Scrum Masters and Managers

As per the Scrum Primer, written by Pete Deemer and Gabrielle Benefield:

In addition to these three roles (PO, TM and SC), there are other important contributors to the success of the project: Perhaps the most important of these are Managers. While their role evolves in Scrum, they remain critically important – they support the team in its use of Scrum, and they contribute their wisdom, expertise and assistance to the project. In Scrum, these individuals replace the time they previously spent “playing nanny” (assigning tasks, getting status reports, and other forms of micromanagement) with more time “playing guru” (mentoring, coaching, playing devil’s advocate, helping remove obstacles, helping problem-solve, providing creative input, and guiding the skills development of team members).

In addition, Pete generally conducts a Manager 2.0 game [I need to write about this] [a variant of the same is also available by Rajesh Pandey’s Manager 2.0 Concept]. The basic crux here is the difference between managers and Scrum Masters. Some people new to Scrum, like to appropriate managerial tasks to the role of Scrum Master. This is wrong. A Scrum Masters only job is to make sure that the Team’s Usage of Scrum is appropriate. It is important to note that Scrum Masters:

  1. Do not have any direct authority over the team – but they can help them surface obstacles and issues.
  2. Do not have any power over anyone in organization – yet they can apply pressure to get things done, but they can rarely get things done
  3. They can practice servant leadership but they can’t do stuff like performance reviews, salary negotiation, appraisals, promotions, leave sanction, play referee in a dispute — these have to be taken care by either the manager or the team. In an ideal case, the latter – but in most cases the managers.

The role of managers in Scrum is very important but different. In a traditional organization functional managers tend to spend their time allocating tasks, tracking tasks and applying pressure to make the team meet expectations with respect to scope, schedule, budget, behavior and so on. In Scrum, the functional manager has to to shift focus toward resolving organizational impediments. In essence, the manager and Scrum Master work together to remove the impediments while manager also does other tasks like hiring, firing, pay reviews, appraisals etc. Eventually, these tasks can be taken care of by the team [or senior members of the team, as deemed fit]. In this scenario I like to rephrase the Managers role in Scrumas : “Remove all impediments they can through their power [direct and covert] to an extent where the team does not need them anymore”. In essence that is what Scrum Masters do as well but with one key difference : “they just make sure that the team does not need them anymore for implementing or using Scrum”. This is important, because the team might still need a Scrum Master [if it keeps loosing the Scrum focus], while not needing manager [the organizational design is such or the team has divided the managerial tasks amongst themselves], or they may need a manager [they can’t agree on how to divide managerial tasks] but don’t need a Scrum Master [they can go through the Scrum Framework – in mechanics and spirit].

One Response to “Scrum Masters and Managers”

  1. […] Agile Diary, Agile Introduction, Agile Implementation Experiences in transition to Agile Project Management « Scrum Masters and Managers […]

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