May 12th, 2020

Pandemic – Is now the right time to fire your Scrum Master?

Preeth Pandalay
Preeth Pandalay

An executive turned transformation consultant with 25+ years of learning, Preeth trains and coaches... Read more

Many folks on LinkedIn these days, seems to have a renewed interest in firing the Scrum Master. I have been asked quiet a few times personally as to what will the scrum master do now that we are heading to a ‘New Normal’.

I don’t have a crystal ball and I do not know how to read the tarot cards and so I really cannot predict what will happen in the new normal.

One thing that is pretty evident is businesses are actively exploring ways to build resilience and to quickly adapt to the new normal and this, I strongly believe, is what agility was all along.

With this deliberate focus of adapting the new normal, I believe, the Scrum Master role, the internal change agent, becomes critical. So, it’s time to stop marginalizing the Scrum Master role and make an effort to understand what the role entails.

Here is a quick summary (a rather reductionistic view) of the role:

Accountability of Scrum Master– Help the scrum team and the organization understand and enact scrum.

Yes, his responsibility doesn’t end with helping the development team understand scrum but rather encompasses the Product Owner role and every function that are part of the delivery ecosystem.

Yes! That’s right the Scrum Masters are the Change Leaders who bring about the transformation of the system.

Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

Towards the Development Team:

  • Provide & Protect Autonomy
  • Generate Accountability
  • Help to balance Autonomy & Accountability

Towards the Product Owner:

  • Product planning in an empirical environment including generating
      • Forecast which provides transparency and business insights for stakeholders
      • Product roadmap which provides the expected revenue projection
      • Release planning which enables maximizing the ROI
  • Effective product backlog management – defining business value & prioritization techniques
  • Effective stakeholder management 

Towards the Organization:

  • Planning, leading and coaching the Organization towards Agility
      • The business strategy office with insights to build stability (Process enhancement for BAU) & agility (discontinuous innovation for new business/opportunities)
      • Finance function with Horizon based planning and Lean budgeting
      • HR functions with Evidence-Based Management & OKR
      • Decentralized procurement using agile contracts
  • Building and Operating Agile and Scrum community, the alliance that will propel and lead the change
So, if you find that I have missed mentioning something basic that pop up in many minds when talking about a day in the life of a scrum master say for example -
  • Setting up Scrum events & inviting participants and moderating it
  • Assigning, tracking, and managing individuals’ work
  • Attending Daily Scrum and solving each & every problem of the Dev Team
That’s just because that’s not what they do. Yes, as absurd as it might sound, Scrum Masters are not the teams’ admin or secretary.

I believe it is the scrum master role that will play a pivotal role in co-creating and evolving the organization’s capability to survive the pandemic and then thrive in the new normal.

With this I hope, together, we can now focus on building a way of working that’s best suited for the new normal rather than wondering if it is time to fire the scrum master.

Preeth Pandalay

An executive turned transformation consultant with 25+ years of learning, Preeth trains and coaches organizations to be agile and more importantly to stay agile. Preeth’s pragmatism finds its root in his diverse experience at various leadership positions.

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