Save Money, Fire the Scrum Master?

Written by Jen Deutsch
on April 21, 2020

So, you did it

You’ve hit your goal and implemented agile at your company. You feel like you’ve checked off the box and now understand all the “things” you are supposed to do to be agile. So you ask yourself “Why keep the scrum master?”

It has crossed your mind and you know that you would get approval to switch out the scrum master with a developer. You think about how much more work could get accomplished if the team had one more developer coding. But wait, your team has been praising how awesome this scrum master was and how they were a coach and leader for everyone by removing obstacles so that they could get their work done. And then you think…if a pro sports team decided they wanted to save money on coaching staff and get more/better players to be more self-organized, it would be breaking news. Well that doesn’t seem to work, maybe we shouldn’t let the scrum team be self-organized. However, they are all smart humans, they can just pick up the work and get it done and that is what we pay them to do after all…I don’t know!

Often the internal conflict that businesses face while undergoing an agile transformation is about how to be effective and keep budgets on track. We understand how hard decision-making can be when you want to move forward. Asking the question about what a scrum master can bring to your team is not a silly one. After all, the Scrum Master has more soft skills and we are taught that success means having something to show, i.e. a fully coded feature, a detailed user story, or architectural specification document among other tangible deliverables. Trying to change this thinking can be very hard especially in the business world where changes take time and results orientated leaders may focus on deliverables and less on how the team be more effective and increase output. However, we must change our perspective if we are to fully invoke the power of agile.

To help with our new perspective it is handy to think of Scrum Masters as Coaches. The Scrum Master/Coach is the one who holds it all together. The Scrum Master/Coach removes roadblocks for the team including unnecessary distractions, needing equipment, creating a space for the team to do their best work, or removing obstacles for them to move faster. The Scrum Master/Coach has to know everything that is going on and consistently adjust so that the team isn’t impacted and is able to do their best work. And most importantly, the Scrum Master/Coach is there to make sure the team is meeting the expectations of the stakeholders.

Scrum-Master-as-Coach

When we think of Scrum Masters in terms of a coach their value is easy to see. This role becomes a necessity for success and not simply a temporary role to check off the agile box. After all, the Stanley Cup champions would never think of firing their coach the next season. The target is always moving and changing, and the best Scrum Masters and sports coaches make those changes unnoticeable while winning. What you will see is effective Scrum Masters make the projects go faster and smoother gaining the momentum and allowing the team to tackle more and more. If you want to know more about agile transformations and effective Scrum Masters, reach out to us. We hope we can ease those thoughts running through your mind and support your success.

Header image courtesy of Unsplash.