ScrumMaster: No Power

One of the key things about the ScrumMaster is that he/she has no power.  No authority.

There is a line in Scrum (from Ken Schwaber?) that “the ScrumMaster has no authority”… and I understood that meant that the ScrumMaster did have the authority to define or describe what Scrum is (the authority on that), but not the power to make people “do Scrum.”

It is important to remember that in many companies (in my opinion), the SM is viewed as the “new” project manager.  So, particularly at first, the SM must act contrary to how the former PMs acted, so that people no longer think that way.

One idea is that a servant leader is not really a servant leader if he/she leads by using power or position.

Equally, the SM is not a quiet mouse.  The SM has a right to speak up. But not as a boss or someone with power, but rather as someone with wisdom (we hope).

Some of the descriptions I read talk about the ScrumMaster as a slightly different project manager.  NO!

The SM helps, and that help is VERY important.  But the others in the team do the real work.  In simplistic terms, the PO envisions the product and the Doers (Implementers) build it.  And the SM gets the top impediment (of any type) out of the way as fast as possible — by someone competent to do so.

So, for example, the SM does not set the goal or goals. Although a ScrumMaster might make sure a product goal is set and that it is clear to the whole Team.

For doing the work, the SM is not a key locus of communication.  That is, information about the product does not need to go through the SM.  Although the SM might observe whether communication of all sorts is working well (typically, there are key areas for improvement…this is VERY common).  It is also important that the Team is communicating impediments and related information to the SM (and vice versa).

The SM does not reward the Team, eg, with applause or recognition.  The SM might get someone else to say “wow” or “thank you”.  But the SM is not the PO or the customer.  Still, getting someone to give one or more Developers sufficient recognition might be a key impediment to solve today.

The Team does not win the game for the SM.  They win the game for the customers or maybe for the PO or the business side.  But not for the SM.  At least, that is not something the SM would say.  (One can imagine the Team maybe feeling that way, but the SM should not put it that way.)  The normal case, I think, is that they want to win to prove something to themselves.  And to give to the customers.  That would be a better motivation.

Why? Why does the SM adjure all power?  Because we all have been using and thinking of power too much.  It is typically addictive to the person who is SM.  ANd everyone expects the SM to use power, however subtle in that use the SM might be.  So, at least at the beginning, the SM should forswear any of the trappings of power.  And let the Team self-organize.

So, the idea is that power will get in the way of better self-organizing by the team (the Developers and the wider Scrum team).

One of the key things: The SM is always a servant and she or he does not make herself or himself the center of attention.  He is “only” the servant.

This is notably less important than most project managers were seen as.  In my experience.

Once the Team is self-organizing well, the SM can have a bigger presence in the Team.  And does not have to actively avoid the trappings of power.

Note: The SM always has a small power, in the sense of being the key educator on what agile-scrum is. The ideas, principles and practices.  We need someone to be the final authority, and in the Team framework, the SM is it.


Your comments are welcome.


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