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aug 03

Don’t hire a ScrumMaster

smroleThe ScrumMaster is a role and not a job title, so companies posting a vacancy for ScrumMaster are on the wrong track. Earlier we talked about the idea to first answer the “why” question and then start by looking for the right people to help you with the Agile transformation. Lately we see that roles are becoming much more important. Companies need to change to keep up with the dynamically evolving market. But also need to change to adapt to the way people work together. For long we are saying the specialisme is no longer needed. People need to work more together and divide the various roles amongst each other in order to get the work done. Holacracy is more and more the new way of thinking within the business.

So why not hire a ScrumMaster? As the ScrumMaster is a role within the team, the parts of this role can be divided amongst the various team members of a Scrum team. Keep in mind that one of the goals within Scrum is to evolve a team towards self management. So in other words, the ScrumMaster becomes obsolete when a Team is evolving. In some situations the Scrum master role can grow. So someone filling the role might start helping more than one team and slowly evolve towards a team coach and eventually a company coach. When this happens, you know that the agility growth within the company is happening. The Agile maturity is a different matter and we’ll talk about this some other time.

Also when looking at a ScrumMaster vacancy in most cases the role and responsibilities within the role are poorly described. When you analyse that there are more coaching aspects described, the company does not understand what a ScrumMaster should do. A ScrumMaster role is completely different from an Agile Coach role. An Agile Coach is someone who will advise the teams and organization in how to become more Agile. He or she will be advising them how to play the game. An Agile coach also has the goal to go as wide as possible through the company. He or she is asked to help changing. From teams to management and not so much just doing Scrum but also help with the change to become more Agile across the entire business spectrum. An Agile coach is more a change manager and in large companies this is also a fulltime job. A ScrumMaster facilitates Scrum teams to become more efficient in playing the game. A real facilitator.

When there is a poor description of roles in a vacancy, you are probably dealing with a Non Agile organized company. In most cases those companies ask for a ScrumMaster but actually there is need for an Agile Coach implementing Agile or transform a company to become more Agile. When contacting those companies, in most cases, if you’re lucky they have read some books about Agile Scrum. Majority in Agile is low.

When dealing with brokers in between or recruiters, in most cases they do not ask questions to the companies who have published the vacancy. When asking questions about the role in most cases you get no answer either.

So for you companies who feel they need to hire a Scrum master, first look at the real question. Is Agile Scrum sufficiently incorporated into my company. Do I need more knowledge? And if so. Wouldn’t it be better to hire an expert to get things going. To train the Scrum master role with the people already working. Keep in mind that hiring someone from the outside to fulfill the role of a ScrumMaster might also have a negative effect on the people already working in starting Scrum teams. “Am I not good enough?” or “Why do we need someone from the outside when we are supposed to overcome difficulties within the team?”.

For Agile coaches it is one of the first important signals that there is need for more than just a simple filling in the vacancy. It is a clear signal that they are probably dealing with a company who needs help. For the human resource department it is a first signal that others are struggling to work towards change. Help is needed. For teams and management a clear signal that knowledge and support is needed, but not so much by just hiring a Scrum master. And well for you brokers and recruiters, start by doing your homework.

Co:writer Erwin Verweij

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  • Maciek Sowinski

    I don’t get why you assume that a scrum master has less knowledge or experience than an agile coach? Some people are using just scrum master term to cover both cases; agile change agent and team facilitator.

    • Douwe Attema

      So that is also a mistake. Agile Coaches are completely different from ScrumMasters. ScrumMasters should be more facilitators and of course they should promote Agile Scrum. But Agile Coaches are more advisors on how the game should be played, for sure in Scaled Agile there is really need for someone who can have a helicopter view because people are falling for example in old habits.