The Problem With ScrumMasters…

For a while now something has been bugging me…

Something to do with Scrum…

The “ScrumMaster” role to be exact.

But the problem I have is not with the role itself – having fulfilled it myself, I understand it’s intended value to the scrum process.

My problem is with the title.

And here’s why…

Although the word ‘master’ in ScrumMaster is intended to convey expertise in/authority over the scrum process, the word also has a relative meaning that implies the existence of a subordinate.

And that (in my opinion) is where the danger lies.

Because as you already know, where there is ambiguity, there is also room for misunderstanding.

Which might explain why although the “ScrumMaster” is intended to be a servant-leader role with no authority over the team (whatever authority they have is limited to ensuring the team follows the process), it is not uncommon to see instances where the role is treated otherwise, such as:

  • Team members giving progress reports directly to the ScrumMaster during stand-ups (instead of providing team members with information that might help them complete current tasks)
  • Even worse, ScrumMasters asking team members for progress reports during daily stand-ups
  • ScrumMasters allocating tasks to team members in sprint planning
  • ScrumMasters believing they have authority over team members (I still remember the time I joined a new company and one of the existing ScrumMasters forwarded me the new team allocations, saying he thought it would be a good idea if I was the one to send the email to the team members because that would ‘establish my authority’)

These are just a few examples…you might have some of your own. And you’ll agree such misconceptions are not in line with the roles intended objectives.

Now, let me make one thing clear…

I’m not saying that all misunderstandings of the ScrumMaster role – and what it represents – are due solely to the fact that the title includes the word ‘master’.

What I am saying is that since we all know words and titles affect behaviour – both consciously and subconsciously – and since the ScrumMaster is meant to mentor and facilitate team members in their use of the scrum process, would it not be more in line with those objectives – and empowering – if we referred to ourselves as “Scrum Facilitators”, “Scrum Coaches” or something like that?

Your thoughts…

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