Who should an Agile Coach / SM report too?

Last post 01:21 pm October 5, 2021
by Niall Fallon
12 replies
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06:00 pm September 24, 2021

We are looking to hire an agile coach next year (even though I am certified and still coaching my path has taken me out of coaching and more into design management).  

 

Just wondering who SMs typically report to in smaller organizations?   

If we have a product manager over 3 teams should the agile coach report to them.    Would this potentially cause friction for an SM who will have to act as the coach between a PM and the scrum team?

 

Or, should the agile coach report to the VP.   The issue I see here is they might be seen as a snitch. 

 

Anyways, just wondering what the norm is at most places on who your SMs are reporting to?  Thanks

06:30 pm September 24, 2021

Who do the developers report to?

06:46 pm September 24, 2021

Who would allow the Scrum Master to provide the best opportunity for them to focus on the team and not on the work?  Who would best represent the Scrum Master's role and duties to the organization outside of the immediate team?

In past companies where I've worked, the Scrum Masters reported to their own managers but those managers were there for the purpose of helping them grow their careers and compensation details.  They did not play any kind of an active role in the actual work each Scrum Master did because it was realized how that would negatively impact their ability to be successful.

09:58 pm September 24, 2021

Just wondering who SMs typically report to in smaller organizations?   

Typically report what, and why?

11:20 am September 27, 2021

Ignoring the complexities of language, there is nuance in 'reporting to'. What is the purpose? There are two possibilities here; are they reporting to them for line management (i.e. there is no day to day relationship between the two) or making work and progress transparent as they are a stakeholder?

Accountability wise, the Scrum Master reports to the team as each accountability reports to the others. Role wise, I've not got a clue as it would depend on how your organisation is structured. In the past, I've seen SMs report to a Senior Agile practitioner or something similar. 

Just be careful not to overthink something that actually doesn't matter one bit when it comes to agility. If there is a culture where 'snitching' is a concern, change the culture not the reporting structure.

12:36 pm September 27, 2021

Ok thanks for the insight everyone.  I know its a strange question but as a smaller organization that is going through churn over the past year because of covid its a discussion I was having with someone and just wanted to get other SM takes.

Who would allow the Scrum Master to provide the best opportunity for them to focus on the team and not on the work?       

 I think either of these proposed managers would be able to do that which is why its a tougher question for our structure particularly.  But your right, we may be overthinking it.

 

If there is a culture where 'snitching' is a concern, change the culture not the reporting structure.

No culture of snitching but as both the SM and the PM would be new it would take time for them to facilitate trust on their teams I would think.  

Typically report what, and why?

Sorry maybe I phrased the question badly.   More wondering what others org structures look like and generally who they see SMs report to

 

 

06:16 pm September 27, 2021

More wondering what others org structures look like and generally who they see SMs report to

When I see a Scrum Master reporting to anyone, I see a potential problem. What does the receiver of the report actually do with this information?

Any decisions ought to be made as closely as possible to the time and place of work being carried out, by the people doing that work. A team ought to be self-directing and self-managing.

If there is a party outside the team who needs information for other organizational purposes, I'd encourage them to look at the value actually being delivered, Sprint by Sprint, and to make any projections based on such empirical data and outcomes. Go and see for yourself if you have to, but don't rely on promissory notes. Reports are subject to filtering and delay.

07:07 pm September 27, 2021

Out of the two options you have mentioned, having the agile coach report to the VP would be more effective. I see an agile coach and scrum master as a neutral and unbiased part of a team. For them to do their job fearlessly, they need discretion, freedom of speech, and innovation.

Giving their reporting to someone who they will coach is a tough spot to be in especially for a new hire, who's still getting accustomed to the culture. If someone has found their voice already, then it doesn't matter who they report to. They will do their job right regardless.

Theoretically, it might make sense given the concept of co-active coaching. But, practically, there could be more limitations than the benefits of reporting to someone an agile practitioner expected to coach.

In my workplace, I report to an agile coach who reports to the CTO.

12:28 pm September 28, 2021

When I see a Scrum Master reporting to anyone, I see a potential problem. What does the receiver of the report actually do with this information?

By "reporting" I mean who is their boss, not an actual report

 

 Giving their reporting to someone who they will coach is a tough spot to be in especially for a new hire, who's still getting accustomed to the culture.

I agree, however there may be instances where upper management needs coached as well. 

03:10 pm September 28, 2021

Look at past structures for supporting waterfall.  There was usually a development org, a product org and a project management org.  This was done to provide distinction between the roles that each played.  While this goes against agile principals, it can be used in agile in the way that @Nidhi Kumar's organization shows. 

The problem as I see it is that "org structures" do not fully support self-organization.  But all companies have organizational levels and hierarchies that we have to live with. 

06:44 pm September 28, 2021

By "reporting" I mean who is their boss, not an actual report

A Scrum Master exemplifies servant leadership and inspires others to that higher greatness. Those who would boss others might then realize it's a problem.

03:58 pm October 3, 2021

usually, who hires them for the team will be their boss.

01:21 pm October 5, 2021

In my experience the ScrumMaster should report to someone other than an software manager. Software managers usually have conflicting views to ScrumMasters e.g. work faster. Ideally the SM would report to a Solution Manager. 

As for POs, ideally they would report to someone responsible for Customer feedback, Product Manager.

 

Whoever they report to there should be no fear of doing the correct thing