A Scrum Masters job is to work themselves out of a job

I didn’t realize this when I first started on my Agile journey but, it’s absolutely true. We talk about self-organizing, self-managing teams and I continue to see teams and Scrum Masters who can’t separate. I think some of it is organizational and some of it is…not.

When a company or department decides to “go Agile” they do it for the right reasons. They want to deliver value faster. The thing is, when you apply Scrum, it’s a massive mind-shift more than anything else and while the org may want to deliver faster, they still want all the other stuff they had too. Things like status reports, project plans, milestones…I have had people ask for the release plan .mpp. I understand the needs of stakeholders and executives but you can’t have it both ways. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a compromise to be had if the company is large enough. Lately, I’m thinking frameworks like SAFe address those needs nicely – we’ll see. So, you need a Scrum Master to deal with the paperwork overhead. If the Scrum Master is meeting this need they’re probably not focusing on getting the team to a high-performing place. Odds are pretty good the team is still working in the old way, just with a board.

The other reason could be that it’s mostly PMs who end up filling the Scrum Master role and unless he or she is willing to really shift perspective, it’s command and control with a team in the room and the plan on the board. It’s awesome for the PM!! Their team is captive and he can tell what is going on every minute of the day. That’s horrible for the team though. And, that PM is not focused on the team. He’s focused on the work.

My initial point of view was it was business as usual, but with a board and 15 minute meeting everyday. I NEEDED to know everything, control everything and be right smack in the center of everything. A good team, mentors and instructors taught me differently. It’s great when you deliver a project as a PM. But, let me tell you, it’s nothing short of awesome when you guide a team to that self-organizing, high-performing place and you realize you’re no longer necessary.

People are smart. They want to do well. They have good ideas. They are good problem solvers. These are basic truths. Team members will work hard for each other, their solutions and their ideas. To me, the job of a Scrum Master is to help the team learn how to do all these things within the Scrum Framework as simply and easily as possible. It’s not so much about protecting them from others. It’s about protecting the space they need to learn, grow and get to a place where you’re not needed.


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