeholders on the product increments
  • Agree on sprint goals with the developers.

In addition to the activities above, product owners also carry out product discovery and strategy work. This includes creating and updating a product strategy and roadmap and measuring how much value the product creates using key performance indicators (KPIs).

Product Owner Desirable Qualities:

Great product owners are empowered, knowledgeable, empathetic, available, and decisive.

Related Article: 7 Skills You Need to Be a Great Product Owner

Developer Role & Accountabilities

Scrum Role Name:

Developer (or team member). The ideal size for a development team is between 3 and 9 people, not including the scrum master and product owner. Any smaller and the team couldn’t accomplish enough each sprint. Any larger and communication becomes complex and cumbersome. 

Scrum Developer Authority:

The developers decide how to accomplish the work set forth by the product owner.  

Scrum Developer Responsibility:

Teams of developers are structured and empowered to organize and plan how to accomplish their work at an agreed upon level of quality—the definition of done. Developers work together to accomplish the sprint goal, checking in with each other at least daily to inspect and adapt their plan. 

Scrum Developer Tasks:

To achieve these aims, developers perform the following activities:

Developer Desirable Qualities:

Great teams of developers have the following characteristics:

  • Self-organizing. The developers decide how to turn product backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality;

  • Cross-functional. Together, the developers have all the skills necessary to create a product increment;

  • One-team mentality. Scrum assigns no titles to development team members, regardless of the work being performed by the person. There are also no sub-teams among the developers, regardless of domains that need to be addressed like testing, architecture, operations, or business analysis. ​Individual development team members may have specialized skills and areas of focus, but accountability belongs to the development team as a whole.

Related Article: High-Performance Teams: Why the 'Who' Matters Less

Scrum Master Role & Accountabilities

Scrum Role Name:

Scrum master. Master is used here to mean  "an artist, performer, or player of consummate ... skill," as scrum masters should know scrum well enough to help others understand it and do it well; and also work towards continuousy improving their mastery of scrum.

Scrum Master Authority:

Scrum masters hold the scrum team accountable to their working agreements, scrum values, and to the scrum framework itself.

Scrum Master Responsibility:

The scrum master helps the scrum team perform at their highest level. They also protect the team from both internal and external distractions. 

Scrum Master Tasks:

To achieve these aims, scrum masters perform the following activities:

  • Coach: Facilitate meetings, conversations, and improvements.

    • Ensure that the goals, scope, and product domain are understood by everyone on the scrum team as well as possible;

    • Find techniques for effective product backlog management;

    • Help the scrum team understand product backlog items;

    • Ensure the product owner knows how to arrange the product backlog to maximize value;

    • Facilitate scrum events as requested or needed.

  • Protector: Run interference so the team can remain focused.

    • Remove impediments to the team’s progress;
    • Coach the team in organizational environments in which scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.
  • Leader: Lead without authority and puts the team first. 

    • Coach the developers in self-organization and cross-functionality;

    • Leading and coaching the organization in its scrum adoption;

  • Advocate: Reinforce agile principles throughout the organization.

    • Understand and practice agility; 

    • Plan scrum implementations within the organization;
    • Help employees and stakeholders learn more about scrum and enact it;

    • Work with other scrum masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

Related Article: A Day in the Life of a Scrum Master

Scrum Master Desirable Qualities 

Entire books have been written on what makes a great scrum master, but most experts generally agree on the following: 

  • Humble. Credits the team, not themselves.

  • Respectful. Treat others as whole, creative, and purposeful beings with positive intent.

  • Empathetic. Listens to understand. Is comfortable with silence.

  • Persuasive. Works to remove impediments throughout the organization.

  • Connected. Knows who to talk to (or finds out) to solve problems and resolve issues.


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