Michael D. Green

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Do You Really Need a Full Time SCRUM Master?

13 Dec 2017 » careeradvice

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In the last couple of weeks, I have really been thinking (or rather re-thinking) about the SCRUM Master role and I have started to question if an organization really needs to employ a full time SCRUM Master. In this blog post, I want to talk about why I have started to question the full time SCRUM Master position, my experience with SCRUM Masters and last, how I would handle the position if I were in charge of an organization or an IT Department.


I have been Agile for about 7 years and I have been on roughly 10 SCRUM Teams in 10 organizations serving as a Developer, Lead Developer and Architect. Around 2013, I decided to get the SCRUM Master certification because I felt it would increase my knowledge about Agile SCRUM.

Why the Re-evaluation?

A few years ago, I had a friendly debate with a co-worker about the role of a SCRUM Master and whether or not the role was needed full time. At that time, I felt that SCRUM Masters were needed full time and my co-worker felt that once a team became highly performant, SCRUM Masters were no longer necessary. At this time, we agreed to disagree but I have to be honest, in the last month or so, I have really started to agree with my former co-worker.

Based upon my experience and not in any particular order, here are the typical duties of a SCRUM Masters:

  • Enforcing the rules of Agile SCRUM
  • Scheduling and running meetings for multiple SCRUM Teams
  • Guiding the Product Owner
  • Answering any questions about the Agile SCRUM Process
  • Managing the organization’s Agile SCRUM Software
  • Removing roadblocks

Breaking Down the Typical Responsibilities of a SCRUM Master!

Enforcing the Rules of Agile SCRUM

Based upon experience, the responsibility of making sure everyone on the team is in compliance with the Agile SCRUM process is usually given to the SCRUM Master. The question that I pose is, shouldn’t this be the responsibility of the entire team? Why is one person, the SCRUM Master responsible for making sure everyone is in compliance with the organization’s Agile SCRUM Process?

Shouldn’t the “self-organizing” team as a whole be responsible for making sure it is in compliance with the Agile SCRUM Process? From my perspective, being Agile was all about giving power back to the pigs ie the people that are actually responsible for doing the work and have real skin in the game. If a team member is not correctly following the SCRUM Process, the entire team should be responsible for notifying the individual either during the iteration or during the Sprint Retrospective.

Scheduling and running meetings for multiple SCRUM Teams

Another major task that many SCRUM Masters are responsible for is scheduling all the Agile SCRUM ceremonies like Stand-ups, Reviews, Retrospectives and Planning. Do you really need one person to handle this for a single SCRUM Team? What I have seen is that SCRUM Masters will be responsible for multiple SCRUM Teams and what typically happens is that each SCRUM Team will end up with really weird and inconsistent meeting times because the SCRUM Master has to juggle the meetings of the SCRUM Teams they are responsible for.

I would argue that SCRUM Teams would be a lot more efficient if the SCRUM Team itself was responsible for scheduling the time at which they will have their meetings. In my experience, most of the members of the team are going to be 100% dedicated to their SCRUM Team and therefore, when the team needs to meet, there shouldn’t be any scheduling conflicts and the team can meet at a time that is beneficial for “their” SCRUM Team.

Guiding the Product Owner

Guiding or coaching the Product Owner seems to be another job a typical SCRUM Master will have in most organizations. Although I think having a competent Agile Product Owner is extremely important, I would argue that what is more important is that the Product Owner is exposed to the ever changing Product on a constant basis and I wrote about this in my blog: The Most Important Relationship on an Agile Team. I believe that most Product Owners only need to be given a set of guidelines on how to be a good Agile Product Owner, which entails creating strong User Stories and maintaining a well groomed Product Backlog.

I do not feel that guiding a Product Owner should be the responsibility of a single person but rather the entire team. Once a Product Owner is given some Agile Coaching (I will talk about this later), I believe that it is no longer necessary to provide full time “coaching” and that the most important task becomes ensuring that the Product Owner is engaged and you do this by:

  • Constantly reviewing the Product with the Product Owner
  • Grooming the Backlog with the entire team

Answering any questions about the Agile SCRUM Process

SCRUM Masters seem to be the “goto” people in the organization when it comes to questions about the SCRUM Process. How long will Sprints be? Can we move a User Story into a Sprint? Again, I believe that the “entire” team is capable of answering these types of questions and it shouldn’t be the responsibility of one person. The team should be able to follow the guidelines of an organization’s Agile SCRUM Process. Also, I have observed that many of the questions that team members will have during a SCRUM iteration, such as “Can we add a User Story from the Backlog to a Sprint”, should be answered by either the Product Owner or the entire team.

Managing the organization’s Agile SCRUM Software

Another major task most SCRUM Masters have is managing the Agile SCRUM software ie keeping an eye on charts and opening and closing Sprints. Based upon my observations, this really isn’t that challenging, time consuming and really should be the responsibility of the entire team. Team members should be responsible for keeping their hours on tasks up to date. Team members should be responsible for updating the virtual SCRUM Board and during Stand-ups should be actively managing the physical SCRUM Board.

Furthermore, after the Sprint Review, the team should be able to rotate the responsibility of closing out a Sprint. During Sprint Planning, the entire team should decide which User Stories will go into the upcoming Sprint and at the end of Planning, declare the new Sprint active. The above should not be the sole responsibility of one person, is not complicated, time consuming and greatly strengthens the idea of “self-organizing” teams.

Removing roadblocks

Last but not least, one of the major roles of a SCRUM Masters is to remove any roadblocks that the team has. Again, based upon my experience, when a roadblock is addressed and ultimately removed, it is typically due to a team member talking to the Product Owner or a member of another SCRUM Team. A SCRUM Master may have set up the meeting but typically, team members and the Product Owners are the ones that ultimately resolve an issue.

How would I do things?

Let’s pretend that an organization wishes to become Agile and has placed me in charge of the transition. Here is what I would do:

Phase 1 - I would hire an Agile “Coach”. The Agile Coach would be brought in for 6 months to a year, depending upon the size of the organization to help transition the company to go from whatever process they are using to Agile SCRUM. The Agile Coach would be responsible for training the staff on what it means to be Agile, how to become Agile, coach Product Owners and work side by side with leadership to put together a working Agile SCRUM Framework for the entire organization to follow.

Phase 2 - Once the organization has been sufficiently trained in Agile SCRUM, the Agile Coach would make their exit and the team would be responsible for just about every aspect of their daily Agile SCRUM lives, as long as it follows the guidelines of the organization’s overall Agile Framework.

I would have team members rotate certain responsibilities such as scheduling/running meetings, opening Sprints, closing Sprints and ensuring that the SCRUM Board is accurate.

All the above serves to turn the team into a well oiled machine, builds teamwork and actually gives power to the people that are actually doing the work and who has major skin in the game.


From my experience, the SCRUM Master role is becoming an unnecessary bottleneck and has accumulated too much power, which should be in the hands of the Product Owner and the Team. Many SCRUM Masters use to be Project Managers and believe that a SCRUM Master is similar to a Project Manager and believe in the Command and Control leadership style, which is not compatible with Agile.

I am a big fan of bringing in a Agile Coach to help “coach” the organization but I do not believe that an organization should have a full time role solely for SCRUM Masters. In my humble opinion, the duties of a SCRUM Master should be spread among the “self-organizing” Agile Team Members.