Is the scrum master the "best friend" of the dev team or not?

Last post 05:34 am December 7, 2013
by Ludwig Harsch
8 replies
Author
Messages
04:24 am November 30, 2013

In Gloger 2009, p 86 I read that a scrum master is the "best friend of the team". On the other hand our scrum coach told me that you shouldn't be too connected to the team, because it's much harder to fire your friend than someone else. We were talking about splitting the team against their will (which might indeed be a decision that management has to make, but I'm talking about the attitude in general here).

To me being not too connected to team goes completely against my intuition and my deepest inner values, because I believe that people perform best when they are motivated and feel that they can trust their colleagues. It might have something to do with the fact, that I used to be a developer within the team for four years before introducing scrum.

An initial google research brought up https://blog.codecentric.de/en/2011/10/the-scrum-master-is-not-your-friā€¦ that seems to agree with the consultant.

1. How do you feel about this?
2. Do you have any suggestions for further reading?

Thanks in advance,

Flo

08:10 am November 30, 2013

This is not a question specifically geared toward Scrum Masters but rather leadership philosophy of which you'll find many different opinions.

I find it better when you are friends with the team. They will respect you more when you can make inciteful remarks to make them better and be able to laugh with them. This is coming from a technical development supervisor for a large enterprise.

10:59 am November 30, 2013

Hi Flo,
I didn't read Gloger, so I don't really know what he means with best friend.
For me, the best friend is the one you share your personal problems with, so I don't agree. The Scrum Master is more like a coach. Sometimes you hate him, because you don't want to follow his new training plan, but as soon as you win the game, you understand why the plan was necessary and why you had to leave your comfort zone. Maybe this is what your coach means.

This doesn't mean he is not concerned about the team. If productivity goes down, he has to be concerned. But if a developer states "My solution works, why the hell do I have to write a test?" the best friend would probably say "You are right, well done, the DoD sucks, let's go out and drink a beer".

About Scrum Masters firing employees and splitting teams against their will, I recommend "The enterprise and Scrum" by Ken Schwaber, especially the chapters "Team Creation" and "How people are managed". In an ideal Scrum enterprise, the teams are created self-organizing, and people who are not accepted by any team go to the "bench". I like this idea, as much as I know how difficult it is to implement for the enterprises I know.

09:10 pm November 30, 2013

How often is the Scrum Master also the line manager (and therefore has ability to fire)? This strikes me as a very bad idea. The Scrum Master is a servant leader (granted other managers should be too), but more than that having a SM as line manager could really lead to "follow the leader" behavior.

04:01 am December 1, 2013

Posted By Robert du Toit on 30 Nov 2013 09:10 PM
How often is the Scrum Master also the line manager (and therefore has ability to fire)?

Sorry for being vague: The whole "fire your friend scenario" was more to express the attitude and the idea of the consultant, than to say, that I am a line manager (which I'm not).

05:46 am December 2, 2013

A good Scrum Master can be thought of as the best friend of the Scrum Team, although there is no requirement for team members to view their Scrum Master in such terms.

05:48 pm December 6, 2013

Hi Flo,

What problem do you see if the Scrum Master becomes the team best friend? To me, I want to be the team best friend because I want to earn their trust.

04:56 am December 7, 2013

From my point of view "friends" is a good metaphor describing connections between the Development Team and Scrum Master. As ScrumMaster doesn't have any power and not able to fire any of the team members I don't see any conflicts here. But I always prefer using another metaphor - "mother" who loves her children and always ready to come with an advice.

05:34 am December 7, 2013

Why not "mother in law" ;)