In an organisation they decided to hire a full time scrum master to help them transition to scrum. Most of the developers onshore and offshore were new to the company's huge system, and new to scrum. Three months later, the management decided to start taking over the process in order to deliver "something" as the first crucial deadline approached, since the scrum team's velocity was not ideal and often they were dropping stories, or bringing them to the next sprint.

The management thinks that too much detail is given in trying to split down user stories and gauging the team's performance, so they will just have to take over and leave the "agility" at the side for the next couple of months until they actually deliver something.

What should the scrum master do granted that this is a management decision?

  • 2
    Saying that the velocity is not ideal is a red flag. What are they comparing it with? See this question on how to understand velocity (disclosure: I asked that question): pm.stackexchange.com/questions/17701/…
    – Pedro
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 1:03

3 Answers 3


For an agile transformation to be successful, it requires support from the Top, the Middle and the Teams. While resistance in the Middle or Teams can slow things down, lack of active support from the top almost always leads to failure. Unless the team is already high performing and management is happy with their work, guerrilla agile rarely works.

I nearly worked for just such a company. Thanks to contacts in the company I learned that the scrum master's boss was fired fairly early on and the scrum master only lasted another couple of months as management tried to decide if they were effective. Of course they were not because management didn't really want to be "agile", they wanted a quick fix silver bullet.

When I have coached people facing this situation the advice I always give is simple. Run...

You don't have support, the organization is sick and you're a very convenient target. Unless you can get at least one top level manager to support you then you're on quicksand.

Sorry, not a fix. May save you a lot of heartburn though.

  • 3
    +1 to run. There is no honour in staying on a sinking ship when the Captain can blame you for the hole... Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 9:31

Without knowing the details/context of your company culture and management, my first instinct would be to round up the dev teams and management (or as much of each as possible) and do a root-cause analysis of the current situation; using the 5-why's or a similar approach. At least then you will have a clear idea of where everyone stands in terms of really giving Scrum a shot, what is preventing adoption, and management's tolerance for risk.

Also, you will definitely want more than a single SM for training and supporting multiple distributed teams AND management.


Sadly this is not an uncommon situation (I have faced it myself a few times).

When the management team does not understand the Agile approach they often assume it is a luxury and that it slows delivery down.

The Scrum Master's role is to ensure that Scrum is being followed. To do this it is often necessary to spend a lot of time coaching people about the how and the why of Scrum.

I would take the opportunity of the 'management takeover' to spend time explaining the benefits of the agile approach. Place particular emphasis on how Scrum can appear to be slow because it tends to be a very open and transparent way to work. It is also worth talking about the continual improvements that you get with Scrum and how in the medium/long-term these will often produce sizable benefits.

There are some excellent books out there that you can use as ammunition for your arguments. I would recommend "Scrum - The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time" by Jeff Sutherland and "The Nature of Software Development" by Ron Jeffries. Both books are targetted at management level readers and so will be helpful in your current situation.

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