Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Has the ScrumMaster role evolved due to a vacuum in line management?
If you look at the ScrumMaster role you'll see that they are there to serve the team. They are there to guide the team to improve themselves and the way they work. They are there to protect the team from unhelpful distraction. They are there to help the team overcome any obstacle that is preventing work from flowing smoothly. They are there to help the team self organise rather than telling them what to do. They are there to help the team deal with conflict and finally they have the authority from management to do all of the above. I could go on, but these are the most important parts of the ScrumMaster role.
The thing is all of these responsibilities are all things that a great manager does, so why does the ScrumMaster role even exist?
To me this implies that there are managers out there that don't realise that the items listed above are part of their role. This is especially prevalent in IT where managers have been pulled from the ranks of the company's senior engineers and given some management training. This isn't a bad strategy as managers should have the experience in the field that they are managing, but I'm of the view that management is something you need to have a passion for rather than just the next step in your career ladder. If you don't have the passion you won't necesarily drive yourself to improve continually. Good ScrumMasters have the passion and drive themselves to improve as well as their teams.
Some other posibilities as to why the role exists is due to the inherent lack of trust of management and company's with a culture of fear. The team tends to trust the ScrumMaster more as they have no authority over the team other than that agreed to by the team. In addition, as I mentioned before, they are responsible for protecting the team from undue distractions.
My final thought as to why the role came about is due to consistency. Management styles differ greatly between people within an organization or even the same department. Add in the fact that in larger organizations, managers change every few years which can cause the way the team works to change drastically. With a ScrumMaster you know what you are getting as the responsibilities are pretty clear. Yes each one may do things slightly differently but the core should be the same.
Of course the ScrumMaster is there in another capacity and that is of a pseudo project manager, but this is needed less as the team self organizes.
I'm not trying to bash line managers here, but I do believe though that both roles should be very similar. I also believe that both roles can work together to achieve great results.
I'd love to hear your comments about my post. Do you agree or disagree? Have I missed something?