11

I have been working as a pure Scrum Master for a couple of years within a relatively agile organization.

My other Scrum Master colleagues and I do very little for most of the day except for facilitating stand ups to the point it is making me very uncomfortable from a lack of work.

My day to day is basically this:

  • Facilitate stand up
  • Do nothing until self organised team faces an extremely complex impediment which they cannot resolve themselves (happens once or twice a week)

It seems as though the only time I was busy was at the start when I facilitated a workshop on how agile works, and agreeing ways of working, but since then and now that the team has matured, I feel that I am increasingly adding little value day-day where I am scared that I could be made redundant.

Previously when I was a Project manager, it was a lot more hands on and would actively resolve a lot more impediments from actively managing.

What value does a SM add to an organisation over a long period of time?

I am concerned that this is not a sustainable long term career choice.

10

Great question! A lot of Scrum Masters get boxed into Scrum Facilitators early on because that's what a team learning Scrum largely needs. However, as the team gets better at organizing itself, the facilitation aspects of a Scrum Master are needed less and less, as you are discovering.

At this point, the coaching side of a Scrum Master starts to grow. In the team, the Scrum Master stops worrying about the day to day and starts thinking more about optimizing flow and value creation in the team. There is a Scrum Master Checklist that provides a lot of good things to consider exploring in the team. Keep in mind though that it is neither meant to be a daily checklist nor is it comprehensive - it's more of a thought-provoker.

In addition, the attention of the Scrum Master may turn to the rest of the organization to a degree. You'll start asking what are some ways to coach leadership and others in the organization that can help the team deliver value even more effectively. This is where the Scrum Master can start adding a lot of value because improvements at this level have a tendency to have broad cascading effects.

  • What does an agile coach do then if SM role is to solve organizational impediments? – bobo2000 May 17 at 9:20
  • 3
    There is no canonical difference between an Agile Coach and a Scrum Master with the one exception that SM is scrum-specific. The hierarchical separation between the roles that has come into practice is completely arbitrary. (in fairness, in recent years this norm has started to creep into official channels) So, the answer to your question would be that the scrum master is the agile coach in that situation. – Daniel May 17 at 16:25
4

Focus on Continuous Improvement

A key principle of Scrum is continuous improvement. The Scrum Guide says:

Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.

While teams will rarely see dramatic improvements once they've achieved maturity, they should continue to see refinements and changes over time as an outcome of the inspect-and-adapt cycle. Team compositions change, projects change, and business needs change. No matter how efficient the team may be today, an effective Scrum Master should never stop helping the Scrum Team look for new insights into their processes, and provide opportunities for the team to discover new and better ways of working together.

Beyond the Scrum Guide, the role of Scrum Master should evolve with the team. As a Scrum Team and its parent organization matures, the Scrum Master often becomes less of a process referee and more of an efficiency coach. Scrum Masters are members of the Scrum Team, and should be using significant slack time to explore new techniques, practices, tools, and workflow ideas to share with the team as it seeks continuous improvement.

Even within the singular role of Scrum Master, there are always opportunities for continuous improvement. Seeking out better metrics, better information radiators, improving communications and facilitation skills, and continuing education in agile techniques and thought leadership should all be evergreen tasks for a Scrum Master who is part of a mature Scrum Team.

Inspect Framework Fit as Projects and Teams Evolve

Projects are also not infinite. By definition, a project has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Mature Scrum Teams often stay together for multiple projects, so there's always implementation and adaptation work to be done as the team onboards new stakeholders, new business drivers, and new workflows. If none of these apply, and you have a never-ending "project" that is more maintenance or support than development, you may have uncovered an opportunity to explore other frameworks, educate the organization, or transfer non-development work to a different organizational unit.

Avoid the 100% Utilization Fallacy; Seek Value Instead

Roles in Scrum do not require 100% utilization to add value. If the team and the organization have truly reached total and complete enlightenment, then there is still value in having an experienced Scrum Master available for the next project. There is also value in having this person paving the way for future projects, training other members of the team or organization in the Scrum Master role to increase cross-functional expertise and prepare for scaled agile implementations, and other Scrum-related organizational improvements.

Continuously Adapt Your Career

And finally, if you've truly done every single thing the role, team, project, and company can possibly benefit from, it may be time to continuously improve your career. Your goal as an agilist shouldn't be to grow old and die in your current role or at your current company. There are always new teams, new projects, and new companies in need of a great Scrum Master. If you can't add value or continuously improve where you are, then it may be time to move on.

  • 2
    +1 for the "opportunity to explore other frameworks". I strongly believe Scrum is an entry level agile methodology, where others that demand more seasoned members could be the natural evolution of Scrum. – Tiago Cardoso May 18 at 19:30
2

that's a great question. First of all, Scrum Masters have responsibilities towards the team but also towards the PO and towards the larger organization as well:

The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:

Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption; Planning Scrum implementations within the organization; Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development; Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and, Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

So maybe there are things you can promote and improve outside of the scope of the team. In any case, while I understand the feeling of being "out of place", I'd invite you to look at it from a different angle: if you have a team that is performing well, where dynamics are good, everyone is doing his/her best and results are good... well, if anything, you've done a pretty good job! Pat yourself on the back and look for the next challenge or the next team or organization to improve.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.