This article is directed to all who think that being a Scrum Master is inferior, and therefore think (ab)using the term “Agile Coach” is justified.
Note. A serious warning before you read on: If you consider yourself to be an Agile Coach and you are not up to digesting some painful transparency about your role, please stop here.
OK, so when you read this line, I have captured your attention, which means the agile community might be one small step closer to transparency. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I want to reward you with the management summary: “We should re-establish the title of Scrum Master to stop the proliferation of oblique role nomenclature. Our professionalism demands this from us; We need to practice the transparency we preach.”
Last week I was running a series of interviews trying to find an experienced Scrum Master for a company I am currently working with. They want to scale, and as per my advice we started looking for an experienced Scrum Master to service their teams. We were looking for high calibre candidates. The Scrum Master I am looking for has to be experienced: A person who understands what’s not in the Scrum Guide, has empathy, understands the trade off of “not now”, who supports the PO, can deal with 3 to 4 teams, a master in the art of “doing nothing”, a sheepdog that knows how to be loved and trusted and a little bit feared. In other words, I am looking for a REAL Scrum Master. My high standards do not seem to be a problem: Looking at the pile of resumes we got, I was baffled: mainly Agile Coaches applied for the job.
Looking back at these candidates and the interviews, I observe that people think the Scrum Master title is too common, too ordinary, too inferior and most of all: too cheap. The title “Scrum Master” does not impress friends at parties. Neither does it resonate inside the Agile community, you’re “just” a Scrum Master, it’s a beginners position. Whereas the term “coach” impresses everybody and radiates seniority.
Friends, Agilists, we need to stop this. We need to practice what we preach. We have the obligation uphold transparency in the Agile community, we should not only leave it up to agile institutions to verify true knowledge and experience by certification; We need to do more because we are agile.
Firstly, I want to call out to all people that HIRE: Hire a Scrum Master.
You stop further deterioration of the title “Scrum Master” by recruiting a Scrum Master when you need one (i.e. don’t ask for a carpenter if you need a macon). You will waste valuable time interviewing them and waste even more employing them. You were probably tempted to hire an Agile Coach because the people reacting are mostly Scrum Masters saying they are Agile Coaches, just raising their profile to be invited for the interview. The real Scrum Masters might not apply because your job request is not transparent. Or maybe the reason you are calling out for an Agile Coach is because Scrum says you need one Scrum Master per team and you think that is a waste. It’s easy to do the math: you will pay a bit more for only one Agile Coach, doing the work of two or three Scrum Masters. Here is some news: One Scrum Master can handle multiple teams. So next time hiring, you could try recruiting a Scrum Master and even better, include in your text that candidates using the term “Agile Coach” in their resume will not be invited.
Secondly I need to reach out to all who want to GET HIRED: Be proud of being a Scrum Master.
If you are a rookie and you spiced up your cv to impress HR personnel or head hunters, I hope you will be (respectfully) roasted. The world of Agile Coaches is about money and status. don’t feed the system with the idea that a Scrum Master is a job of no importance and Agile Coaches are a step up in the hierarchy. This attitude is unethical towards the agile values.
Instead, be open and say you are proud of being a Scrum Master. Show respect to the servant leader management role it actually is. Be courageous towards HR people and explain and teach the aspects of Scrum Mastership. Stay committed to offering opportunities for learning to the teams you dearly care about and to the organisation that employs you. If you are unsure about the complexity of the Scrum Master profession, I suggest this white paper by Barry Overveem; http://www.barryovereem.com/the-8-stances-of-a-scrum-master/.
Finally, I need to reach out to the Agile community to eradicate this “Agile Coach” virus: Let’s institutionalise this title with proper certification ASAP. For instance: http://whatisagilecoaching.org/ and http://agilecoachinginstitute.com/.
Am I free of blame? No. off course not. At times I found it troublesome to be a Scrum Master too. I didn’t understand the value of the role either. But after reading this blog, I agreed with myself to reword my linkedin profile title: Roland Flemm. Scrum Master, LeSS Practitioner and Lecturer.