Warning: Being a Scrum Master is Not For Everyone

10 March, 2018

#WhyShaiWhy [Videos] Agile Management Scrum

A Scrum Master is best known as a ‘Troublemaker’ and ‘Negative Nancy’.  If your Scrum Master is neither of those things, check if they’re doing their job!

The Scrum Guide outlines a very interesting responsibility of the Scrum Master’s role:

“Causing change that increases the productivity of the team”.

On the surface, this seems pretty innocuous; but in reality, there is nothing innocuous about this responsibility. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is one of the most challenging aspects of the Scrum Master’s role. In this one sentence, the Scrum Master is bestowed with the responsibility to:

  1. Establish a need for organisational change,
  2. Implement that change,
  3. Track its progress, and
  4. Make adjustments to head in the direction of success.

That is A LOT to ask of a Scrum Master!

This tends to put the Scrum Master in a very volatile position. It makes them become a bit of a troublemaker; they tend to be the people going around looking for problems!

In the few instances that I have seen a Scrum Master excel in their role, they have set very clear boundaries as to their role in the organisation. These boundaries often see them acting more in a consulting capacity rather than an employee. They are the ultimate Internal External!

Being in this position is not for everyone. It means people won’t like you very much. It means you will be spearheading change. It means that you will be the person on the outside…all.of.the.time.

“A Scrum Master should not collude”

I recently heard a very interesting quote from an agile coach. She said “A Scrum Master should not collude”.

This was an interesting perspective to the same issue. “Collusion” seems to suggest something hinky is happening between two parties, almost in secret to benefit them but not others. I’m not sure if that is the right word, but it does seem to suggest one thing: The Scrum Master is no one’s confidant. It’s a lonely role (much like the CEO), but it has a very specific reason for this: to effect change.

How to create an effective Scrum Master role

There a few ways an organisation can ensure that a Scrum Master continues to be impactful:

  1. Actually use an external consultant
  2. Bring in a Scrum Master from outside of the Scrum Team (and swap)
  3. Make the Scrum Master role a roving one.


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