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February 3, 2012 / KaTe

Six Dysfunctions of the Scrum Master

Scrum and Agile practitioners are talking a lot about team dysfunctions, problems with management or the Product Owner. But what about the people that are supposed to glue everhting together? The Scrum Master? Let’s take a closer look at the Scrum Master’s dysfunctions.

The Invisible

This kind of a Scrum Master is one of the few kinds of under-performing. He is so good at making his work invisible to the management, that he is also making his work invisible to the Development Team. Because his work is supposed to be invisible, he in fact is really doing nothing. This kind of a Scrum Master is very hard to spot, because he is always covering himself with the fact that his work is -supposed to- be invisible. He is not removing impediments, but hiding them.

The Mole

Moles, as you probably know, spread information to people that should not really know them. This kind of a Scrum Master is reporting his or her findings to the management, with proper description and comments regularly. The outcome of this is increasing level of micro-management, because managers bombarded with the amount of insignificant information are starting to worry that there is something wrong within the team and that they need to step in. Scrum Masters like this are not really liked, because they are viewed as agents. Teams also tend to stop talking about important stuff when the Scrum Master is around.

The Manager

Managers manage. Manager Scrum Masters instead of removing impediments micro-manage their team. They can do this because they really have formal power over the team or because they are using some other form of influence. This is of course killing self-organization and creating bottlenecks.

The Self-Organizer

This kind of a Scrum Master believes that a truly self-organizing team is doing absolutely everything on their own. So, the fact that he or she is doing nothing all day is something to be proud of. Teams tend to be frustrated with this kind of a Scrum Master – he or she is doing nothing on purpose and bragging about it. Internal conflict? – The Team is self-organizing, go fix it yourself. A new whiteboard is needed? You’re self-organizing, go get it yourself. You need a new server? … and so on. NOT helping.

The Absent

Well, I’ll be gone for the rest of this week, majority of another, and next month I will be at work only 5 days total to get you through plannings & sprint closing. This is NOT being a Scrum Master. Does not matter if this person is sick all the time or training people on an external contract. He or she is not there. This leads to the situation that the Scrum Master does not know the team he or she is supposed to look after and is unable to remove impediments.

The Architect

This happens if you make your senior engineer on the team a Scrum Master. He then is directing the team on how to do stuff, and nobody opposes because he is the “Master”. He then is the bottleneck of changes, everything has to go through him. So, the team is limited to his or her intelligence and  skill.

Which dysfunctions does your Scrum Master exhibit – or which one do you?

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