Scrum Master-Manager? Does it Work?

scrum master-manager
This diagram from Thomas Crane’s The Heart of Coaching shows some of the differences between a traditional manager role and leadership.

First, a manager of a group should not be that group’s scrum master-manager. I have yet to have met one other coach or trainer who doesn’t agree with that. All sorts of bad things happen there, but primarily, the team can’t improve on any area that challenges their scrum master-manager or in some way implies that the scrum master-manager wasn’t doing something right. Also, all ideas or the “best” ideas have to or are deferred to the scrum master-manager, if they are seen as the “smartest person in the room.” Some of my worst teams were in this spot and had problems because of this.

Management does not equal Leadership

Secondly,  Thomas Crane’s The Heart of Coaching describes some of the differences between a traditional manager role and leadership. Management is good for conformity and compliance to process. Leadership is leading in new directions to new places, humbly learning as you go and the courage to take on risks and uncertainty, gaining the trust of the team to do so by understanding and articulating the common problem(s) they’re facing and why they are the right people for this moment to overcome and get breakthrough to the new place/level/normal.

The Law of the Lid

Referencing John Maxwell’s leadership laws: People only grow to the level of the leader. So, whatever you put over or on top of a team or group, that will be the height that the team can reach. That might speak something to you already.

What To Do with the Manager

Just ask the manager to be the scrum master for a different team. That’s what one company did in San Diego, and it made an immediate difference. Better yet, ask the team to rotate the scrum master role. Then the team will find their preferred scrum master.

Related Resources/Articles:

Who Should be the ScrumMaster? 1.0

Who Should be the ScrumMaster 1.5

Who Should be the Product Owner

Manager 2.0: The Role of the Manager in Scrum

Thomas Crane’s The Heart of Coaching

The Law of the Lid

John Maxwell’s 21 Laws of Leadership