To have or Not to have Scrum master

Met a program manager in regular monthly status review meeting and was surprised to hear his statement “We don’t need full time scrum master or agile coach” as what does  Scrum master do full time anyway. He doesn’t deliver anything so its dead or costly investment”

Met the same program manager after a month to understand his “Scrum master less” project health. He was unhappy with the project progress and recollect his few interesting quotes during our conversation:

  • “Its agile; Team is not working in self organized manner, they should take responsibility and deliver”
  • “I give them full autonomy and expect maturity from all working adults… cant they just deliver”
  • “Now-a-days project team discussions doesn’t sound cool and team members are not in smiley mood – instead I hear shouts and screams.”

He went on for few more minutes and we discussed what value a skilled and competent scrum master / coach bring to programs and projects.

Often while allocating program and project budget some cut corners by not involving full time Scrum master may save $$$$ for in short term and definitely impacts projects culture, team building, delivery in long run.

Merely giving resources, autonomy, budget and sharing goals is comparable to giving mobile GPS to fully loaded ship without captain and expected it to reach from the Asia to the USA as it has skilled engineers on-board!!!!

I believe in both agile team can work without Scrum master and cannot work without scrum master based on following scenarios.

Scenarios # 1:

A team which has worked on multiple projects under same program and have to work on same domain, related project and with same team members who have repeated success in earlier multiple project may deliver new short-term project under same program without scrum master. Put it simply – we have less risks and we have more KNOWN-KNOWN and KNOWN-UNKNOWN areas than totally UNKNOWN areas besides project complication.

Again here the key term is “team is autonomous, self-organizing” and ready to take ownership and responsibilities of project delivery consequences in mature lean-agile-innovation organization culture.

Scenario # 2:

If the team is new to agile project management practices, worked in environment of distrust, blame-game, now ownership and null accountability and organization culture of command and control, limited business domain knowledge and in limited resources than Scrum master role is non-negotiable. Such project circumstances demand constant guidance, liaison with upstream and downstream projects and teams, project goal clarity and a guiding authority to achieve project goal besides building team cohesiveness and developing culture of faith and trust and henceforth Agile Coach and Scrum master role become more prevalent.

Scenario # 3:

Some projects assign Scrum master responsibilities to project Business Analyst or to Developer or to QA resources. I have mixed feeling and experience of such projects. Often team members who are executing duel role may have conflicting priorities and bias towards their primary competency henceforth Scrum master role and agile activities suffer in such projects.

Sometimes when organization culture has already adopted lean-agile practices and teams have matured find it seamless to execute duel role of project delivery and Scrum Master without stressing self or project goals. Such projects succeed because of team members’ competencies and organization work culture.

In conclusion I believe organization work culture, customer constructive involvement, middle management support, individual competency, self-organizing teams, strong and mild personality’s and many more parameters impact project success or failure. Each of the above parameters is big topic in its own and would love to cover them in subsequent posts. Until than trust your competent scrum master and deliver business value.

Stay lean, agile and innovate my friends



Engineer by training; Business value advocate by choice. User, Coach, Trainer and active promoter of Business Model Innovation and Design Thinking. (after all its moral obligation when you learn from the best - Stanford Uni) Pivoted from merger and acquisition to digital transformation to defining innovation strategies to building startup to lean and agile delivery. Always inquisitive by nature and creative thinker in action believe in continuing life long learning journey.

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