The ScrumMaster: Servant of the Team or Unintended Manager?

The role of the ScrumMaster is to act as a servant and facilitator, focusing on enabling the team to become self-sufficient and agile. When this role veers into managerial territories, it undermines Agile principles and can demotivate the team.

The ScrumMaster: Servant of the Team or Unintended Manager?
Photo by Güner Deliağa Şahiner / Unsplash

SAFe’s Take on the ScrumMaster

In the SAFe framework, the ScrumMaster is described as a "Servant leader and coach for an Agile Team." This terminology often leads to confusion. At its core, the ScrumMaster is intended to be a servant and a helper to the team, enabling self-organization and fostering Lean-Agile practices. The focus should be on facilitating, not leading or managing.

The ScrumMaster Gone Astray

When a ScrumMaster gets swamped with admin stuff, endless meetings, and status reports, they kinda forget their main job: to be the team's go-to helper. In scenarios like this, they end up looking more like managers, and that's not what we want.

Rituals Taking Over

If a ScrumMaster gets caught up in paperwork and procedures, the team starts focusing on these formalities rather than actual work. What's supposed to be Agile turns into a slog through bureaucracy, sapping everyone's energy.

Forgetting the Small Stuff

An overloaded ScrumMaster often doesn't have time for the small, spur-of-the-moment chats that can lead to cool solutions and great teamwork. These little interactions are the building blocks of a team that can think and act on its own.

Mixed Signals: The ScrumMaster’s Behavior

If the ScrumMaster is always in meetings or buried in reports, the team might start to see them as more of a manager than a helper. This can mess with the team's drive to be self-sufficient and take initiative.

It's Not Always the ScrumMaster's Fault

Sometimes it’s how the company sees the ScrumMaster role that's the issue. If the higher-ups think the ScrumMaster is some kind of manager, it muddies the waters and makes it hard for the ScrumMaster to do their real job.

My Take on This

The ScrumMaster should be all about helping and empowering the team, not managing them. If the ScrumMaster starts acting like a manager, we're kind of missing the point of being Agile. We want a team that can think and act for itself, not one that’s waiting for directions.

In a Nutshell

The ScrumMaster should focus on being a helper and enabler so that the team can get good at taking care of itself. If the role starts to feel like a managerial position, it's going against the whole Agile philosophy and can bring the team's morale down. Keep the "servant" in "servant leader" and you'll be on the right track.