Friday, October 3, 2008

Scrum Master role vs Leadership vs Project manager

Is the Scrum Master "a leader"? Yes, an informal one - not a formal one. The Scrum Master should not perceive the role as a leader role. The Scrum Master should be someone the team trusts and looks up to - but should be someone within the team, on the same hierarchical level as the rest of the team members.

I'm pointing this out because I have noticed that being appointed "Scrum Master" may imply "becoming the team leader". Which is incorrect. I see the Scrum Master as a representative for the team - the "curling parent". A person sweeping a clean path for the team to go forward. That does not mean leading per se.

If the Scrum Master is "the leader" I think you risk losing some of the cooperation effect and the "tightness" of the team, and with a strong leading Scrum Master the team risks relying too much on that single person to take decisions and lead the way. Or at least it will be easy for the Scrum Master to fall back in old tracks and take charge: thereby undermining the self-organization and collective committment of the team.

So, when you appoint Scrum Masters, make sure it's someone within the team, who the team trusts, knows and looks up to. Most often you'll find there is one or a few informal leaders in the team, and either of those would be perfect for the Scrum Master role.

An important note here is that the Scrum Master should not be the tech lead of the team. Don't make the Expert the Scrum Master. Why? Because the Scrum Master's first and foremost priority will be to remove impediments and be "Scrum Police" (sorry, I mean "Advocate" :)). That means taking time away from other tasks, such as coding. So if you put your tech lead as Scrum Master you will lose pace and you will hinder the rest of the team (because the tech lead will be busy removing impediments and won't have as much time to help others).

Finally, a pitfall which we fell into - which I guess is not totally uncommon for organizations and people who are new to Scrum - is to mistake the Scrum Master role with the classic project manager role. When we started our Scrum implementation we thought that the project manager (called "Producer" in our world) should be the Scrum Master. That was indeed a mistake. Just read the above :-). A lesson learned here is that the project manager role is sortof altered and spread out across Scrum Master and Scrum Product Owner. In our implementation, we regard the Producer as the "Scrum Product Owner" nowdays. I'll write some more about that in future posts.


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