Scrum Master or Line Manager?

There are various arguments for and against Scrum Masters also being the line managers of people within their team. These are easily available online, so I won’t go into the pros and cons here. There are organisational pressure or needs that may mean the hybrid approach needs to be taken. It is an area that I’ve been looking at, with these considerations when using the Hybrid Scrum Master/Line Manager role.

Rather than writing a single job or role description, write two separate ones. The performance, training and development discussions in 1–2–1s can then be done in separate contexts. This will make it clearer to all that there are 2 different roles. Additionally it will help the person think about which role they are in when having conversations with the team.

Sharing those roles in an open and transparent manner with the team will also allow them to see what the distinctions are, and in a truly open environment provide feedback or challenge when they feel they are being told to do something by a manager, when they should be working with a Scrum Master instead.

Of course there is always the possibility that a Scrum Master would use their managerial “clout” to make a team member work on something or work in a particular way. If the culture isn’t entirely open and honest, then other feedback mechanisms could be provided to allow the team member to challenge or raise the misuse of manager status.

The Scrum Master/Manager can reduce the chance of this happening by ensuring transparency of the work allocation, and that allocation is out in the open. This is the recommended best practice anyway, so the Scrum Master/Manager should be coached to see the benefits of that approach.

Ultimately people are your greatest asset. The hybrid role does allow for easier feedback, 1–2–1s, appraisals, training and so on. This should be easier to factor in to planning with joint roles. We all need to make sure the Scrum Master/Manager doesn’t “abuse” their position and not allow time for training and improvement of the team in order to deliver projects.

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