You do Scrum, but…

Are you really looking for a Scrum Master? – not according to the job description

Are you serious? – episode 1

The Scrum Master role is often completely misunderstood. You just have to scroll through some job descriptions on LinkedIn to see what I mean. Here’s what I found within 30 minutes. All quotes below are from real-life examples, only a few days old.

A major consultancy company in Australia:

“The Scrum Master’s overall responsibility is to ensure that the team delivers services to the customer and completes various project management activities according to defined service level commitments and process compliance guidelines”.

NO! This is NOT what a Scrum Master does. This is what a Project Manager does! There is no Project Manager role within Scrum. There are no project management activities within Scrum.

The Product Owner determines the Product Backlog priority and the Development Team determines what to pick up within a Sprint at the Sprint Planning. During the Sprint the Development Team self-organizes to meet the Sprint Goal.

Service Level Commitments and Process Compliance Guidelines can be part of the Definition of Done which the Development Team defines. An increment is only “Done” when is adheres to the Definition of Done.

The Scrum Master isn’t driving anything of this.

A major consultancy company in Poland:

“This role will require communication and interaction with internal and external clients to ensure successful delivery.”

Do I see the incorrect assumption again that a Scrum Master is a Project Manager?

The Scrum Master helps people outside of the Scrum Team understand which interactions are helpful and which aren’t.

It’s one of many job descriptions missing the mark in a similar way.

An American consultancy company:

“Ability to communicate with management and provide clear and structured management reporting”.

This is what the Agile Manifesto says about this: “Working software is the primary measure of progress.” This may be inspected at the Sprint Review.

If there’s anyone within the Scrum Team that needs to provide a clear insight on the prioritized items, it’s the Product Owner. The Scrum Guide mentions on ‘monitoring progress’ that the PO tracks total work remaining at least every Sprint Review and there it may be made transparent to stakeholders.

The Scrum Master’s role within the organization revolves around implementation of Scrum, increase understanding about Scrum, increasing effectiveness of Scrum.

A French consultancy company:

“You plan sprints and run Scrum meetings.”

So much wrong in such a small sentence…

No. The Scrum Master doesn’t plan. The Development Team decides what they pick up during the Sprint Planning and plans how they achieve the Sprint Goal. The Scrum Master ensures that the planning takes place and that everyone understands the purpose of the Sprint Planning.

The Scrum Master participates in the Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective, facilitates if requested. There’s a difference between facilitating and running a meeting. The Scrum Team as a whole runs the meetings.

An American consultancy company:

“Organizing scrum team resource allocations”

This is the first thing mentioned under the header “responsibilities”.

Really? Resource allocation? Does it mean what I think it means? The Scrum Master determines who does what? Scrum Master manages raw materials like oil, minerals, rocks, soil?

Calling people resources… ugh…

This is what the Scrum Guide says about this: “They (the Development Team) are self-organizing. No one (not even the Scrum Master) tells the Development Team how to turn Product Backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality”. Clear enough I’d say.

A Canadian Consultancy company:

“Ensure team execution and delivery to committed sprint work- maintaining the momentum of the initiative and upholding a sustainable pace of delivery.”

Team execution? Hmmmm. Line them all up…. steady….. FIRE!

Seriously, the main question here is: what do they mean? If it is below from the Scrum Guide:

  • Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality
  • Helping the Development Team to create high-value products
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress

Then that’s great. But I don’t think it means just that. I am afraid it means:

  • Manage the team so that they deliver as committed (which is translated to ‘promised’, ‘signed a blood oath for’)
  • Don’t accept any changes to the plan, even if new things are learned
  • If the plan appears to be ‘at risk’, ask people to work overtime.

I’m certain it means just that…

The Scrum Team commits to the Sprint Goal only. Scope may be clarified and re-negotiated between the Product Owner and Development Team as more is learned. That is what the Scrum Guide says!

A Swiss financial company:

“In this role you support the project manager in topics such as:

  • Financials (Budgeting, Cost Controlling, Forecast, etc.) and Risk Management
  • Prepare / review Project Board sessions”

This very much sounds like a PMO role to me. If you want a PMO, just call it a PMO!

An American IT company:

Track and communicate sprint/release progress documentation”.

This is not a task for the Scrum Master. It is the Product Owner that ensures that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next.

A Belgian IT company:

  • “Participate to regular meetings with customer
  • Analysis and proposition to change requested by customer
  • Document service catalogs for stakeholders
  • Provide a detailed design analysis to developers, including non-functional aspects (operability, scalability…)
  • Work with the Program Manager on a high-level planning (defining phases or iterations)”

This looks like a mix between an Solution Architect and a Project Manager. It also sounds as if they do Waterfall.

Or Scrummerfall. Non of the above have anything to do with what you expect from a Scrum Master. Or Scrum.

Verdict

These examples are all from real-life job opportunities. It was easy for me to find them. Having said this, I also saw many job descriptions that were great. From all job descriptions that targeted Scrum Masters I found:

  • 45% of the job descriptions are great. Many copy/paste the Scrum Guide. One wonders if the descriptions are literally followed within a company, but there’s no way to check it without visiting them.
  • 35 % of the job descriptions are ok. There are minor issues, but nothing too disturbing.
  • 20% of the job descriptions are simply awful.

However, in the above overview I didn’t take into account the many requests for a Project Manager/Scrum Master. All of those missed the mark too.

So all in all many companies appear to know what a Scrum Master is and what a Scrum Master should do. But there are more companies looking for something else, making the error that they called it Scrum Master.

Did you like the article? Then it would be awesome if you’d clap 👏🏻. I am also very keen to learn what you think about this topic.

My twitter profile is https://twitter.com/WJAgeling

Join us on Slack!

We have run a Serious Scrum channel on Slack. You’re all invited. Feel free to reach out and connect with us on Slack to share your thoughts. If you are interested in publishing in Serious Scrum you can connect with us there to make it happen.

Thank you for taking your time to read seriously.