Taken from the Scrum guide:
The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters
Do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules.
The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those
Outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful
And which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the
The value created by the Scrum Team.
So Here's a question: Is the Scrum Master (SM) a leader?
Clearly we know that the SM is not a manager, he has no authority on the team, however, it clearly states the “SM is a servant leader for the team” so naturally he’s a leader.
Lately I’ve encountered too many people assigning too much responsibility to the SM. For example, we expect the SM to help the team grow, to help them succeed at their sprint goals, to help establish the process and on and on.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really think that a good SM can really make an impact and help the team become so much better, but I would say that about any other member of the team. so lets take it from the beginning:
The SM is not the team leader
Many organizations adopting Agile and Scrum find it hard to grasp the concept that Scrum roles do not define and managerial role. Ideas like self management, shared responsibility are hard for them to understand. After years and years of growing up hierarchical based divisions. The simple idea that smart people are more than capable of managing themselves is simply too much to handle. (At least at first stages), so the natural move for them to make when transitioning to Scrum is nominating the various team leaders as Scrum Masters. Reading the description of the SM role, and the various activities is supposed to carry out, it really sounds like something we expect a good team leader to perform. And indeed in many case team leader transitions into the SM role quite well.
But sometimes they don’t, Sometimes Team leader is so used to telling other people what to do, that they naturally continue doing so. On the other side, the teams are so used to having a team leader telling them what to do that they continue looking up at the SM expecting him to provide answers – and eventually he does. Resulting in some cases ending up at the same spot we started in. Instead of having a team of responsible people self managing themselves with the help of a the SM. We get a team managed by the SM (ex team leader) going through the notion of the scrum. Making it so more difficult for the SM/team leader to actually manage the team. (Remember, he has no formal authority)
The SM Does not have to be a leader
Some, however move beyond that. They understand that the SM is not a manager, and model the role as some sort of leader to the team. And again this makes a lot of sense, having a good leader as the SM, can do great things for the team. The leader will naturally help the team do his job, he will help them resolve problems, he will manage the expectation of the organization and more. One thing he usually won't do, and that is make the team learn how to manage without him.
Good teams don’t need a scrum master
The best teams I’ve worked with, didn’t need a designated SM. They just did the work. They didn’t need anyone to babysit them and tell them what to do. They knew what meetings they need to schedule and schedule and attend. They managed to conduct their own meetings, and they found out by themselves what worked what didn't. They just did the work.
They met on a daily basis, shared information, when issues were raised, some one took the responsibility to handle it. And whenever work didn’t follow according to plan someone volunteered to notify the rest of the organization. Funny enough, it wasn’t that hard for them.
So lets put the SM role back into proportion.
It really helps having a good Scrum Master. If he’s a good leader great.
But if not, so what?
Ask yourself, do we really want the team to be led? Or do we prefer them leading themselves?
Is This All?
No. I would like to invite you to our upcoming Advance Scrum Master Workshop. We have designed it to help Scrum Master catch up on everything they need to know and learn to become really effective