The Roles and Responsibilities of a SAFe Scrum Master

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, organizations strive to adapt and stay ahead of the competition. This is where Agile methodologies, such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), come into play.

Within the SAFe framework, Scrum Masters play a crucial role in ensuring Agile teams’ success. This blog post aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the SAFe Scrum Master’s roles and responsibilities and how they differ from traditional Scrum Masters.

We’ll also discuss the skills and competencies to look for in a SAFe Scrum Master and how to become one.

What is SAFe?

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a set of organizational and workflow patterns for implementing Agile practices on a large scale.

It provides guidance for scaling Agile across multiple teams and levels of an organization, helping create a more cohesive and efficient workflow.

SAFe aims to address the challenges faced by large enterprises when adopting Agile methodologies, ensuring better alignment, collaboration, and delivery of value.

What is a SAFe Scrum Master?

The SAFe Scrum Master is a key role within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which is designed to help large organizations scale Agile practices across multiple teams and complex products.

SAFe Scrum Masters are responsible for facilitating Scrum events, coaching their teams on Agile and SAFe principles, and ensuring effective collaboration and alignment within the larger SAFe context.

A SAFe Scrum Master is a change agent and servant leader who helps Agile teams adopt and improve SAFe practices while ensuring the smooth execution of the Scrum process.

They work closely with the team, Product Owner, and other stakeholders to facilitate communication, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

The SAFe Scrum Master plays a crucial role in creating high-performing Agile teams and driving the organization’s Agile transformation at scale.

What are the SAFe Scrum Master Roles?

SAFe Scrum Masters wear many hats, encompassing various roles essential to the success of Agile teams. Some of these roles include:

1. Team-level Scrum Master

At the team level, the SAFe Scrum Master focuses on individual Agile teams, ensuring they follow Scrum practices and ceremonies correctly. They facilitate Daily Stand-ups, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective meetings.

2. Program-level Scrum Master

At the program level, SAFe Scrum Masters collaborate with other Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Agile Release Train (ART) stakeholders to ensure alignment and effective communication across teams. They also facilitate the Program Increment (PI) Planning event.

3. Change Agent

As a change agent, the SAFe Scrum Master helps drive the organization’s Agile transformation by fostering a culture of continuous improvement and promoting Agile values and principles.

4. Servant Leader

The SAFe Scrum Master acts as a servant leader, supporting and coaching the Agile team to achieve their goals and remove any impediments they might face.

What are the SAFe Scrum Master Responsibilities?

A SAFe Scrum Master has a wide array of responsibilities, which can be grouped into several key areas. Here, we provide a more in-depth explanation of these responsibilities:

1. Facilitating Scrum Ceremonies

The SAFe Scrum Master ensures that all Scrum events are conducted effectively and efficiently:

  • Daily Stand-up: Facilitate daily team meetings to discuss progress, identify roadblocks, and foster collaboration.
  • Sprint Planning: Lead the team in defining the sprint goals and selecting the work items to be completed during the sprint.
  • Sprint Review: Facilitate the demonstration of completed work to stakeholders, gather feedback, and update the product backlog accordingly.
  • Sprint Retrospective: Lead the team in reflecting on the Sprint, identifying areas of improvement, and creating a plan to address these areas in the upcoming Sprint.
  • Backlog Refinement: Assist the Product Owner and the team in refining the Product Backlog, ensuring that work items are well-defined, prioritized, and estimated.

2. Understanding and Applying SAFe Principles

SAFe Scrum Masters need to have a deep understanding of the SAFe principles and be able to apply them in their daily work:

  • Lean-Agile Mindset: Embrace and promote the Lean-Agile mindset throughout the team and organization, helping others understand and adopt these values.
  • SAFe Practices: Support the team in applying SAFe-specific practices, such as Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) for prioritization or participating in Agile Release Train (ART) events.

3. Managing Dependencies and Coordination

In a SAFe environment, Scrum Masters must manage dependencies and coordinate with other teams on the Agile Release Train (ART):

  • Dependency Management: Identify and track dependencies between work items and teams, collaborating with other Scrum Masters to address these dependencies and ensure smooth execution.
  • Cross-Team Collaboration: Facilitate communication and collaboration between the Agile team and other teams on the ART, ensuring that all teams are aligned and working together effectively.

4. Participating in SAFe Ceremonies and Events

SAFe Scrum Masters should actively participate in and contribute to SAFe-specific ceremonies and events:

  • Pre-PI and Post-PI Planning: Work with the Product Owner, Release Train Engineer (RTE), and other stakeholders to prepare for Program Increment (PI) planning and post-PI planning activities, ensuring the team is ready to contribute effectively.
  • Inspect and Adapt (I&A) Workshop: Participate in the I&A workshops conducted at the end of each PI, collaborating with the team and RTE to identify improvement opportunities and create a plan to address them.
  • Community of Practice (CoP) Meetings: Engage in Scrum Master CoP meetings and other relevant CoPs to share knowledge, learn from peers, and drive continuous improvement across the organization.

5. Supporting Value Stream Coordination

In organizations that implement SAFe at the Large Solution or Portfolio level, Scrum Masters may need to support coordination across multiple value streams:

  • Value Stream Collaboration: Facilitate communication and alignment between the Agile team and other teams within the same value stream, ensuring a smooth flow of work and value delivery.
  • Solution Train Events: Participate in Solution Train events, such as Solution Increment (SI) planning, to help the team align their work with the broader organization’s objectives and strategy.

6. Promoting DevOps and Continuous Delivery

SAFe Scrum Masters should encourage the team to embrace DevOps practices and work toward continuous delivery of value:

  • DevOps Culture: Foster a culture of collaboration between development and operations, working to break down silos and promote shared responsibility for delivering value.
  • Continuous Delivery Pipeline: Support the team in building and improving their continuous delivery pipeline, ensuring effective integration, testing, deployment, and release processes.

7. Coaching and Mentoring

Help the Agile team and the organization adopt and improve SAFe practices:

  • Agile Practices: Coach the team on Agile principles, practices, and techniques, such as Scrum, Kanban, or XP (eXtreme Programming).
  • Continuous Improvement: Encourage the team to regularly reflect on their performance and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Cross-functional Collaboration: Foster a culture of collaboration within the team, ensuring that team members work together effectively and share knowledge and skills.
  • Product Owner Support: Coach the Product Owner in their role, helping them manage the product backlog, define user stories, and prioritize work items.

8. Removing Impediments

Actively identify and address any obstacles or impediments that might hinder the team’s progress:

  • Problem-Solving: Apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to find solutions to challenges faced by the team.
  • Escalation: When necessary, escalate issues to the appropriate stakeholders or higher-level management to ensure timely resolution.
  • Risk Management: Monitor the project for potential risks and work with the team to develop mitigation strategies.

9. Shielding the Team

Protect the team from external distractions and interruptions, enabling them to focus on delivering high-quality increments of value:

  • Managing Stakeholder Expectations: Communicate with stakeholders to clarify expectations and ensure that they do not disrupt the team’s work.
  • Maintaining Focus: Keep the team focused on their Sprint Goals, discouraging multitasking or scope changes during the sprint.

10. Promoting Collaboration

Enhance communication and collaboration within the Agile team and between the team and other stakeholders:

  • Facilitating Communication: Ensure clear and open communication channels within the team and with stakeholders.
  • Conflict Resolution: Address conflicts within the team or between team members and stakeholders, facilitating constructive resolution.

11. Ensuring Continuous Improvement

Facilitate the team’s continuous improvement efforts:

  • Metrics and Reporting: Track and report team performance metrics to help identify areas for improvement and monitor progress.
  • Inspect and Adapt: Encourage the team to regularly evaluate their practices and processes, identifying and implementing improvements.

12. Contributing to the Agile Release Train (ART)

Collaborate with other Scrum Masters, Release Train Engineers (RTEs), and ART stakeholders to ensure alignment and effective communication across teams:

  • Program Increment (PI) Planning: Participate in and facilitate the PI planning event, helping the team define their objectives and plan their work for the upcoming increment.
  • Scrum of Scrums: Attend and contribute to Scrum of Scrums meetings, sharing updates on the team’s progress and collaborating with other Scrum Masters to address cross-team dependencies or impediments.
  • ART Sync: Engage in regular communication with the Release Train Engineer and other ART stakeholders, ensuring alignment and collaboration at the program level.

13. Team Dynamics and Performance

SAFe Scrum Masters are responsible for fostering healthy team dynamics and monitoring the team’s performance:

  • Team Building: Facilitate team bonding activities and promote a positive team culture, helping team members build trust and work effectively together.
  • Individual Development: Support the professional growth of team members, providing guidance and mentoring as needed.
  • Performance Monitoring: Continuously assess the team’s performance, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and collaborating with the team to make improvements.

14. Ensuring Quality and Technical Excellence

SAFe Scrum Masters need to encourage the team to focus on quality and technical excellence while delivering value:

  • Definition of Done: Help the team establish and maintain a clear Definition of Done, ensuring that all work increments meet quality standards.
  • Technical Practices: Support the team in adopting and improving technical practices, such as Test-Driven Development (TDD), Continuous Integration (CI), and Continuous Deployment (CD).
  • Code Quality: Encourage the team to maintain high-quality code by conducting regular code reviews, addressing technical debt, and implementing coding standards.

15. Working with Distributed Teams

In organizations with distributed or remote teams, SAFe Scrum Masters need to adapt their communication and collaboration strategies to support effective teamwork:

  • Virtual Collaboration: Utilize virtual collaboration tools and techniques to ensure clear communication and collaboration among team members, regardless of their location.
  • Time Zone Management: Schedule Scrum events and meetings to accommodate team members in different time zones, ensuring that everyone can participate effectively.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Foster an inclusive team environment by being aware of and sensitive to cultural differences and adapting communication styles accordingly.

16. Supporting Organizational Change

SAFe Scrum Masters contribute to the organization’s Agile transformation by promoting Agile principles and practices at all levels of the organization:

  • Change Advocacy: Act as an advocate for Agile and SAFe practices throughout the organization, sharing the benefits and successes achieved by the Agile team.
  • Training and Education: Support the organization’s Agile training and education initiatives, helping to develop and deliver training materials, workshops, or coaching sessions.
  • Organizational Alignment: Collaborate with other Scrum Masters, Agile Release Train (ART) stakeholders, and leadership to align Agile practices across the organization and drive continuous improvement at the enterprise level.

SAFe Scrum Master vs Scrum Master

While both SAFe Scrum Masters and traditional Scrum Masters share the core responsibility of facilitating Scrum events and coaching their teams on Agile practices, there are some key differences between the two roles.

These differences primarily arise from the context in which they operate: SAFe Scrum Masters work within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which is designed to scale Agile practices to large organizations with multiple teams and complex products.

Here are the main differences between SAFe Scrum Masters and traditional Scrum Masters:

1. Framework and Principles:

  • Scrum Master: Focuses on Scrum principles, practices, and ceremonies, guiding the team to follow the Scrum framework effectively.
  • SAFe Scrum Master: In addition to Scrum principles, practices, and ceremonies, the SAFe Scrum Master needs to understand and apply the SAFe principles and practices to scale Agile across multiple teams and levels of the organization.

2. Team Coordination and Collaboration

  • Scrum Master: Primarily focuses on facilitating communication and collaboration within a single Scrum team.
  • SAFe Scrum Master: Facilitates communication and collaboration not only within the team but also with other teams on the Agile Release Train (ART), participating in Scrum of Scrums meetings and addressing cross-team dependencies.

3. Ceremonies and Events:

  • Scrum Master: Leads and facilitates standard Scrum events, such as Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-ups, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.
  • SAFe Scrum Master: Participates in and facilitates SAFe-specific ceremonies and events in addition to standard Scrum events, such as Program Increment (PI) Planning, Inspect and Adapt (I&A) Workshops, and Community of Practice (CoP) meetings.

4. Alignment with Organizational Objectives

  • Scrum Master: Ensures that the team’s work is aligned with the goals and priorities of the Product Owner and the Product Backlog.
  • SAFe Scrum Master: Ensures alignment not only with the team’s Product Owner and backlog but also with the larger program and portfolio objectives within the SAFe framework, working closely with Release Train Engineers (RTEs) and other stakeholders.

5. DevOps and Continuous Delivery

  • Scrum Master: Encourages the team to adopt Agile engineering practices and may support the team in adopting DevOps practices to some extent.
  • SAFe Scrum Master: Actively promotes DevOps practices and the continuous delivery of value, working with the team to build and improve their continuous delivery pipeline and foster a culture of collaboration between development and operations.

6. Organizational Change Management

  • Scrum Master: Supports the team’s Agile transformation and may contribute to the broader organizational change by sharing the team’s successes and challenges.
  • SAFe Scrum Master: Plays a more active role in driving organizational change, participating in Agile Release Train (ART) events, and collaborating with other Scrum Masters, Agile coaches, and leadership to align Agile practices across the organization and drive continuous improvement at the enterprise level.

SAFe Scrum Master Required Skills and Competencies

As a SAFe Scrum Master, there are skills and competencies that are required to be effective in carrying out the role and delivering the responsibilities. These include:

  1. Strong Agile and Scrum Knowledge: A thorough understanding of Agile principles and the Scrum framework is essential for a SAFe Scrum Master.
  2. Excellent Communication and Interpersonal Skills: They must be able to communicate effectively with team members, stakeholders, and other Scrum Masters.
  3. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: SAFe Scrum Masters need to identify and resolve impediments quickly, requiring strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  4. Servant Leadership: Being a servant leader means putting the needs of the team first and supporting their growth and development.
  5. Adaptability: As change agents, SAFe Scrum Masters must be adaptable to changing situations and be able to guide the team through them.
  6. Conflict Resolution: They should be skilled in handling and resolving conflicts within the team and between team members and stakeholders.
  7. Coaching and Mentoring: SAFe Scrum Masters must be effective coaches and mentors, helping team members improve their skills and knowledge.

Challenges Faced by SAFe Scrum Masters

SAFe Scrum Masters can encounter various impediments and challenges while supporting their Agile teams and driving the organization’s Agile transformation. Some common impediments include:

  1. Resistance to Change: One of the most significant challenges is resistance to change from team members, stakeholders, or the organization as a whole. This resistance may stem from a lack of understanding of Agile principles or fear of the unknown.
  2. Organizational Silos: In large organizations, functional silos can hinder collaboration and communication between Agile teams and other departments. SAFe Scrum Masters need to break down these barriers to foster a more collaborative environment.
  3. Inadequate Resources: Agile teams may face resource constraints, such as insufficient team members, tools, or time, which can impede their progress.
  4. Lack of Empowerment: Agile teams need to be empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Bureaucratic processes or hierarchical structures can impede this empowerment, leading to reduced team autonomy and decision-making abilities.
  5. Poorly Defined Roles and Responsibilities: Unclear or overlapping roles and responsibilities within the Agile team can lead to confusion and inefficiencies, making it difficult for the team to function effectively.
  6. Technical Debt: Accumulation of technical debt, such as unresolved defects or outdated technology, can slow down the team’s progress and negatively impact their ability to deliver high-quality increments of value.
  7. Ineffective Communication: Poor communication within the team or between the team and stakeholders can lead to misunderstandings, misaligned priorities, and unmet expectations.
  8. Lack of Continuous Improvement: Agile teams must continuously improve their processes and practices, but without a culture of continuous improvement or regular feedback loops, they may struggle to identify and address areas for growth.

As a SAFe Scrum Master, it’s essential to proactively identify and address these impediments, ensuring that your Agile teams can continue to deliver value and contribute to the organization’s overall Agile transformation.

How to Become a SAFe Scrum Master

If you’re interested in becoming a SAFe Scrum Master, here are some steps to help you on your journey:

  1. Learn Agile and Scrum: Start by gaining a solid understanding of Agile principles and the Scrum framework. There are numerous resources available, such as books, online courses, and workshops.
  2. Gain Experience: Get hands-on experience working as a Scrum Master or member of an Agile team. This will help you build your skills and knowledge in a practical setting.
  3. Get Certified: Obtain relevant certifications, such as the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) from the Scrum Alliance or the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) from Scrum.org. These certifications demonstrate your proficiency in Scrum and Agile practices.
  4. Learn SAFe: To become a SAFe Scrum Master, you’ll need to learn about the Scaled Agile Framework. Take a SAFe course, such as the Leading SAFe or Implementing SAFe, to gain an understanding of SAFe principles and practices.
  5. Obtain the SAFe Scrum Master Certification: The SAFe Scrum Master certification, offered by Scaled Agile Inc., validates your knowledge and expertise in SAFe Scrum Master roles and responsibilities. To obtain this certification, you’ll need to attend a SAFe Scrum Master course and pass the certification exam.
  6. Network and Learn from Others: Connect with other SAFe Scrum Masters and Agile professionals to learn from their experiences and share your own. Attend Agile conferences, workshops, and meetups to develop your network and gain new insights.


The SAFe Scrum Master is a critical role in the successful implementation of the Scaled Agile Framework.

By understanding their roles and responsibilities, organizations can better support their Agile teams and drive their Agile transformation efforts.

SAFe Scrum Masters must possess a unique set of skills and competencies, including strong Agile and Scrum knowledge, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and a commitment to servant leadership.

Becoming a SAFe Scrum Master requires dedication and a willingness to learn and grow in your Agile journey.

By following the steps outlined in this post, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful SAFe Scrum Master and making a positive impact on your organization’s Agile transformation.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified project manager professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced project managers and product developers the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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