Scrum Master as a member of development team

Last post 05:31 pm May 20, 2021
by Andrew Stevenson
30 replies
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05:23 am May 21, 2014

Hi

What are pros and cons of the situation when Scrum Master works also as a developer?

How does it work in your company?

01:23 pm May 21, 2014

Hi

Really interesting question as this is what I'm doing on my current project. Our sprints are two weeks long and for sprint planning, I budget 50% of my effort as dev capacity, to allow the remainder for "scrum mastering". It seems to work quite well but there are downsides :
- the team have raised one of more blockers on the standup. You need to prioritise completing your bit of dev , or sacrificing your bit of dev to remove the blockers. Both are necessary to help the team meet it's sprint committment.
- if you are eyes down in some meaty dev work, then context switching to deal with issues is distracting and impacts your own productivity
- what happens when one role dominates your agenda to the detriment of the other
For me it's important to be open and honest and self critical at the retro and if it's not working then say so and change it.

I'd be interested to know the reason for your question. Are you in an organisation where the SM role isn't understood/appreciated so their view is "one of the devs can do that bit of admin I'm not paying for a whole separate headcount" ?

Matt

02:58 am May 22, 2014

Hi Matt

Thanks for answering be back.
In my organisation is understood and appreciated. We also have a support of the management board.

I asked this question becuase it is hard for me to conduct retrospective (six thinking hat) as SM and take part in it as a developer. In my opinion, in such cases there is also a problem of independence.

03:29 am May 22, 2014

Hi Paweł,
I agree with you that there is a potential conflict of interest.
What might help is to use a hat literally to indicate when you speak in the role of Scrum Master.
When you speak as a dev team member, you take off the hat.
You might think of any other accessoir as well if you don't want to carry a hat with you all the time.

04:02 am May 22, 2014

> I asked this question becuase it is hard for me
> to conduct retrospective (six thinking hat) as
> SM and take part in it as a developer.

A Scrum Master needs to make sure the rules of Scrum are followed. There is no requirement for a Scrum Master to conduct events, but rather to facilitate *as needed*.

In other words there's nothing to stop a team from rotating the role of an event facilitator between themselves. The Scrum Master would only need to step in if this didn't work out and things went to pieces.

11:12 pm May 22, 2014

I've been involved with scrum teams that had a developer be scrum master and those with an independent person as scrum master. Perhaps determining (pros and cons) which approach to take is dependent on things like...

1. How experienced the scrum team is with scrum.

2. How experienced the customer, your management, and your organization is with scrum. If you have a customer or management that's new to scrum then a dedicated scrum master may need to spend time educating the customer and their organization.

3. How large the scrum team is.

02:35 am May 23, 2014

Currently I am also SM and developer in a rather small Scrum Team. It works quite well, and you have the benefit of knowing what goes on, because of your own experience.

As Ian pointed out, the SM is a role, not so much a person. If a team is completely self-organizing, the role of the SM would be embedded in the team.

02:35 am May 23, 2014

In my experience as "50% SM" in the past, I've seen the problem that when SM is needed the most, than also the DEV capacity is needed most. So project is in trouble, you have to develop 120% and the process get's thrown away and no one is there because SM got sacrificed for the 120 % DEV

BR

06:39 am May 29, 2014

I'm new to this forum - this is all very useful feedback.

I'm working as part of a small team and Scrum addresses issues we've had around successful, on budget software development. My concern has been that a lack of people in this team could be a barrier to Scrum adoption. It's reassuring to have feedback that that it's possible / manageable , if not the ideal situation.

I've often had multiple roles in a team so, as Jasper posts, it's useful to consider SM as a role rather than a post.

03:18 am June 3, 2014

I play both roles as sm/dev and I would say that this is not ideal, but from my understanding this is very common especially in small organizations/teams. Just as Philipp says, when your dev. role is needed the most, that is often the time when the SM role would need most attention.

04:30 pm March 21, 2017

Short answer is - it's ok.

Long answer - the situation itselft is normal, as Ian described - it's a role, rather than a person. The situation correlates with the person (to be) assigned - if s/he understands Scrum good enough to drive the team and to wear several hats, and if s/he's flexible enough to abstract from the dev's standpoint to facilitate from the team's perspective? In other words, the person should be very well skilled. And it raises another point - do you want to re-allocate time of such skilled person to Scrum Mastering from development, i.e. to not gain a potential increment you could?

09:20 am October 23, 2017

Hi everyone,

I also agree that there is some conflict of interest working both as a SM and a member of development team . And it`s often happened in small companies. 

08:30 pm December 3, 2017

Maybe this should be a new question, rather than a comment, but I think it lives in this thread.

My company is mid transition, and trying and work out where our ex-managers fit in.  One of my, many, conflicted roles is to help the newly born scrum teams.  I have two questions:

One team has a dev as SM.  In fact, the entire team is all over exit criteria and the like.  It requires strong PO-ing in order to get stories onto the sprint backlog.  From my PoV I think this is working well; they are equals, delivering as one, no managers in sight.  However, I can't help feel like I'm missing something.  I've read the "what does a SM do all day" thread, and it's like I'm missing an entire persons job.  So in response to the devs and SM above, does it actually mean that some of the SM tasks go undone?

On another team they've got a manager as the SM.  What do you know, the team dynamic is not there. So, as the SM spends a lot of time planning, I've suggested they reassign him as PO.  The existing PO becomes more outward facing.  Great.  But the manager was actually doing some SM-like tasks, and I'm pretty sure the dev that steps into his shoes won't do as good a job.  Have I done the wrong thing?

10:31 pm December 4, 2017

For the first team, it sounds like they are working well together.   I am unclear what you mean by "strong PO-ing" though.   Is there a PO who is in complete control of the work that the Development Team forecasts each sprint?   How is the team ensuring that they are improving (experimenting) each sprint?   How are the various Scrum ceremonies being facilitated?   What specific SM-related tasks do you feel are going undone?

 

For the second team, why isn't the PO planning?   What SM-tasks do you feel the converted manager is doing a good job with?   Do you feel that this team would benefit better with a Development Team member in the SM role, or by having a full-time SM?

 

11:18 pm December 4, 2017

> Have I done the wrong thing?

Not if, as you say, you are making suggestions. It should be up to the teams themselves to come up with concrete plans for improvement. How effective are their Sprint Retrospectives proving to be in this regard?

12:11 am December 5, 2017

On the first team, by the need for a strong PO, I mean someone who is strong enough to work alongside the (strong willed) team, rather than being savaged.  They are certainly 100% in control of the product backlog, though sometimes the BA isn't feeding in perfect requirements, meaning PO for this team is tough. 

Yes, its the experimenting that is one of the problems.  They aren't radical enough.  Good, but not great.  Also they aren't shouting enough about test rig space.  Or making sure the test specialists move onto their island.  That kind of falls to me.  But I don't want to do it, because otherwise how do they learn. 

On the second.  The PO is not planning because in the old world he is a 2nd line manager, and the 1st line manager does the plans. The SM is good at shouting at people to get test rig space, etc, because he was good at that as a 1st line manager. 

If I'm in the right ballpark, think I know the answer.  It's just a question of time isn't it?  We're all used to traditional roles, and it's taking time to break them down.  And Ian's response applies. They need to realise it for themselves. 

09:16 am August 13, 2018

All of what was discussed here was collected in one article https://webcase.studio/blog/who-are-members-development-team/

08:45 am August 14, 2018

Melissa (if that's your real name), forgive me but I beg to difer... This topic covers the development team within a Scrum team. That article refers, in general, to a development team.... and has, in my view, considerable flaws (ie PM shouldn't be part of the development team).

Old school link "building" fail

09:30 am August 14, 2018

Just something that pops into my head; what if you as a member of the development team run into an issue with another member of the development team and things heat up? Normally a Scrum master would be ideal to mediate as a facilitator, but in this case there is no possibility because the two are the same. I am curious how you would tackle this one.

11:36 am August 14, 2018

Just something that pops into my head; what if you as a member of the development team run into an issue with another member of the development team and things heat up? Normally a Scrum master would be ideal to mediate as a facilitator, but in this case there is no possibility because the two are the same. I am curious how you would tackle this one.

Most Scrum Masters, much like, developers are human. Therefore it is entirely possible for a Scrum Master to run into an issue with a member of the development team as well with things heating up.

I'd handle your case the same way I'd handle conflict involving the Scrum Master themselves: Get facilitation elsewhere. Either there is another Scrum Team member sufficiently experienced in facilitation to assist, or you could consult another Scrum Master or Agile Coach within your organisation.

08:40 am September 6, 2018

When describing the size of the development team, the scrum guide stipulates that "The Product Owner and Scrum Master roles are not included in this count unless they are also executing the work of the Sprint Backlog". One could say that it means that the Scrum Master can be part of the development team...

Now let's focus on the Sprint Backlog, which is "the set of Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus a plan for delivering the product Increment and realizing the Sprint Goal". The second part is what I wanted to bring to the table.

In that aspect, a Scrum Master can be involved in such a plan, sure, and the Scrum Master is a role not a person, yes. But a distinct one, apart from the role of Development team member.

The Scrum Master is a servant leader for the Scrum team, which includes the Development team. In Scrum, "no one (not even the Scrum Master) tells the Development Team how to turn Product Backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality".

 

There is a literal interpretation of the Scrum Guide, but there is also common sense. My point is: we can deduce anything we want from the Scrum guide of we chose to. But in the same time, while addressing certain topics we have to use common sense. How can someone be that servant leader that cannot say to the dev team how to take care of PBI, as well as one of those who can voice an opinion about that? We are all human, and even if you promise to remain professional and honest when switching roles, can't you see the conflict of interests here?

 

04:51 pm May 1, 2019

How can someone be that servant leader that cannot say to the dev team how to take care of PBI, as well as one of those who can voice an opinion about that? We are all human, and even if you promise to remain professional and honest when switching roles, can't you see the conflict of interests here?

Yes. I've faced it in my experience. Scrum Master is coaching the Development Team on self-organization. Letting them figure it out and ask for help if they feel it is needed. As the Scrum Master you are asking leading questions rather than giving direct answers or providing your opinion if you are a member of the Development Team. But if you are actually also a member of the Development Team, in that capacity -- just as a member -- that opinion must be put forward for consideration. By holding it off, you might feel that you are not acting professionally -- as a Development Team Member. 

I don't think there is one right approach that fits all situations here :-) When I feel this way, as a Scrum Master who is also a Development Team member, I've taken a few minutes before raising my opinion as a Development Team member. Some of the pointers I have considered are:

  • What is the risk?
  • If I don't speak up and allow time for self-organization, what are we missing/losing?
    • Sprint Goal? A security hole that is too serious so we would not be "Done" and the Increment would not be releasable? 
    • Or okay to be Scrum Master today, inspect what happens and wear the Development Team member hat later today or tomorrow?

I have seen this work in high trust and mature environment when conversations are carried on with respect, courage and focus on Sprint Goal. 

Here is a good blog from fellow Professional Scrum Trainer Jasper Alblas (who has also commented in this thread :-)) 

https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/equality-roles-scrum

04:24 am August 30, 2020

If I could suggest restating the question as, “Can a person hold the role of Scrum Master and Development Team member at the same time?” The answer in no.

 

Can a person trade off between the roles? Yes, but it takes high skill and has a lot of negative consequences that may come from that approach. (Many already called out in the thread.)

 

I recommend first understand the “why” of doing this approach. Is there a compelling reason? So far, the only reasons I’ve discovered in various companies is budget.

04:24 am August 30, 2020

If I could suggest restating the question as, “Can a person hold the role of Scrum Master and Development Team member at the same time?” The answer in no.

 

Can a person trade off between the roles? Yes, but it takes high skill and has a lot of negative consequences that may come from that approach. (Many already called out in the thread.)

 

I recommend first understand the “why” of doing this approach. Is there a compelling reason? So far, the only reasons I’ve discovered in various companies is budget.

07:39 am August 30, 2020

If I could suggest restating the question as, “Can a person hold the role of Scrum Master and Development Team member at the same time?” The answer in no.

Interesting perspective and I agree with most of your post, but I disagree with this specific point.

If you mean that someone cannot take on both roles and continue to hold them over a period of time. I would say we've established that they can, even if it's less effective. They might be poor (perhaps even detrimental) in both roles for a number of reasons, but they are definitely a Developer; they are definitely a Scrum Master.

If you're talking about having to be in a single role at a specific moment in time, then I'd say with extreme discipline, it might be possible to be viewed in a specific role at any time, and even to behave in a way consistent with that role; but short of having certain neurological and psychological conditions, no-one is able to fully detach oneself from one role and switch into another, as needed.

For example, during a discussion of the entire Development Team, one team member proposes a way of solving the problem, which might work for the Development Team and its current objectives, but may also reveal certain naivety about Scrum.
The audience was only ever intended to be the Development Team, but the Developer-Scrum Master is unable to avoid hearing and absorbing this information.
The Developer-Scrum Master may have fully intended to play the role of Developer in that moment, but surely it's impossible for the judgement of the Scrum Master to remain unaffected, and even on a subconscious level, this can shape future training, coaching or transparency decisions by the Scrum Master.

06:34 am September 6, 2020

I have found it a bit hard for one person to play both the roles on the same team. The person has be be very mature, must really understand the objectives of scrum and must be able to separate him/herself from either of the roles if and when the situation demands.  If the person must play both the roles, next option to consider is, playing the two roles on two different teams.

11:35 am September 9, 2020

I agree with what @Simon Meyer says to rephrase the question, Scrum Master can't be a developer either! Since there is the necessary set of specialists to form a dedicated web development team. At the same time, there is work that can be combined, for example, a UX and a UI designer, large companies employ two specialists who can do these functions, but at the same time, we see examples when UI / UX is one specialist. There is another situation, for example, a full stack developer, you can be either a front or back end developer for a long time and then gain knowledge and experience in another area, I mean if you back ended then front end experience and vice versa. And after that when you have experience and knowledge you can be full-stack. But Scrum and a programmer are two different things, I don't think they should be mixed

12:25 pm September 10, 2020

In the past, I have been a member of the dev team and scrum master at the same time. I have learned that this is not working for me, for several reasons.

First and foremost, it is impossible for me to objectively look at my own functioning as a member of the development team. Sometimes I was the disturbing element in certain situations. But I of course didn't always realise this, so I could not guide myself away from this behaviour. This resulted in unadressed problems and less effective and efficient team performance. It also undermined my position as a scrum master because "you did this yourself as well, so why do you make a point out of it if I do it?"

Secondly, when something went wrong and it was crunch time, I jumped into the role of development team member to help my team mates resolve the issue. But what the situation needed was a Scrum Master who could take a step back and handle the communication to anxious management to shield the team from that. Someone who could deal with impediments and take care of outside influences, coordinate with the PO about communication to the stakeholders and end users, etc. So what happened is that all the other dev team members also had to deal with managers, users, the PO, etc, which in turn resulted in slower and less effective incident resolutions.

Thirdly, it is quite hard to develop yourself in two entirely different skill sets. Often, there is only time and money for a limited set of trainings, congresses, etc. So my personal development on both roles was sub par and fell behind with the rest of my team mates. It gave me a lot of stress and frustration.

All of these are related to the Scrum value Focus. Having multiple roles reduces your focus considerably. If you can't fill your day as a Scrum Master of a team, it is much better to be the Scrum Master of two teams. 

01:30 pm January 22, 2021

Hi! As i can say from my nearly ten years of experience in IT development it is almost always better to divide and conquer in all cases, when speaking about IT product development. That means in order to make something special in today's market conditions you need effective and experienced Agile Scrum team. Typical team usually consists from 3 to 9 people, so my answer to your question is - no, you can`t manage this type of things only by yourself.

12:05 pm January 27, 2021

It depends on the team. I was QA and Scrum Master in an experienced team  and the time needed for the Scrum Master role was around 15-20 hours a week. For the rest of the time I took my QA hat on me. Of course you and the team needs to know the difference between the roles and when you take part in a discussion as team member and as a meeting facilitator, then it can be more difficult. 

As Henri already said if there a second team, be Scrum Master for two teams would probably the better solution.

07:33 pm May 19, 2021

Hello guys! I agree that it can be a potential conflict of interest.
I also think that you can use a hat to indicate when you speak as a Scrum Master.
When you will speak as a team member, you will have to take off your hat.
I work as an application developer at this website and every day I build Android applications. Actually, we had a small company, but now more and more developers come in our team. I think when we will have bigger team the problem of conflict will be solved. 
P.S. This is only my opinion :)