I have come across many organisations that have implemented Scrum but have started to rotate the role of Scrum Master within the team. They are giving everyone within the team the opportunity to experience being the Scrum Master but at the same time not understanding what the actual role of Scrum Master is and the value an experienced Scrum Master brings to an organisation.
If you think that Scrum Master only lead the Scrum ceremonies then, unfortunately, that is not true at all. Scrum Master is a leadership role, and as history shows us, it is a very tough discipline. A True leader can bring great changes to the team and the organisation and two days Scrum master certification doesn’t even lay the foundations entirely.
Role of Scrum Master
The purpose of Scrum Master is a lot more than just leading Scrum ceremonies and removing impediments. This function is to empower the team to achieve greatness and do what is required for the team to perform at its highest level. Scrum Master will protect the team from external pressures and interference so that they can focus on the project. Scrum Master will work with the Product Owner to make sure that product backlog is ordered and defined to the right level. Scrum Master will work with the Scrum team to put best practices into use and lead the team in a Servant leadership style. As Scrum Master is a catalyst for change within the organisation, so, he/she needs be working with all the stakeholder to bring them up to speed on Agile philosophy.
Scrum master has no formal authority over the team but has the power to change through his/her leadership skills. It is essential to understand the difference between authority and power. The simplest way to understand the difference is from my family. My Dad worked in the office, and my mum was a housewife. My Dad had the chequebook (a payment method before the invention of credit cards ) and driving license. He had the authority to write the check and drive the car, but my mum had the power. My Dad would spend the money on what my mum wanted to buy, and my dad would drive to where my mum wanted to go. So, my dad had the authority, and my mum had the power. Scrum Master needs to be someone who can change things within the organisation through influence and respect.
Even though term “Servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay in 1970 but we can see many great leaders in history who have served as servant leaders. One of the recent times was Mahatma Gandhi who while having no formal authority over people of Sub-continent and not holding any official position in the Congress Party (political wing of independent movement) was able to bring such a significant change. Millions of people were willing to give their lives for him and his cause. The politicians from Congress party would follow his every suggestion as if he was a president or a king. True servant leadership will gild fruit no matter where applied and when applied within a cross-functional Agile team, then the result would be mind-boggling.
Why Role of Scrum Master should not be Rotated
When you are rotating the role of the scrum master in every sprint, then you are not giving the opportunity to any Scrum Master to deal with any underlying issue and investing long-term growth plan for the team. The Team and Scrum master need to experiment and improve process and product. With the constant change of team leadership, you have put an end to the experimental and growth mindset. Also, you have no one from the team who can influence the organisation and protect the team from external pressures. Part of the role of the Scrum Master is to protect the team from external stakeholder pressures by coaching the stakeholder into adopting the Agile mindset.