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What are some of the biggest challenges a Scrum Master faces?

The biggest challenge you will face as a Scrum Master is justifying why you are on the team and why you are earning the salary that you do.

The role of a Scrum Master includes coaching teams to become self-organising and autonomous. You are actively involved in helping the team make great decisions and excel within the organisation.

Ironically, the better you become at your core responsibility of creating great teams that are creative and collaborative, the harder it becomes for others to understand your role.

You’ll actively be asked the question, why are you’re here? You’ll actively be asked to justify what it is that your job consists of and what it is that you contribute to the team.


Because Scrum Masters don’t act as traditional project managers. They aren’t responsible for delivery nor are they actively driving the team forward as a project manager might attempt to do in a waterfall project management environment.

So how do you overcome this challenge?

Let me ask you this. Can you imagine an elite level athlete or team that doesn’t have a coach?

Andy Murray once made international news because he had sacked his coach and didn’t immediately have a replacement coach.

In the world of sports and high-performance teams, it is inconceivable that the team are able to achieve their full potential without the support of a great coach or manager.

Scrum Teams are no different.

A Scrum Master coaches the scrum team toward continuous improvement and strives to help the team create an environment where everybody can excel.

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson was not the best footballer on the field and nor was he responsible for directly scoring goals in every game, a Scrum Master is not involved in actively building the product or feature, nor are they responsible for delivering items from the backlog.

They are coaches. They are teachers. They are mentors.

It is their job to help the team improve through continuous inspect and adapt techniques, and to tap into Agile values and principles to help the team achieve the best outcome they are capable of at the end of each sprint.

It is a role that embraces continuous improvement and overcoming impediments to progress at each turn.

Each scrum master works in a unique environment with unique challenges, both internal and external to the scrum team. It is an exhilarating role that means you have your sleeves rolled up and are right at the coal face of product development.

You must be 100% engaged, and you must have your finger on the team pulse.

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson had to plan for each game that lay ahead and use his vast experience as a coach to best prepare his team for the next game, a Scrum Master does exactly the same thing.

They are deeply invested in continuous learning and self-improvement, and many scrum masters have coaches and mentors who help them become the best version of a scrum master they can be.

Just as their team rely on having a great coach, a great scrum master and agile coach will also invest in their own coaching and mentoring teams to help them master their craft.

As a scrum master you are going to be listening to your team, asking questions, challenging their conventional thinking, and you are going to be observing the team throughout each sprint.

You are going to pay close attention to the areas where there are bottlenecks and where the team unravels during high-pressure circumstances and situations.

It’s your job to make these observations and actively seek remedies for these impediments and bottlenecks. It’s your job to coach the team to the best of your ability so that they can tap into their deep expertise and uncover or create a solution to the problem they face.

Whilst a lot of scrum masters do have significant experience in technical environments, it isn’t their job or role to know all of the answers. Instead, they work with talented professionals to examine the problem more closely and develop solutions that benefit the team.

This is the heart of coaching. Asking questions. Listening closely. Helping others to discover the best options and actions they are capable of to address the problem or opportunity at hand.

If you like the idea of becoming a Scrum Master, visit our Certified Scrum Master course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to level up, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to certify and validate your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page.

If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Agile Coach Academy.

If you have identified coaching as a valuable skill set to develop, visit our on-demand Introduction to Coaching course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit