Where doe a scrum master fall in terms of hierarchy?

Last post 10:46 pm March 15, 2022
by Chris Belknap
3 replies
02:38 pm March 15, 2022

To start I know that a scrum master focuses on the team, taking steps to ensure the team and individual team members achieve success. However I would like to know where the scrum master role is in term of hierarchy. From what I've read it is said that the scrum master is not a manager as we do not have direct reports. The scrum guide indicates that in the scrum the team is self organized and self-managed. I understand what my role as a scrum master is however, I want to understand what level I am at. In my organization I am a Scrum Master II and the next and last level is Scrum Master III. There are other roles such as Release Train Engineer and Agile Coach however those roles are coded under the Scrum Master III internally even though they titles are different. If you become a Scrum Master III and do not branch of into either a Release Train Engineer or Agile Coach you are considered a Sr. Scrum Master. So I want to know if a Scrum Master is a leadership role? After all we are servant leaders. Also how would I assess myself once I feel that I want to move into the role of an Agile Coach? Again I know what my role is on the scrum team however I would like some tips on how I can enhance my skillset and get to the next level. Ultimately I would like to work my way up to RTE or Agile Coach.

03:21 pm March 15, 2022

Given that you mention Release Train Engineer and Agile Coach, I am going to assume that you are in a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) environment.  SAFe uses its own version of Scrum called ScrumXP.  There are some differences in ScrumXP and Scrum.  But even still I feel like the answer to this question is the same in either version.

There are 3 ROLES provided in Scrum.  These are not job descriptions or job titles. The roles illustrate responsibilities that need to be done but in reality the person's job title does not have to be Scrum Master, Product Owner or Developer.  There is no hierarchy. 

However, in almost every world-wide corporation, there is a "career ladder" which consists of different job titles and descriptions that make up a hierarchy.  There is no uniform or standard to these ladders.  They are unique to each company.  So to really answer your question, you would need to talk to someone in your organization to understand how you fall in your job tier and what you need to do to progress.  


07:06 pm March 15, 2022

However I would like to know where the scrum master role is in term of hierarchy.

Rock bottom, because you are a servant to others.

The top pinnacle, because you are a leader to all as well.

Why do you wish to discern a Scrum Master's position in terms of hierarchy?

10:46 pm March 15, 2022

In Scrum, Scrum Master is an accountability, not a role or job title. And the Scrum Guide lists a minimum set of accountabilities for a Scrum Master from which a job title and job description can be instantiated from. Scrum Master I, II, and III are job titles a company chooses, and there is no industry standard. Your HR department probably has job descriptions available.

Yes, the Scrum Master is a leadership role. As the Scrum Guide tells us, a "true leader who serves". The term servant leader was used in prior versions. Companies were putting too much emphasis on the servant and not enough on the leader aspect, but the concept hasn't changed. Your goal is to put everyone else's needs first, and to help them to improve. It's a different leadership approach, versus command and control or authoritative leadership.

A Scrum Master also serves and coaches their team, the Product Owner, and organization. Bu coaching I am referring to asking open ended questions, for example. You can pursue professional coaching through organizations such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and others.