The most frequent question I run into is “Being a scrum master requires so much,  how would I have time to also stay part of the team and develop?” or in other words “I am 50% scrum master and 50% team leader - how do I cope with that?” The answer for both questions is you probably won’t. 

Lately your VP R&D has noticed that something isn’t working.  Teams’  productivity and moral are low and product delivery is always late. Searching for a solution, he or she heard of the marvellous, universal remedy for failing software development projects called Agile,  and decides to implement it in Scrum flavour . Soon after, teams are transferred from being Component Teams to Feature Teams, and in addition, team leaders “lose” their title as managers and automatically are known to be Scrum Masters. In order to succeed in this transformation, the VP R&D even hires an Agile Consultant to help facilitate this recent change. 

This agile coach mentors the scrum masters and explains their additional role and responsibilities. The following are only few of the issues scrum masters have to figure out throughout their workday: 

  • Are we delivering working software frequently and fast enough?
  • Is the definition of “done” being followed?
  • Are the team members motivated? 
  • Is the sprint backlog for the next sprint ready?
  • What is the team’s velocity?
  • Are we coming up with meaningful ideas for improvement in retrospective? 
  • Do we review past retrospective action items?
  • Are the user stories for the next iteration ready? 

and so on… 

This is the point the scrum master turns to me, the Agile Coach, and says: “Ahhhhhhhh!!! What should I do? I do not have time for everything…” and then I smile, knowing that this is the stage scrum masters have to decide on a path - either to be a Technical Lead or a Scrum Master. There is not a right or wrong answer here. It completely depends on the person and what they are passionate about. However, being a scrum master is indeed 100%, full-time job.

Based on The Scrum Guide by K. Schwaber, I suggest the scrum master to experiment. Find what they are more passionate about. Is their tendency towards nurturing people and helping them reach new levels of self-development? Or is it toward programming and technology? 

“Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk.“ [The Scrum Guide\ K.Schwaber and J.Sutherland]

In the next iteration try to be 100% scrum master and coach someone to be the technical lead instead of you. At the end of the iteration ask yourself how did it feel? If it felt like: “Well, that was fun! I want more of this, please”, I guess you know what path you should choose. If it felt horrible, something in the lines of: “I miss my IDE and can’t wait to code again”, maybe you should think if you want to hand the scrum master role to someone else - which will make you a great tech lead  :) 

I’m not saying that someone can’t be both… 

                                                  maybe you are one of the chosen few.

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