On being a scrum master

Scrum is value based. That means, no one can impose it on to another. Anything value based is like religion. People progress on optimism and commitment, and not based on rules. We cannot call someone faithful, if she is participating in the ceremonies halfheartedly, in order to impress the society. Likewise, we cannot label a scrum master as committed to scrum, if she is just conducting / participating in the scrum ceremonies like planning meeting, daily scrums, sprint demos, retrospectives etc. She can be performing this in order to please those high power, high interest stakeholders.  Unfortunately, complete commitment to scrum is an entry criteria for a scrum master to a scrum team. It is her responsibility to ensure that scrum is implemented within the project. That is the primary job of a scrum master. Her job is not evaluating scrum, for it’s applicability within the project. One of the pillars of scrum is ”Commitment”. Without that, no one can be part of a scrum team. If you want to identify such scrum masters, who are just outwardly committed to scrum, here are some of the symptoms;

  • A tracking board, which is not updated
  • An obsolete burn down chart
  • Seeing revision of estimates as evil
  • Daily scrums longer than 15 minutes duration
  • Incompetency to resolve issues highlighted by the team
  • No evidence of a formal retrospective meeting (documented minutes, actions)
  • Velocity calculations are ruled out
  • Advocating command and control, than collaboration  

These kind of scrum masters are a doom to scrum teams,organizations or for that matter, any self organizing teams. They are bound to fail, in any self organizing teams. Scrum will fail in such teams, because of the scrum master’s lack of commitment to scrum. Organizations must see them as failures, who failed in one of their key responsibilities, which is implementing scrum, within their teams. Why are they opposing scrum?. One of the reasons is lack of  proper understanding of scrum. She might have attended a training on scrum, and at the same time might not have taken any extra effort to understand it completely (reading the scrum guide). This is easy to correct. Another reason, which is very difficult to deal with is insecurity.

There are only two options available to this. Either change the scrum master, or stop implementing scrum in such teams, for a sprint duration, and allow them to follow  whatever method they want to follow during that sprint cycle, and wait for the successful completion of the sprint. If that sprint is a success story, without revising the schedule duration (sprint duration), without asking people to work beyond eight hours and holidays, by just moving from work volunteering to work allocation, then they are right. We must listen to them, and learn from them.  Otherwise we must have the professional integrity to call her off from the scrum master’s role, because that person is not meant for it. An early failure is always adorable.

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