As agile frameworks grow in both popularity and widespread use, especially with Scrum leading the way, Scrum Masters have grown in popularity with companies, and we see an increase in job postings specifically for them. However, we have to understand that “being” an SM is not a position to occupy, it’s living up to a set of responsibilities.
Although the role itself is an artifact of Scrum, the responsibilities of the role are nothing new for a healthy team environment. A Scrum Master needs to support the team’s ability to focus on what is important and deliver on commitments.
When organizations implement agile frameworks, a Scrum Master role is needed to help teams re-learn the discipline of healthy delivery. But as time goes by, the responsibilities need to be absorbed by the entire team. There may be one person that takes a lead, but the mantle lies on the entire team’s shoulders, and the position of Scrum Master slowly phases out as a new team capability emerges: leadership.
Leadership at the team level is something we have slowly diverged from in the name of organizational efficiency over the last few decades. Management theory has taught us that the most efficient way of managing the work is to remove tasks and responsibilities outside of each person’s job description. So developers should only do development, QA only testing, etc. Leadership is seen more in terms of a craftsman expertise with a focus on tightly controlling the work itself.
I don’t know if “Scrum Master-ing” is a professional endeavor for a life-long career or more of a step along the way. I think that the more you practice it, the more you really dive into becoming a change agent. The responsibilities of the role lend themselves naturally to that progression. For instance, the more teams you lead as a Scrum Master, the more you learn to read the patterns of impediments, and the more you will seek to prevent/mitigate the formation of problems you have observed in the past. Why wait until challenges materialize when we can go out and influence the outcome early, right? And you would do that by influencing the environment in which the patterns are forming to help “change” the circumstances that are developing. Now, you’re now thinking like a change agent.
Like a good leader, a Scrum Master builds a legacy for the team to perpetuate once the position is no longer needed. And now the role persists through the team.
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