October 11, 2021

The Surprising Reason for the name ‘Scrum Master’

The term 'Scrum Master' seems to have been around as long as Scrum. But has it? In this article I talk about where the term came from and why it was initially used.

What Does Scrum Master Mean?

At the Scrum Board

Scrum Master at the Scrum Board

The BBC recently reported on organizations dropping terms such as 'master', 'slave' and 'blacklist'. In Scrum, it has led to questions about the term. What does Scrum Master mean? How did it come about? Should we be revisiting it?

No-one really seemed to know. Theories abounded but nothing that could be relied upon to be factually correct.

Of course, the one person that would know where the term came from is the man that coined it, Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum. So, I sent him an email and asked. Here's his response:

I was working with teams at IDX(now GE Medical) to build on of the first radiology storage units, that would allow radiologists worldwide to review x-rays. It was a medical device under FDA regulations, so IDX had a compliance officer. As compliance office, Tania Horton was given responsibility for Scrum to ensure it was used with FDA requirements. She figured out how to improve the compliance with Scrum.

During development Sprints, she asked me what she should have for a title. I told her;
‘ Since you are master of all things related to using Scrum in an FDA compliant manner, let’s just call you ….. tada … the SCRUM MASTER.’

Ken Schwaber, co-creator of scrum

I love finding historical snippets like this and it comes as no surprise that the name came about as a result of serendipity. As to whether the term will be changed, that's still a subject of debate. What are your views? Why not leave a comment below.