The Evolution Of the Scrum Master: From Manager To Coach (or is it Leader?)

Scrum has been around for years. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber presented it in 1995. They based it on “The New New Product Development Game“ (1986) by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Many things have evolved since then.

A great example is the ScrumMaster. The accountabilities of the Scrum Master changed drastically over the years. So much there’s little left of the original. It is no wonder many are confused about it. As an example: only ten years ago the Scrum Master assigned who would become the Product Owner.

In this article, I will discuss the evolution of the Scrum…

An analysis of the Product Owner accountability

A few weeks ago, Maarten Dalmijn published an article that made me think. He states he never encountered a Product Owner as prescribed in the Scrum Guide. He especially has issues with the following:

  • The entire organisation should respect the decisions of the Product Owner.
  • The Product Owner is one person.

Then Maarten explains what bothers him:

“I’ve never met that illustrious single person who owned the complete product with all their decisions being respected.” — Maarten Dalmijn

We both write for Serious Scrum and agree on many fronts. However, I don’t agree with Maarten on his definition of a…

Do the creators of Scrum have the courage to let go of their (certification) goldmine?

In its core, Scrum is simple. It’s all about delivering value in complex environments using:

  • Empiricism — Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation
  • Lean thinking — Reducing waste

Everything in Scrum exists to support empiricism and Lean thinking.

The Scrum Guide claims Scrum is a lightweight framework. But the Scrum Guide is 13 pages thick. This doesn’t seem like a lot. Especially when the previous version of the Scrum Guide was 19 pages. The creators of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, trimmed 6 pages and removed many prescriptive practices. But Scrum needs far more words than similar approaches:

There are many different types of Product Owners — Not all of them respect Scrum

The Product Owner is one of the three accountabilities of Scrum. According to the most recent Scrum Guide, this accountability entails the following:

“The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.

The Product Owner is also accountable for effective Product Backlog management, which includes:

- Developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal;

- Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items;

- Ordering Product Backlog items; and,

- Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible…

Many believe in the power of Scrum but most top managers won’t have it

I once had a discussion with a fellow Scrum Master. He was in a tough situation.

“I love Scrum. It makes all the sense to me. Here’s a framework to tackle complexity, to reduce risks and deliver value early. It is everything our organisation needs. But it is not what our organisation wants.”

“Oh? Is your entire organisation anti-Scrum?”

“On the contrary! Almost all the Scrum Teams like it. Their managers like it too. Even middle management is enthusiastic. But top management is not.”

“What is their issue with Scrum?”

“They think it is too risky to forego long-term detailed…

What could go wrong if your Product Owner is an SME?

Your Product Owner lives and breathes product Ypsilon. Ask a question and your PO has the answer. She not only knows the entire functionality but also a huge portion of the technical pieces. She is well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of Ypsilon. You may think having an all-knowing Product Owner is a perfect situation.

But is it always ideal? There are certainly potential issues for the team and the product they are building. In this article, I will discuss some of the pitfalls of a Subject Matter Expert Product Owner.

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Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

1. Assuming she always has the best answers

Someone else than the SME may know more…

Why are some elements of Scrum purposefully vague and how does it impact your Scrum Team?

Scrum is very popular in the software industry. There are logical reasons for this. First and foremost, it started out as a new way of creating software. On top of that, Scrum is an Agile framework. Agile also has its roots in software development:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” — Manifesto for Agile Software Development

But how often is a product software only? Many Product Owner and teams do themselves and their product short by limiting their focus on software. Or even worse: a software feature.

In this article…

What did actually change?

One of the major changes in the new Scrum Guide is the introduction of commitments. Each Artifact contains a commitment to ensure focus and transparency:

  • The Product Goal is a long term objective and the commitment for the Product Backlog;
  • The Sprint Goal is the objective for a Sprint and the commitment for the Sprint Backlog;
  • The Definition of Done is a quality standard and the commitment for the Increment.

The introduction of commitments helps the Scrum narrative. It clarifies the importance of an anchor in complex environments. Commitments are stable factors in a world that embraces changes. Plans may…

My issues with Accountabilities

One of the misconceptions is that Scrum is soft. Scrum Teams can’t make promises ‘because the product environment is complex’. When Scrum Teams don’t deliver, they give the same excuse. No one can say anything about it because the team is self-managing. Outsiders aren’t allowed to intervene. This faulty perception of Scrum must sting the creators of the framework.

Scrum isn’t like this. Instead, Scrum requires relentless commitment. Without this commitment from the Scrum Team and its stakeholders, Scrum isn’t effective.

I assume this is why they decided to be clearer in the new Scrum Guide by adding Commitments and…

Scrum Masters Are Accountable For Things Beyond Their Control

Sarah is the Scrum Master for Scrum Team Desperados. She has observed how the team ignores using Sprint Goals, resulting in a lack of focus. They work on everything at once. Sprint after Sprint they fail to finish half of what they planned. Sarah is convinced a Sprint goal will help repair this.

She has presented her observations. She put a lot of effort into teaching and coaching the team to understand the importance of the Sprint Goal. But this is to no avail. The team doesn’t see the merits and regards it as extra work. …

Willem-Jan Ageling

Writer, editor, founder of Serious Scrum. I love writing about maximizing value.

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