Why Even 30 Years Later, Scrum Masters Remain Important to a Company's Success
03/23/23 by Motion Consulting Group
How valuable is a Scrum Master in 2023? A decade ago, Scrum Master was one of the hottest job titles on the market, with organizations moving toward agility and looking for people that could make sure the responsiveness and effectiveness that Scrum claimed to achieve came to fruition.
However, now 30 years since the framework was introduced, with a digital everything world and a highly remote workforce scattered across the globe – do we still need this role? No one is in the same room, anyone in theory can create a Teams meeting or set up a new conference bridge, and in a fully remote world, some would say that a Scrum Master can only slow things down. So, is needing a Scrum Master an outdated notion?
The Value of a Good Scrum Master
For the vast majority of teams and companies…not really. The issue is detractors of Scrum Masters have a very narrow view of what the role can accomplish. This confusion around the purpose of a Scrum Master is the core of the real problem. In reality, an effective Scrum Master is someone who is wearing many hats:
- Scrum Coach: A deep knowledge of the principles of agility as well as the Scrum Framework. Ensuring teams – many of which were new to Scrum – properly follow the Scrum framework and the principles which make it great, and keep the teams on track, ensuring they understand the path ahead.
- Communications Consultant: Good consultative skills for facilitating the critical alignment between the product owner and team when they couldn’t quite get there on their own. They are making sure the team and organization stay aligned and transparent.
- Servant Leader: A servant leader teammate who promotes team member ownership. They help the team to achieve own their success, and step in when the team can't resolve something on their own.
Hiring the Wrong Type of Scrum Master
The problem is many companies people that are hiring Scrum Masters today are hiring people that don’t have the skill sets that set up teams for success. Instead, many organizations are filling this role with:
- Administrators: These are punctual people who are great at creating meetings, duplicating information, and running according to a schedule – regardless of whether it adds the right customer value, produces quality or empowers the team.
- Other managers: These people are great at telling people what to do and will “drive” everything right back into the command-and-control pit from whence we came – sending transparency, collaboration and employee retention plummeting.
- Corporate refugees: This is a broad category of people from several potential areas including the recently disbanded PMO, duplicate roles from the latest acquisition, or anyone who took the 2-day Scrum Master course and now is “certified” – regardless of whether they have the right skills to execute the job effectively.
This misplacement has transpired across countless organizations. It causes teams, stakeholders and leaders within those organizations to consider the role unnecessary, instead of realizing that the problem lies with the type of candidate who was placed in the role.
How to Bring In the Right Scrum Master
Organizations can solve this problem and regain confidence in their Scrum Masters by doing the following:
Understand the skills necessary to be successful in the Scrum Master role: A good Scrum Master can help leverage 1-3 teams to better results, higher predictability, & greater happiness – that’s a lot of positive leverage! Validate that your job description is accurate and clearly represents the hard and soft skills listed above that a successful Scrum Master will need to be successful.
Don’t get distracted by a certification: Literally anyone can get a certification in 2 days. Have your hiring process contain skilled professionals capable of actively assessing your candidates (like good recruiters, Senior Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches) and confirming they meet the hard and soft skills required.
Allow Your Scrum Masters to Grow: Scrum Masters benefit from team experience, collaborating with others, advanced training, and periodic coaching. Remember the leverage – increasing the effectiveness of just one Scrum Master can improve the throughput, quality, and retention of 10-20 of your Product Development resources.
The Scrum Master role isn't obsolete for most organizations that are executing effectively with Scrum. But unless you fill it properly and enable its success – it might as well be. Make sure your organization understands the Scrum Master role, has clarity on the characteristics of individuals who can be successful in it, and supports those Scrum Masters as they enable your teams’ effectiveness. Getting started can be the hardest part, but Motion Consulting Group can help.