Yes – You Need a Full Time Scrum Master

This content is syndicated from Agile Complexification Inverter by David Koontz. To view the original post in full, click here.

Many organizations adopting Scrum ask these questions.

  • Do we need a full time Scrum master for each team?
  • Why do we need a full time Scrum master, can't they do other roles also?

Now allow me to give you the answers: 
  • Yes, you need a full time Scrum Master.
  • Why - watch the video.
Let me explain:

Yes, you need a full time Scrum master, because they will be constantly watching for the actions of the team.  Making sure that the team member are working in flow as often as possible.  This is a full time job.

Why can the scrum master not do other roles on the team? Because of the human ability of selective attention.  First let me show you a video - a little test of your superior ability to follow instructions.  Perhaps you've seen this video - if so, just play along, maybe you will be surprised at how well you do on the test.

  • The Monkey Business Illusion
Now do you understand why we need a Scrum master watching out for impediments all the time.  If they are tasked with doing something else, I'm sure they will miss the obvious impediments the subtle changes in the team members and the environment.

Here is Jeff Sutherland's reasoning (from Scrum Development Yahoo group):
"One of the leading Agile teams in software development asked me how to go hyperproductive. I was their coach as my venture group had invested in them. They had a fuzzy ScrumMaster definition and it was not clear who owned this role. I told them to get a ScrumMaster. The experienced team thought they were better than that and could never go hyperproductive. A new team was formed with a ScrumMaster which immediately went hyperproductive."

"So a lot of teams that think they don't need a ScrumMaster are a long way from 10 times the performance of a waterfall team. This was the design goal for Scrum and every team should be getting a 10% velocity increase sprint to sprint until they hit that number."

"Teams without ScrumMaster's don't do this. Usually they are flatlined and will never reach their full potential."

  --  Jeff Sutherland

2 Responses to “Yes – You Need a Full Time Scrum Master”

  1. Kelly Waters says:

    Hi David. In contrast to your experience, I have found that you don’t. But maybe that depends on what other roles you have in the team. For instance, do you need a full-time ScrumMaster if you have a full-time Project/Product Manager who really gets agile? Or do you need a full-time ScrumMaster if you have a full-time Tech Lead who really gets agile? Or a full-time BA?

    I think being a hands-on developer and part-time ScrumMaster is more difficult, because of the immersive and concentrated nature of programming. It’s hard to have your head up and down at the same time! But I think other full-time roles in the team can potentially manage it very well, of course depending on their experience of agile methods and their personal capabilities. I’ve certainly seen it work well without.


  2. Fredrik says:

    The article is mixing apples and oranges. Sure there is a need for a scrum master. The question is do you need a _full time_ scrum master. There’s no real argument for this other than “this is a full time job”. Jeff Sutherland does not say anything about full time or not full time in the quote either, still this is taken as an argument for a full-time scrum master. As for the gorilla video I completely fail to see the relevance.

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