Selecting the Scrum Master

Sometimes Scrum teams loose some of its members including the Scrum Master. If a team looses its Scrum Master, this role should be fulfilled by someone else, either by an existing team member or by outside of the team.

Before selecting the Scrum Master for a team, few questions should be answered.

  1. How will select the Scrum Master, the team or the management?
  2. Who can be candidates to be the Scrum Master, team members or someone outside?

I tried summarized the points that I noted while trying to find answers to these questions.

The team members always should choose their own Scrum Master.

Mike Cohn says: Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Whether the team should choose their own Scrum Master is dependent largely on how far along in their adoption of Scrum the team is. 

New Scrum teams may need an appointed Scrum Master

Mike Cohn says: New teams aren’t used to working closely with others and have not ventured far beyond their individual roles. Taking a team at this level and saying, “you’re self-organizing so you figure out who your Scrum Master is” often leads to disaster.

Are you really ready to choose Scrum Master?

Mike Cohn says: The team needs a leader/Scrum Master who will tell them it’s not acceptable at this point in their Scrum adoption for them to experiment with the fundamental, generative rules of Scrum. These teams probably aren’t ready to choose their first Scrum Master.

By contrast, consider a team in which individuals are comfortable working with each other; where each team member may have a defined functional role but where each is comfortable and capable of stepping beyond that role for the good of the team; and where team members have a greater willingness to stick to the rules at first. A team such as this would likely bristle at being assigned a Scrum Master.

Don’t treat a Scrum Master as a Technical Lead.

David Alfaro says: Don’t try fitting the roles of agile into the traditional role structure of your company. Agile needs a complete different position structure. Don’t try to treat a Scrum Master as a Technical Lead. Don’t treat a Scrum Master as a Project Manager. Those roles are a not the same.

The Scrum Master should not perceive the role as a leader role.

David Alfaro says: The Scrum Master should be someone the team trusts and looks up to – but should be someone within the team, on the same hierarchical level as the rest of the team members. You can see Scrum Master as a representative for the team.

What if Scrum Master is treated as a leader..

Richard Kronfält says: If the Scrum Master is “the leader” I think you risk losing some of the cooperation effect and the “tightness” of the team, and with a strong leading Scrum Master the team risks relying too much on that single person to take decisions and lead the way. Or at least it will be easy for the Scrum Master to fall back in old tracks and take charge: thereby undermining the self-organization and collective commitment of the team.

What if Scrum Master is treated as a technical leader..

Richard Kronfält says: Don’t make the expert the Scrum Master. Why? Because the Scrum Master’s first and foremost priority will be to remove impediments and be “Scrum Police” (sorry, I mean “Advocate” :)). That means taking time away from other tasks, such as coding. So if you put your tech lead as Scrum Master you will lose pace and you will hinder the rest of the team (because the tech lead will be busy removing impediments and won’t have as much time to help others).

Scrum Master as a full time job

David Alfaro says: Don’t fool yourself thinking that there isn’t any laziest job than Scrum Master, especially if the company is in the early stages of agile adoption. The impediment resolution is the hardest part when managing an agile team: Finding a suitable workroom, a taskboard, stopping chickens interference, monitoring advancements of the Action Items agreed last Retrospective meeting, monitoring progress along the Sprint, monitoring quality, convoking and facilitating meetings, fighting IT, promoting the vision, helping to find resources, pushing to keep the backlog, the taskboard, avoid the team over commit, avoiding confusion between tasks and User Stories, get the team committed, cheer leader, etc..

Scrum Master should not be part of the developer team

Erik Bollow says: The Scrum Master role defines a full-time job if it is taken seriously. Serving all the facets of that role consumes all of the Scrum Master’s available time. 

Having the Scrum Master role alone avoids conflicts of interests. How can a Scrum Master be neutral and propose an appropriate solution if there is a conflict between the Product Owner and the team, and he is a team member the same time?

A Scrum Master has a better position for moderation if he is not involved in the everyday business of working on the Sprint Backlog items. This makes him have a more abstract and less emotional view on what happens during the Sprint.

In case the Sprint Goal is in danger: I bet, a part-time Scrum Master will decide to concentrate his work on the Sprint Backlog items, neglecting his alter ego. This definitely results in a weak Scrum Master and means a danger for a proper Scrum process.

Obeying the Scrum rules is crucial for success

Erik Bollow says: The Scrum Master should not be distracted from doing his job. Part of this job is implementing Scrum and comprises – among others – creating an understanding of the underlying concepts in the mind of the people involved. He acts as a change agent!

The Scrum Master encourages the Team to self-organize and self-manager

Selen Adelesie says: When a team is successfully self-organizing, the Scrum Master understands when to step in and coach the team in solving problems, and when to let the team work through problems on their own. SM guides the team in disciplined work ethic, retrospectives, and improvements – but only if the team really needs it.

SM does not direct or manage the work, the tasks, or the people at any time and does not commit to work on behalf of the team.

Whole team should know what Scrum Master role does

It is important that each team member should have good understanding of Scrum roles, especially about Scrum Master role before the selection process.

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