Archive for Scrum Master

Team Leads or Project Managers as Scrum Masters

Posted in Agile, Change, Project Backlog, SCRUM with tags , , , on July 22, 2010 by vikramadhiman

In organization after organization, transitioning to Scrum, you see one common pattern. The pattern has existed for at least 03 years now. The pattern is seen in all organizations [at least in India] – established big names as well as upcoming talked about/ blogged about startups. There is a team and there is a Product Owner [or Manager]. So far so good. There is also a Scrum Master – who is also the Project Manager/ Development Manager/ QA Manager/ Program Manager/ Project Lead/ Team Lead/ Developer/ Tester. This raises some questions.

Why is this happening?

I haven’t quite figured out [as yet] why if you are transitioning to Scrum, would you want this to happen – especially when Scrum Master is defined as a full time role in Scrum. The feedback I get is mostly around these lines:

  • There are not enough Scrum Masters available. We can’t just keep waiting for them to turn up. Hence, we identify people internally who can play this role. And, no one wants to do this role full time or take on this title officially. So, there we go. Do your 2 plus 2 is 4.
  • There does not seem to be any value in this role being a full-time – it is something you can do part-time. How much time can removing obstacles for the team actually take?
  • Serving the team, Protecting the team, Helping the team, Guiding the teams use of Scrum is something, which everyone should do and different people are already responsible for these things.

It is easy to dismiss or scoff at these [especially the latter], but these arguments actually seem to be true. I know for a fact that there are not enough Scrum Masters available [possible topic for another blog post]. I also know, that in an organization internally, not enough people are kicked enough to play this role. And, no matter what argument you give, the management is never convinced that this can be a full-time role especially when they see others doing this role.

Is this a good practice?

My views on “doing something just because ABC or some book or some user group discussion says so” are well known. Don’t do it. It is also said, that having no Scrum Master is better than having no Scrum Master. Before we address the question – Is it a good practice for Team Leads/ Project Managers/ Developers to be also Scrum Master, we must see what is it that a Scrum Master does. Like most things, lets start with Wikipedia, “Scrum is facilitated by a ScrumMaster, also written as Scrum Master, whose primary job is to remove impediments to the ability of the team to deliver the sprint goal/deliverable. The Scrum Master is not the leader of the team (as the team is self-organizing) but acts as a buffer between the team and any distracting influences. The Scrum Master ensures that the Scrum process is used as intended. The Scrum Master is the enforcer of rules. A key part of the Scrum Master’s role is to protect the team and keep them focused on the tasks in hand.” Scrum Masters use soft power, servant leadership and trust to help the team become better. Scrum Masters also surrender complete control to Product Owner and the Team.   Some of the qualities we look for in a Scrum Master are humility, staying in the background, integrity and gain trust. We obviously see the clashing red flags here – the Scrum Master is not a leader. However, typically, the Leads/ Managers are that. The team is reporting to them. However, nothing that we talked about in Scrum Master’s role says that you can not have that with the team reporting to you or you working part-time as a developer/ tester. In fact, some people could argue otherwise. If you are a developer and you are convincing everyone to test, you can lead by example. So, let me stick my neck out and say – “I don’t think it is a bad idea.” It is always better to get the right person play a Scrum Master – like role half time than getting no Scrum Master or lousy full time Scrum Master. However, I won’t probably call them Scrum Master. I’ll call them Scrum Evangelist or Process Owner or Scrum Owner or something like that. Why a different name? Because, the team does not report to Scrum Master [yes, just because of that]. And, anyways, it wont be the name, but the intent and the action of the person that will play out louder in the transition scheme of things. Also, you should get these people [and the rest of the team and Product Owners] good coaching.

Some of these people [Process Owner or Scrum Owner] will make Scrum a bad word in the organization. But, so could many Scrum Masters and Product Owners [and even the teams for that matter]. The hope is that organization will pick the right people for this role. Like the rest of the organization, these people [whatever you have called them] will also transition.


Scrum Masters and Managers

Posted in SCRUM with tags , , , on November 1, 2008 by vikramadhiman

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].

Next Level for SCRUM Masters

Posted in SCRUM with tags , on December 17, 2006 by vikramadhiman

I have been thinking over the past few weeks that does a SCRUM Master really need to be only a Management Guru? Does all that she need to do is to keep the SCRUM process in check? What is the career graph for a SCRUM Master? Why is this question circulating in my head is because I am myself battling demons that I am being left behind in the technology race. How long can you just enable people to make the really cool and snazzy interfaces/ scripts/ APIs without yourself wanting to be part of the action? However, one of the SCRUM rules is “only one role”. You can not take on another role in the project. However, if you continue doing only one role again and again – would you not feel stifled?

There was a Yahoo Group Discussion on this topic some times back. It seems that SCRUM Masters should then become coaches who help SCRUM Masters hone their skills. But what next? There does not seem to be any answer from what I have been reading.

However, I think we need to understand that the key idea of SCRUM is that everything is not a designation but a role and a responsibility. Every individual in the team can take turns to play the SCRUM Master. I would think that is the ideal situation and scenario. However, that means that coaching/ mentoring/ understanding is something that the whole team needs to get involved with rather than having someone coordinate this for the team. However, is that not what SCRUM is all about?