Working with a variety of clients over the years I’ve consistently observed the mis-understanding of the Scrum master role. Broadly speaking it’s commonly devalued and seen as something that can be done on the side, in additional to another role.
As a result there’s a constant demand to clarify and justify what the scrum master is there for and the value that they add. Out of curiosity I recently posed a question on LinkedIn to gauge feedback from the community.
It rapidly generated over 50 comments including some excellent links, some consistent themes and a great conversation. I love our community!
The original post and full comments can be found here, but this article summarises the nuts and bolts of it.
The question asked was:
Scrum masters – When challenged on where you spend your time outside of scrum events and helping resolve blockers – What do you say?
The key themes were:
- There’s too much focus on ‘the mechanics’ of facilitating the scrum events as these are easiest to observe, however this is merely one aspect of a complex role
- Focussing on outcomes (i.e. helping to delivering a vision with a clear ‘why’ and testing / observing the impact on users and customers) rather than outputs (working through a list of jobs to be done)
- Helping individuals / teams / departments to understand the shift in focus from output to outcomes
- There is always something that can be improved for an individual, team, organisation or yourself
But the real breakdown can be found in some existing articles the community regularly refer to:
- The scrum master checklist
- The 42 tasks of a scrum master
- So you’re a scrum master
- Another that may be useful in understanding the range of softer skills is the Scrum master self-assessment radar
The other key discussion points:
- It’s important to remember that when the question is asked it’s often born out of genuine curiosity rather than judgement
- It’s typically not until people have had a direct experience of working with an experienced Scrum master that they appreciate the nuances and complexity of the role
To wrap this up – if you ask any experienced agile practitioner they don’t hesitate in answering this question with an emphatic YES! Scrum mastering is a full time job. You might even get a tired look from even being asked (again).
Bottom line – Diluting the responsibilities and the time available to do any role reduces the value it is designed to bring. So don’t. Empower people to focus and fulfil the job (singular) you are asking them to do.
I hope that sharing the insights from the community was useful but as always please feel free to comment, share your own opinion and add your thoughts below.