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Scrum Master is a Teacher, Mentor, Facilitator and Coach. What’s the difference?

what does a scrum master do

You might have heard this phrase before the scrum master wears many hats. In fact Michael James has a checklist of 42 tasks that a scrum master does.

The four primary hats the scrum master wears are of a teacher, mentor, facilitator and coach.

A good Scrum Master switches between these hats at different times as needed by the Developers, Product Owner and Organization. Let’s explore the differences between these four.


As a teacher one shares knowledge from books. As a teacher/trainer, in my classes I teach scrum from the scrum guide. When I work for an organization, I teach product owners and organizations how scrum works, what are expected roles, how can the organization make scrum teams successful, etc. I am teaching, I am actively sharing.


A Mentor shares his or her experience.  As I was working towards being a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®)with Scrum Alliance I was co-training with several other world class trainers. They observed my behaviors and shared their experience on how to overcome things that I should improve on and things I should do more of. As an Executive Director in one of the world’s largest bank, I was frequently approached by Associates and Vice Presidents who wanted to navigate their careers, get promoted and work towards meaningful work in the bank. I mentored them and shared my stories on how I worked towards my role. Again in this hat the mentor is actively sharing.


A Facilitator that makes it easy for groups to make decisions. The facilitator is a neutral party, he or she does not have any say in the decision. In my years of being a manager, trainer, coach, presenter I have used several facilitation techniques, roman voting, dot voting, fist to five, 33 techniques from liberating structures, techniques from innovation games and so many more to help my stakeholders, product owners, developers and my students come together and make decisions.


Coaching is changing behavior of the coachee. The Coachee comes up with their own answers in a session with the coach. The coach uses techniques like active listening and asking powerful questions to guide the coachee.  In 2018, my friend Linda Fung and I were chosen to deliver a workshop for the Agile conference in San Diego. Typically these conferences have 200 people attending one session. There are multiple sessions at the same time.  I was particularly nervous, I had previously being in workshops with 50 to 100 participants, but how do I ensure that I can engage each and every participant when I have 200 people in the room. I remember the beautiful hotel, a great swimming pool area, its hot and sunny, everyone is enjoying in the pool or in the bar. Linda and I are standing in front of a laptop on one of the tables outside and practicing speaking through our slides. We see someone stop by and notice its Lyssa Adkins. Lyssa is Coach of Agile Coaches. Her book “Coaching Agile Teams” is one of the best books on Agile Coaching.

Lyssa stops by and ask us what we are doing? We tell her.

Lyssa observes us and probes further, “What will make you better prepared?” I share that although we have delivered this workshop several times but never to the a larger audience.

Lyssa continues to probe and asks us “What are you planning to do to engage a larger audience?” We share our ideas.

Lyssa then asks us “Why are we doing this?” We share that we have experienced issues at work and we would like other teams to not go through the same failures”.

Going through these line of questioning and discussions we come to the conclusion that we are doing this workshop to bring “Joy to Teams”. Lyssa asks us to pen this in large letters on a flip chart and then put it up when we deliver the workshop, and suggested we look at the flip chart whenever we feel nervous while we deliver the workshop. We did that. The workshop was a huge success.

What did Lyssa do? She observed us, observed the environment and asked us powerful questions. Powerful questions start with a “what”, “why”, “how”. They cannot be answered with a yes or no. This prompted us to come up with our own answers.  The coach is a neutral party and guides the coaches towards their own answer.

What can you add about the four hats of a Scrum Master? Share your comments and feedback.


  1. Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins
  2. Co-active coaching by Hnery Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Philip Sandahl, etc.
  3. Skilled Facilitator – Roger Schwarz
  4. Facilitator’s guide to participatory decision making – Sam Kaner


Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon

The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance,, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.

The Concepts & Beyond blog is a free suite of articles and videos packaged in tiny chunks. You will learn or refine your knowledge and skills to help your team and organization be effective. When you want to take your knowledge further, we invite you to join us for our  Certified ScrumMaster(CSM),  Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified DevOps Engineering Foundations (DOEF) and Training from the Back of The Room courses across the USA and Canada.

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