I’ve been teaching and coaching Scrum for nearly 20 years. During that time, I’ve always tried to stay true to the basic Scrum guidance and the Scrum Guide. But I’ve also shared my own practical experience.
One of the things that I’ve been consistent about in my guidance is that the ScrumMaster is NOT a manager or HR role. That is, they should not be “mucking around” with personnel performance issues. At least not directly.
For example, they should not be writing/executing Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) or removing folks from teams or firing folks.
So, you can imagine my shock & chagrin when I saw an article by Barry Overeem that seemed to be saying the opposite. Now I’ve followed Barry for many years and I normally align with his recommendations. Or at least I see the soundness in his perspective. And often he simply makes me think about things in new ways. Which I appreciate.
But in this case, I think this is a very dangerous point of view and flat out wrong. So, let me share my thoughts…
In my classes I often liken an aspect of the ScrumMaster role to that of a sheepdog. That an important part of their role is protecting the team. Often the direction of this protection is assumed to be outward, for example, insulating the team from external interruptions.
In a recent newsletter (sent on September 22), Mike Cohn discussed this part of the role in more detail. He spoke to two areas of protection:
- From Management Dysfunction (external), and
- From Team Complacency (internal)
The thing that struck me in Mike’s post is the internal protection perspective, ie., protecting the team from “themselves”. It made me think about areas where a ScrumMaster can really help their teams in this area.
Let’s explore some specifics…
I think everyone has the sense that the ScrumMaster role is all about:
The team, the team, and the team
and that they spend all of their time working in groups, with…the team. Most of their effort is facilitating meetings, resolving impediments, and generally serving the well being of their team(s).
And all of that is true.
But I think there is a much more subtle persona to great ScrumMaster’s and it doesn’t directly involve the team or group. It’s actually one of the hidden aspects of Scrum Mastery and I want to explore it in this article.
What are you talking about you might be thinking?
I was watching an NHL game the other evening. The team was playing a hockey game without a goalie.
Apparently the team had decided that their goalie was too expensive. So they traded him away to another team.
Then the backup goalie was sick. And his equipment didn’t fit anyone on the team, so they decided to “go without”.
In a pre-game interview with the General Manager, he said that it was strictly a financial decision. They felt that the team could fill in the goalie role by sharing it amongst themselves.
If it worked out as he expected, then they might consider this change as a permanent part of their hockey team structure.
At the very end of the interview, he wondered –
What does a Goalie do anyway? For 90% of the game they’re idle. What a waste of money. Why not get the team to “pitch in” and fill that role? It just makes good sense…
The five Core Scrum Values have been defined as:
The reference I’m using for this include a blog post by Mike Vizdos here. And you can see them articulated on the Scrum Alliance site here.
Tobias Mayer wrote a counterpoint blog post on these values and suggested a different set and focus all his own. Here’s what Tobias had to say: