ScrumMasters and Change

Some Faulty or incomplete claims we want to challenge

ScrumMasters are THE change agents in Agile Transformation. True and False. ScM`s do invaluable work on team level. Some ScrumMasters are also able to have organizational impact and right connections. But what we have seen is that very seldom individual (or even a group) of ScMs have the experience, network or other qualities to solely change the whole organization. ScrumMaster role must be tightly connected to managers and other opinion leaders and in co-operation with these people there is a possibility to make real change happen.

The ScrumMaster must protect the team from disruptive outside influences. IF this is interpreted that ScMs protect the team from management or meetings WRONG. When it is understood that managers are important part of organization and very often experienced people (and in most of the cases passionate for supporting teams), ScrumMasters need to co-operate much with the management. This includes needed meetings and other activities that help the team to understand the organizational change culture and vision. This should of course not be in conflict with the development tasks and team commitments.

Only ScrumMasters know how to execute and live real Scrum (and other Agile practices). It is not very likely that managers and other stakeholders stay passive and do not get into change business actively. Managers are very often among the most passionate people in the organization and they have usually abilities to achieve results. When understanding how teams, PO and ScM`s work together good managers will find their place in the transformation, and change their management style into more Agile. This aspect is often neglected in Agile/Scrum literature.

Best ScrumMasters are passive coaches and only ask questions. This approach I call “conceptual coaching”. I have never seen this solely work. Let`s make an example: what is the place where ScM should be located when discussing with the team? Some ScM`s and external coaches (at least whom I have seen) are “hiding” somewhere behind the white boards and asking questions (now and then). The better place would be in the middle of the people and passionately taking part in the discussions (especially if they are about the work, that is: user stories, spikes, development items, tools, …) but still remembering Scrum rules and adding a flavour of coaching aspect as well. The word I seek here is Substance


About Henri Kivioja

I believe in teams, personal development, humanity and good life.
This entry was posted in Agile Thinking, All, Scrum and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ScrumMasters and Change

  1. Zoltan Csapo says:

    As a practical ScM I strongly agree with all these points that Henri mentioned here. Especially with the last one. As a passive coach, how I experienced, you are just forced to the background and no one listens to you. Much better approach is to be an active coach, much like a leader, who shows the good practices, who is enthusiastic enough to catch the team members attention and makes them think: “Yes, this is cool thing to do”.
    “Lead by example” could be just yet another corporate buzzword, but somehow it works better than the passive coaching.

    • Henri Kivioja says:

      Thanks for your comment Zoltan. In the Scrum vision team is so self-organized and empowered that their need for external coaching and help is not anymore needed. I am still wondering has anyone seen this (nice) vision realized in any company that has more than 10 teams working with the same codebase?


  2. As a reply to Henri’s comment – i have sometimes been “forced” to work like in Scrum vision – the team felt that there is no need for a scrum master. It wasn’t so much about team being so self-organized and empowered, rather lack of external coaching fulfilling the teams’ needs. On the other hand this will eventually result in self-organizing empowered team, “Scrum vision A+ team”, but without proper coaching the team has no idea whether it has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the road of being self-organized & empowered.

    I strongly feel that this should be learnt by example rather than with trial&error. It would be faster thus letting the team to do more of the things they’re actually hired for.


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