It is always great to see successful Agile projects come to fruition. When the project is done, team members disband and move on to the next project. Sometimes, before a project has even ended, we lose some members of the team for various reasons such as quitting their job, going on holiday, or being fired for poor performance. So how do we wrap our heads around the fact that some project team members will be pushed out of their roles, even before the project is done, simply because they are doing a fantastic job?
Welcome to the world of the Scrum Master. As an essential member of the Scrum Team, the Scrum Master acts as a servant-leader to the whole team, and coaches the organization in its Scrum adoption. According to the Scrum Guide, they are specifically tasked with:
- coaching the Dev Team to self-organize and be cross-functional
- assisting the Dev Team to create high-value products
- removing the blockers that prevent the Dev Team's progress
- facilitating Scrum events as needed
- influencing organizational change to increase Dev Team's productivity
This doesn't include the myriad of other tasks associated with assisting the Product Owner, and the wider organization. In general, The Scrum Master is there to ensure that the roles, events, artifacts and rules that make Scrum what it is, are followed as strictly as possible. This results in the optimal implementation of Scrum, and raises the likelihood of success.
So when the sprint is running smoothly, or more specifically, when the Development Team follow the rules, understand their role, produce transparent and clear artifacts, and actively participate in all events (within the prescribed time boxes), what is there left for the Scrum Master to do?
Well, not terribly much...within the Team. The very essence of Scrum is a small, high performing, self-organizing, cross functional team that consistently produces valuable products. When the team approaches this pinnacle, the Scrum Master is effectively redundant.
Regardless of whether or not an organization is new to the Agile way of doing things, or has some experience behind them, teams will vary from project to project, department to department, and company to company. One team may be the jewel in the Agile crown for an organization, consistently performing at a high level while adhering to the fundamental values and principles of Scrum. On the other hand, other teams may be lagging behind, slower to adopt Scrum, or not have the optimal dynamics in place between the Development Team, Product Owner, Scrum Master, stakeholders and the wider organization. These teams will need further coaching and facilitation. Also, new Agile projects will come along, with new teams, or new members of existing teams, and the cycle of the Scrum Master will begin all over again.
Outside the team, it is a different ball game. This is where I believe a Scrum Master or Coach is needed no matter how successful or pervasive Agile and Scrum is within the organization. Employees, middle and senior managers, and executives that are not dealing with Agile on a daily basis, sometimes forget that it is still around and they can often fall back into their old ways. The Scrum Master can refresh their memory and assist the organization to keep on track with their Agile initiatives.
In fact, metrics should be put in place to ensure that the organization's Agile maturity extends beyond the Scrum Team to the rest of the organization. Whether this is performed by a Scrum Master or Scrum Coach (sometimes they are the same person depending on the size of the project and organization), one thing is for sure: letting go of the Scrum experts could be a case of cutting one's nose off to spite one's face.
So hopefully we might hear a different response to the Scrum Master's fantastic work: "Great job. Now you're re-hired!"
Schwaber, K. and Sutherland, J. (2017) The Scrum Guide. Available from: www.scrumguides.org
Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!