"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Friday, 19 October 2012

Is Scrum Master (or team coach) a full time job?

That is a dilemma which pops up frequently and I'm pretty sure you got asked or asked yourself at least once.
Is this a real job or just a bit of meeting facilitation one can do in the spare time (maybe doing it for 2 or 3 teams at the same time)?

Someone told me few days ago: “You know: we have 7 development teams, 5 Product Owners, 3 Technical Coordinators and 4 Project Managers: we cannot afford to have full time Scrum Masters.”
!!!???@#**&%*!?: I thought.

A manager also asked me some months ago: “We decided to have one Scrum Master every 5 teams. Is this ok, according to Scrum?”
Well! The point is not if it is Scrum or not. The point is: what is the probability to have successful teams!

All in all, it's really interesting to see how much this role is challenged everyday, like maybe no other role in any company anytime before. And I also wonder why.

  • Is it because we didn't manage to explain it in the Scrum courses?
  • Is it just counterintuitive in our western culture?
  • Is it simply because we do not have enough great Scrum Masters or team coaches to play as role models and the average players do not think they can (or are not allowed to) provide value besides pulling some coding or testing tasks?

However, this hot subject got up during a retrospective of one of the local communities I’m part of in Italy. While discussing the fears which are preventing Scrum Masters doing their job well, the most voted post-it recited more or less the following:
"I'm always puzzled whether I'm doing the right thing and sometimes I'm really scared because I do not know what to do".

So, what are the typical tasks a Scrum Master is supposed to do concretely to perform his job well?
And how much time you'd better spend on each task as a minimum to make it effective in an average 2-weeks Sprint?

We held a 1.5 hrs workshop and here below a present for you: a nice picture summarizing the results of our discussion.

Awesome, isn't it?
Evidence of few numbers is most times much more powerful than many words.

Getting back to my original question: is Scrum Master a full time job?
What would be your answer now?

Agile development will not solve any of your problems.
It will just make them so painfully visible that ignoring them is harder. - Ken Schwaber


  1. Giuseppe, thank you for sharing this. Just one look at the list is the right answer. I love the last one...:-)

  2. Even though the general scrum rules and advises regarding teams and time sharing per role (depending on the agile adaption within the organization). I think this is a great example from our reality.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Interesting question and post.

    Would be interesting to ask (to who ask this question) also what does this question assume and why is this question important.

    Another interesting question is how to find out this, and this is what the workshop you reported in this post answered to, if I understood it right.

  4. Good point Luca.
    This post assumes actually a more basic question: How can we setup an effective learning organization?
    I think that having professional learning facilitators and servant leaders who are able to use multiple tools like teaching, mentoring, coaching, challenging or supporting is crucial. Full time Scrum Masters is a sensible concrete way to achieve that in my experience.
    In other terms: I've never seen part time Scrum Masters being able to get to that point.

  5. It is always good to have a discussion about right or wrong.

    For me it is clear that if a scrum master follow the intent of the Scrum Framework, the realization of the practical work carried out by the ScM will come naturally. And the work will be uniquely defined by the team’s intrinsic properties, the product being developed and the external context existing around the team.

    Hence, the relative content of a ScM's work will vary between different ScMs.


    1. Hi Christofer,
      thanks for your comment.
      I do agree the content of ScM work depends a lot from the specific context. And the picture you see is not meant to be exhaustive or to represent the only actions a ScM should do: it was just the result of a dicussion in a specific community of ScM belonging to a specific context.

      However the main message I meant to deliver was that being a great ScM is a fulltime job. And probably the better you get, the more you understand that you can have only one team.

      This feeling and experience is very much spread in the community. See also:

      What do you think?
      If you want to comment please use your id (not Anonymous) so everybody knows who is writing.