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.
Let's look more closely at each role.
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.
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."
To achieve these aims, product owners perform the following activities in Scrum:
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).
Great product owners are empowered, knowledgeable, empathetic, available, and decisive.
Related Article: 7 Skills You Need to Be a Great Product Owner
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.
The developers decide how to accomplish the work set forth by the product owner.
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.
To achieve these aims, developers perform the following activities:
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. 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 masters hold the scrum team accountable to their working agreements, scrum values, and to the scrum framework itself.
The scrum master helps the scrum team perform at their highest level. They also protect the team from both internal and external distractions.
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.
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;
Help employees and stakeholders learn more about scrum and enact it;
Related Article: A Day in the Life of a Scrum Master
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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