Delivery as scrum master responsibility

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Scrum is not much more different than playing a team sport like football. Let’s make an exercise of imagination and try to map the scrum roles to a football team.

  • PO – Would be the sponsor of the team who decides what are the leagues that we should play. Also ensures that the team is profitable.
  • Scrum master – This would be the coach, the person that ensures that the team is focused and able to create a name of their own thanks to their wins
  • Team – Those are the people that are in the grass playing. Once the match is there there is no much that the coach or the sponsor can do to help them.

Who is responsible to ensure that the next match will be won? The team, they’re the ones playing. If the coach doesn’t trust the team and tries to direct them in order to win the match the team will lose confidence and will become a puppet of the coach. These actions might help the team to win one match, but in the long term they will not be autonomous, the can lose their confidence and their performance will be impacted.

The same happens in Scrum, the responsibility of the scrum master is that the team self organizes and have a good process so they can create a long number of wins. When the scrum master is in charge of the delivery this might generate the following adverse effects:

– Quality will be lowered: For instance, a scrum master can be tempted to request the team to have a lighter definition of done in order to be able to reach a delivery date.

– The team will be less self-organized: Since the scrum master is going to be responsible for the delivery he will increase the control over the team. He might change from asking “what are your impediments?” to “what is your status?”. When this happens your scrum master is not anymore letting the team self organize because he’s involved in the current delivery.

– The process will suffer: A scrum master in this situation will have a conflict of interest between ensuring that process is followed or delivery is met. For instance, he might decide to cancel the grooming meeting since the team needs to focus on the delivery. This would generate an impact on planning, generating a butterfly effect. The team will be protecting the current delivery on the detriment of future sprints.

I think that is important that organizations understand the role of scrum master as a coach instead of a project manager. The goal of the scrum master is to create a self-organized team that doesn’t need a scrum master. If your organization is adding the scrum master as the deliver owner I recommend you to try to explain the differences of a scrum master and project manager, and how self-organization will improve performance, happiness, and creativity on your teams.

So what do you think? are scrum masters owners of the delivery? should they focus on the long term wins ensuring that the team has a good process and all the impediments are removed?

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