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ScrumMasters are not Task Masters
ScrumMasters are not Task Masters

It always bewilders me to think about the amount of teams out there who designate the ScrumMaster as a ‘Task Master’. In these teams, the ScrumMaster’s role is often seen as that of an administrator. This ScrumMaster schedules, plans and runs the meetings, including the Daily Scrum.    His job is to make sure all the perceived overheads of the iteration are completed so that the team can focus on their “real” job. “Come around and get our hours every day so we don’t have to input them,” the team may say. “And while you’re at it,” they may add, “be a dear and handle any interruptions that come our way, would you?” However, this is a mistaken notion.

ScrumMasters are called what they are for one very simple reason: They own the process of Scrum.  They have one of the most complex and difficult jobs in the development organization: To create and maintain the processes by which we work. In short, they need to be change agents. 

I don’t mean to imply that ScrumMasters don’t work within the team. On the contrary, they work intimately as a part of the team to help create and adapt processes within the team. However, they aren’t the ones that manage the team and the team’s meetings and events – the team itself does that. It is perfectly fine for the ScrumMaster to perform those activities when working with a newly formed team but with the understanding that those are owned by the team and will be transitioned to the team as soon as possible.

What, then, should the ScrumMaster be doing once those items are transitioned? Everything else that falls under the ‘own the process of Scrum’ category. This includes working with Product Owners just as intimately as the team, to help with release planning and tracking, bridging the gap between the Product Owner and the team. This also includes working with existing management to solve deeper organizational issues that is beyond each team. Finally, they are responsible for working with other ScrumMasters to maintain a coherent process across the organization. In the end, a well balanced ScrumMaster will work in equal parts with the team, the Product Owner and the organization. 

This may be a good time to mention that the role of the ScrumMaster is a full-time one, but that is another blog entry.