Dedicated Scrum Masters

We see one scrum master responsible for two or more scrum teams in many organizations. Staffing budgets and management perspectives may influence an organization to entertain the idea of “thrashing” its scrum masters (i.e. working on multiple projects simultaneously). But doing so comes at a significant cost and simply doesn’t pencil. Here’s why. A scrum master’s primary responsibility is to increase the scrum team’s velocity by:

  • Shielding the development team and removing roadblocks
  • Facilitating interactions, discussions and scrum activities
  • Coaching the entire team on continuously improving its implementation of scrum

A focused, servant-leader scrum master is like an aeronautical engineer focused on reducing drag on the aircraft. Since a development team is 3 to 9 people, one scrum master improves the performance of up to nine people. Likewise, the impact of a minor reduction in performance is also 9x. Scrum will likely expose the following inefficiencies when an organization thrashes its scrum masters:

  • Decreased bandwidth to focus on consistently increasing velocity for any one team. Removing impediments for one team temporarily takes focus away from another team.
  • Missed scrum events (e.g. Team A sprint review at the same time as Team B daily scrum), resulting in missed opportunities for coaching and identifying impediments.
  • Scrum master attempts to force one-size-fits-all adaptations across teams.

Thrashing developers increases delays at least 30%. Likewise, thrashing scrum masters will significantly impact a scrum team’s velocity, and should be avoided.


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