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The Scrum Master Paradox

Gabriel Barbur
Gabriel Barbur
Scrum Master & Agile Coach

John Lennon once said: “Don’t hate what you don’t understand.” Yet even if you try to understand, the role and existence of the Scrum Master are provocative topics. Starting with the name and going through to the most elaborated definition, the shape and substance of this new character is an opportunity to debate.

Mentor, Coach, Repeat

Etymologically speaking, Scrum refers to a rugby play formation where the team gets together to achieve a common goal by taking the game rules to a state of the art synchronous movement. A Master originally refers to a person with control and authority over others. So how did these two opposite terms get into one name?

Mastering Scrum sounds like a powerful skill, yet the road to becoming a Scrum Master is sometimes brutally short. Taking the official path means a two-day-workshop that ends with an online test that gives you the Scrum Master certification (and more).

Once you get hold of the certification and you dig for more you almost always get to something that basically says: ‘Scrum is easy to learn and very difficult to master’. But you are already the master, aren’t you?!

With the role flourishing and the team running at full speed, it is the Scrum Master’s duty to empower the team and leave to find another quest. But why would you like to break an engagement that works so well?

There’s no official resource out there that states the Scrum Master should leave the team once it becomes mature enough, yet we need to keep in mind that when you go from Mentor to Coach (which any good Scrum Master will need to do at some point for a team) there is clearly a need to take a step back. Once you take one, two or three steps back there is an inherent question that arises: What should the Scrum Master do next?

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master’s role is to ensure the team’s cohesiveness, build trust, and empower its members to act as a self-organized unit. If you need help recruiting the best Scrum Master for your team, contact us.

As soon as the team starts running at full speed and everything is executed according to the plan, it is the Scrum Master’s duty to empower the team and leave to find another quest.

The Mystery Behind the Role of the Scrum Master

Going into the role definition, we will find out that Scrum Master is a leadership role. Nothing new here, we are used to having leaders and there are ways to identify a person who can showcase skills needed to become one. Another look at the definition and we notice that the leader is actually a servant.

If we start digging deeper into the topic, the image of a democratic leader will catch our attention. It is a representative of the people, someone who puts others before his/her personal interests and this person is ready to lend a hand.

Do people choose this job for the servant part or for the leader part?

Agile seems quite simple, so it makes you wonder if this is the normal way of working. What is so special about it?

People and interactions over processes and tools is a statement that somehow restores confidence in the human ascendant over any other processing artifact in the world. This is until you meet someone that works in a Scrum team and ask him what a Scrum Master does all day. Most of the answers I got are related to:

  • updating indicators;

  • maintaining process tools;

  • providing reports to the team and also to the external stakeholders etc.

Could this mean the Scrum Master is the least Agile member of the team? Well…

The Journey of Finding the best Scrum Master

When you need a job to be done properly & thoroughly, you usually go to someone with a baggage of experience.

While searching for a great Scrum Master, the ability to organize people around the common goal is a crucial feature. It sounds like a special role in the team that relies heavily on soft skills, so candidates might take on this opportunity to rocket launch their careers. Considering the complexity of soft skills, what is the best way to assess them?

  • Finding someone with experience in this domain is important in order to get assistance and drive in making that switch to the Agile mindset.

  • The Scrum Master is an important position within your company.

  • Scrum can show its full potential for teams that act like one, so putting someone new there and asking this person to lead the way will be a challenge for everyone involved in this process.

Building trust and helping a team become highly efficient makes the Scrum Master an important member, a member with equal rights and a clear purpose: someone that protects the team and creates an environment that is not highly affected by external factors.

It’s easy to hate something you don’t understand, but let’s apply the same logic when we don’t understand why others hate/ignore Scrum Masters. There is a lot of reading material out there and it’s clear that definitions are not exact science subjects. Build your own Scrum Master profile depending on the specific needs you might have. One thing to remember is to draw this profile within the boundaries of Agile and then promote it for what it is not for what others expect it to be.

 

To recruit key resources (Scrum Masters, Product Owners, architects, lead developers, etc.) or assess the IT skills of your current or future employees, contact us.

We are able to provide custom recruitment and testing services that best match your business growth strategy (dedicated teams, technical consultants, freelance profiles, and more).

 

Get a broader understanding of Scrum & Agile methodologies:

Agile Transformation: Connecting the Dots of a 2 year Transition to Agile Best Practices

Agile Methodology: 4 Ways to Set your Project up for Success

Comparison of Agile Frameworks: SAFe, LeSS, Nexus


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