May 15, 2020

The pandemic - Is this the right time to fire the Scrum Master?

Many folks on LinkedIn these days, seems to have a renewed interest in firing the Scrum Master. I have been asked quiet a few times personally as to what will the scrum master do now that we are heading to a ‘New Normal’.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I do not know how to read the tarot cards, and so I really cannot predict what will happen in the new normal.

One thing that is pretty evident, is that businesses are actively exploring ways to build resilience and to quickly adapt to the new normal and this, I strongly believe, is what agility was all along.

With this deliberate focus of adapting the new normal, I believe, the Scrum Master role, the internal change agent, becomes critical. So, it’s time to stop marginalizing the Scrum Master role and make an effort to understand what the role entails. Here is a quick summary (a rather reductionistic view) of the role:

Accountability of Scrum Master– Help the scrum team and the organization understand and enact scrum.

Yes, his responsibility doesn’t end with helping the development team understand scrum, but it encompasses the Product Owner role and every function that are part of the delivery ecosystem.

Yes! That’s right, the Scrum Masters are the Change Leaders who bring about the transformation of the system.

Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

Towards the Development Team:

  • Provide & protect Autonomy
  • Generate Accountability
  • Help to balance Autonomy & Accountability

Towards the Product Owner:

  • Product planning in an empirical environment including generating
    • Forecast which provides transparency and business insights for stakeholders
    • Product roadmap which provides the expected revenue projection
    • Release planning which enables maximizing the ROI
  • Effective product backlog management – defining business value & prioritization techniques
  • Effective stakeholder engagement

Towards the Organization:

  • Planning, leading and coaching the Organization towards Agility
    • The business strategy office with insights to build stability (Process enhancement for BAU thus improving the bottom line) & agility (discontinuous innovation for new business/opportunities thus improving the top line)
    • Finance function with Horizon based planning and Lean budgeting
    • HR functions with Evidence Based Management & OKR
    • Decentralized procurement using agile contracts
  • Building and Operating Agile and Scrum community, the alliance that will propel and lead the change

So, if you find that I have missed mentioning something basic that pops up in many minds when talking about a day in the life of a scrum master say for example -

  • Setting up Scrum events & inviting participants and moderating it
  • Assigning, tracking and managing individuals’ work
  • Attending Daily Scrum and solving each & every problem of the Dev Team

That’s just because that’s not what they do. Yes, as absurd as it might sound, Scrum Masters are not the teams’ admin or secretary.

I believe it is the scrum master role that will play the pivotal role in co-creating and evolving the organization’s capability to survive the pandemic, and then thrive in the new normal.

With this I hope, together, we can now focus on building a way of working that’s best suited for the new normal, rather than wondering if it is time to fire the scrum master.

Thank you for reading. Please do reach out to me if you have questions. Yes, I do teach these in my trainings and these are an integral focus in my consulting too.