Blog / I'm a ScrumMaster. Huh?

Kevin Pedersen
April 15, 2011

 

My wife and I had a friend over for dinner last night and during conversation she asked me what it is I do. I replied that I work for a software consultancy and I’m a QA and ScrumMaster. ‘Huh?’ was the reply I got.

I know she is familiar with what a QA does as she also works in the Quality field albeit for a hospital and not in IT, so I immediately knew she didn’t have a clue what a ScrumMaster is, and that got me thinking…

I’d like to open up a debate: Is the term ScrumMaster a useful job title, or is it out-dated and therefore should it be replaced?

Someone once told me that a joke isn’t funny if you have to explain it, and by that rationale I would like to say that a job title is useless if you have to explain it afterwards. I mean that’s the whole point of a job title isn’t it? To explain in a simple phrase what a job is?

I’m not suggesting that the term ScrumMaster could, or even should, disappear overnight. It’s engrained in the whole agile process. Even IT recruitment companies are familiar with the term. So that is one very good argument to keep on using the term. However, has it now become out-dated?

I recently was the ScrumMaster for a project on which we used kanban. The team was confused, was I a ScrumMaster or a kanbanMaster? I also had a similar chat a couple of weeks ago with our resident Agile Coach and expert in all things controversial, Austin Fagan, as to whether the term should be renamed when using kanban instead of Scrum. It’s an interesting question.

A quote now from Wikipedia: “Scrum is facilitated by a ScrumMaster, also written as Scrum Master, who is accountable for removing impediments to the ability of the team to deliver the sprint goal/deliverables. The ScrumMaster is not the team leader but acts as a buffer between the team and any distracting influences. The ScrumMaster ensures that the Scrum process is used as intended. The ScrumMaster is the enforcer of rules. A key part of the ScrumMaster’s role is to protect the team and keep them focused on the tasks at hand. The role has also been referred to as servant-leader to reinforce these dual perspectives.”

So a ScrumMaster is not a team leader, nor are they a project manager, which are probably the two closest roles in a waterfall environment. I’m making this point because if we decide that ScrumMaster isn’t a good term, we need to think of a better one.

The best I could come up with was ‘Agile Team Organiser’, but in retrospect I’m not sure even that is a good term. Agile teams should be self-organising, and the ScrumMaster helps them to achieve that aim. So a ScrumMaster doesn’t organise the team, but manages the process used to help them organise themselves.

So the debate is open. For everyone who reads this I hope to hear your opinion on if the term ScrumMaster is outdated. If it is, what do you feel would be a good replacement?