October 11, 2021

Scrum Master – Hire a Professional or Promote from Within?

Why hire a professional Scrum Master? They cost extra and you can always get one of the developers to do the work, part-time. Big saving, right? Not so much. Here's why.

A discussion about why hire a professional scrum master

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Who will be the Scrum Master?

Most of my students tell me their organizations don't have professional Scrum Masters. Instead, the work is handed out as a part-time task to a developer. When I ask why, the most common response I get is financial. The organization doesn't want to pay for an extra person.

I'm not entirely sure of the thinking here. It feels like saving a cent at the cost of a dollar. I'll bring together a couple of strands to explain what I mean.

Why Use Scrum?

The 15th State of Agile report from digital.ai states that the second most popular reason for adopting Agile was to accelerate software delivery. The third reason given was to increase team productivity. The results are clear. Organizations want more and they want it fast.

Which Scrum Role is Responsible for Improved Performance?

I'm willing to bet you know where this is going already. But, for completeness, here's what the Scrum Guide says:

The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework

So, that's nice and clear, then. Perhaps this reason is enough to answer those organizations that ask 'Why hire a professional Scrum Master?' If not, there's more ...

Failing to Hire a Professional Scrum Master Will Cost

Just about anybody can teach themselves Scrum. There's the Scrum Guide to review and plentiful articles and forums to help. Given sufficient time, it's entirely possible to become an expert.

Any organization can adopt Scrum and gain the benefits. Given sufficient time, they'll become expert in the practice and gain the benefits.

The problem is in the speed of acquisition. I've written previously about the cost of adopting Scrum. One of the things I mention is that initially, productivity will fall. It will stay lowered for a period of between three and six months as people get used to the new way of working. And that's with a professional Scrum Master on board. It will be worse, and longer, without one.

Still Not Convinced?

Here are some other reasons for why organizations adopt agile:

  • To Improve business and IT alignment
  • Improve project visibility
  • Improve team morale
  • Better manage distributed teams

Once again, we're looking at a list of tasks that falls within the Scrum Master's purview.

There's one more important list of work that the Scrum Master does:

  • Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work; and,
  • Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams

Why Hire A Professional Scrum Master?

I hope that, after reviewing the list above, the decision to hire a professional scrum master is an obvious one. Would you be willing to bet the outcome on anything less?

One final thought: Have one or more internal Scrum Master candidates shadow the professional Scrum Master. The intention is that your candidates should learn from the professional's experience. This enables the organization to get two additional benefits because they'll be able to:

  • Shorten the hiring duration for the professional Scrum Master
  • Bring the required skills in-house

nb: I've used the phrase 'professional Scrum Master' throughout this article to mean someone that is an experienced Scrum Master. I do not mean to imply, or infer, that they must hold a PSM certificate.