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What is the Difference Between Scrum Master and SAFe Scrum Master?

Updated: Apr 13

"Scrum is not a methodology, but an empirical framework for managing work." - Jeff Sutherland


History of Scrum

The term Scrum was first introduced by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka based on their research for finding better ways for product development in their 1986 Harvard Business Review article, 'The New New Product Development Game'.

In the early 1990s, his company, Advanced Development Methods Ken Schwaber used farmwork which is now known as Scrum. Dr Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales and Jeff McKenna also used a similar framework at Easel Corporation, and called it Scrum.

To take their ideas to next step Dr Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber worked together and created a single framework, which we today know as Scrum.

Schwaber with others founded the Scrum Alliance in 2002 and created Certified Scrumaccreditation series. Ken Schwaber 2009 founded Scrum.org which oversees the parallel Professional Scrum accreditation series.

Since 2009, a public document called The Scrum Guide is being published and updated by Ken Schwaber and Dr Jeff Sutherland. The latest and current version being November 2020.




The fundamental unit of scrum is a small team of people, consisting of a product owner, a scrum master, and developers. The team is self-managing, cross-functional and focuses on one objective at a time: the product goal.

Scrum in Scaled Agile Framework

In 2011 Dean Leffingwell created scaled agile framework (SAFe) and used Scrum framework with very few changes at team level and created a series of Scrum Master certification and Advanced Scrum Master Certification which covers concepts about Scrum and how the how it fits in the big picture for delivering value when multiple teams are working towards the same mission to develop a solution.

"SAFe ScrumXP is an Agile Team method used by Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to plan, execute, retrospect, and deliver customer value in a short time box. It combines the power of Scrum with Extreme Programming (XP) practices. " – From Scaledagileframework.com

Scrum Guide and Scaled Agile Framework both recommend the role of a Scrum Master as servant leader of the team. Scrum Master is a professional who removes all the obstacles that may arise during the Scrum process. They facilitate effective communication and collaboration between leadership and team members to ensure a successful outcome and are also responsible for ensuring that the team follows Scrum principles and practices. They facilitate meetings such as Sprint planning, Daily stand-ups, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospectives. They also handle the team and the organization implementing Scrum and Agile values, practices, and rules.

The two most popular frameworks that are used in Software development today are Scaled Agile and Scrum and are widely adopted by organizations of all sizes and industries because of their focus on delivering value to customers, collaborating with stakeholders, and continuously improving processes. However, as software development projects have become more complex and large-scale, organizations and when multiple teams are required to collaborate Scaled Agile plays a very vital role.

"SAFe is a comprehensive framework that integrates Agile, Lean, and DevOps to help organizations achieve enterprise agility." - Andy Noble, SAFe SPC, and Agile Coach

SAFe is a framework that uses Agile principles and practices for managing and executing large-scale software development projects. This framework (SAFe) is helpful for organizations in managing and coordinating efforts across multiple teams and departments and improving collaboration and communication throughout the development process. For planning, executing, and delivering software development projects SAFe provides a structured framework and is intended to be flexible and adaptable to the specific needs of different organizations.



Applying the Scrum Master Role within a SAFe Enterprise

An enterprise cannot deliver value at scale without effective teams. A Scrum Master is a mentor who aids the agile team in successfully understanding and practicing SAFe principles. The Scrum Master role facilitates the agile team's productive work by skillfully removing bottlenecks to progress.

You will acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to build and mentor an agile team in a SAFe Enterprise during this two-day SAFe Scrum Master course. You will gain knowledge of the fundamentals of the Scaled Agile Framework, including leading team ceremonies, rolling out Program Increments (PI), and establishing flow leveraging DevOps.

Unlike traditional Scrum Master training that focuses on the fundamentals of team-level Scrum, the SAFe® Scrum Master certification course focuses on the effect of the Scrum Master within the context of the entire SAFe® enterprise and equips you with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully plan and carry out the Program Increment (PI), which is the main method for achieving alignment at all levels of a SAFe® enterprise.

Although all the Scrum Certification training is mostly for two full days. Some of the topics that are covered in SAFe Scrum Master Certification is not covered in Certified Scrum Master or Professional Scrum Mater certification are as below.

  • Identify an Agile Team in the SAFe Enterprise Framework

  • Identify characteristics of high-performing teams

  • Discuss facilitating effective team events.

  • Coach the Agile Team using powerful questions.

  • Discuss techniques for team collaboration and conflict resolution.

  • Participate in a simulated Pl Planning event.

  • Create and review simulated draft Pl plans.

  • Review the simulated final plans.

  • Commit to a set of Pl Objectives

  • Participate in a simulated Pl Planning event.

  • Create and review simulated draft Pl plans.

  • Review the simulated final plans.

  • Commit to a set of Pl Objectives

  • Explore how to coach the IP Iteration

  • Discuss the 6 steps of the problem-solving workshop.

  • Discuss how to prepare the team for the Inspect and Adapt event.

  • Learn about the assets and resources available on the SAFe Community Platform.

  • Navigation to SAFe ART & Team Events page

  • Navigation to the Toolkits and Templates page

In SAFe Scrum Master training these above topics are covered which means that with SAFe there is an expectation that the Scrum Mater should not work only with their teams, but they have a program level and wider organization level responsibilities.

“A Scrum Master is like an orchestra conductor, guiding a group of individuals to create something that no one of them could create alone. —Mike Cohn

Conclusion:

The key difference between Agile Scrum Master and SAFe is the scale and scope of the application. Scrum is a methodology for small and cross-functional teams, on the other hand, SAFe is a framework that focuses on a comprehensive approach for enterprises to adopt Agile methodologies at scale. Both approaches aim to deliver value and ensure customer satisfaction, but SAFe provides a structured approach for organizations to achieve these goals, especially for large-scale and complex projects.

Ultimately, the choice between Agile Scrum Master and SAFe will depend on the specific needs and challenges of the organization, and its readiness and willingness to adopt a comprehensive Agile framework.



About Advance Agility


We, at Advance Agility, are the new-age Agile Coaching, Consulting, and IT services company. We enable end-to-end Digital Transformation. Agile execution is integral to our being. We are doing SAFe implementation with small, medium, and large organizations across the globe.

Our vision is to be the leading Agile execution player globally. To keep adding value at every process stage. We are on a mission to empower our clients and move from concept to cash in the shortest sustainable lead time by adopting the human-centric approach to business agility. Embracing change is in our DNA.

Things that keep us apart are Quicker and Seamless execution with End to end gamut of services. Our Global presence and Stellar Track Record give us an edge over our competitors.

Connect with us at advanceagility.com to learn about SAFe and SAFe implementation. Write to us at contact@advanceagility.com for any agile training or consulting needs. We are always looking for competent agile trainers as well. So if you are the one or want to become one, do get in touch with us to that we can learn, grow and achieve together.



About the Author:

Amogh is a seasoned professional with 15 years of experience in delivering solutions required in materializing customers' business strategies. He has a diverse background, having worked in multicultural environments across various geographical locations including the UAE, India, UK, Australia, Singapore, and Ireland.

Currently, he is working as Program Management for banking clients, where he is utilizing his expertise to develop cutting-edge solutions such as machine learning, payments (open banking), and mobile, using Agile, DevOps, Infrastructure, and Cloud technologies. He is able to effectively manage complex projects and provide efficient solutions that align with the customer's business strategies.

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