Scrummaster? We don’t need no steenking Scrummaster!

Sad Face :(
A Sad Face by Emmaline

I discovered something strange today. I recently left one development team to go work for another (that’s for a seperate blog post all together) and I was chatting to some old team members today who had just had their Scrum Sprint Review/Retrospective and they mentioned one of the things that had come out of the Retrospective was that they aren’t going to have a Scrum Master for this sprint, or, it seems, any sprint.

“Huzzah!” I hear you cheer! “They must be self-managing!”

No, no they are not. It’s far, far worse than that. They’ve decided they don’t need a scrum master as, in their experience, the scrum master is useless. With no power to help the team make decisions and one team member describing the Scrum Master as “a puppet of the business”, then it’s quite clear that scrum, at this company, is broken.

It’s a sad day for me as ever since I heard about scrum about two and a half years ago from a colleague (@garethholt), I realised it’s potential. I’ve tried hard, arguing the point with colleagues, management and everyone who’ll listen. We’ve tried different length sprints, staggered sprints, digital backlogs, analogue backlogs, all sorts. Inspected and adapted and now it’s all for nowt. At every turn, the business said “No, I’m not confident enough to try scrum properly.” or, more accurately, “I don’t want to surface the organisational dysfunction.”. The team realises that the business cannot let go of the reigns.

It’s all about trust.

They all seem like the wind has been taken from their sails and it’s sad and dissapointing. Especially as they have an ‘Agile Manager’ and a ‘Product Owner’ who is also a director. Even the people employed to support scrum don’t seem to have confidence in it. Now THAT is a problem.

I might go home and cry.

9 thoughts on “Scrummaster? We don’t need no steenking Scrummaster!

  1. First time I have read your blog! interesting post. I don’t really understand scrum to begin with so have no idea what to say.

    Maybe it’s time I find out what “traditional scrum” is.

  2. I have to be honest and say that anywhere I have seen that makes big money and which churns out big projects would think Scrum a joke. Don’t get me wrong, I think Prince2 is archaic at times and no process is perfect, but Scrum basically puts all responsibility for a project at the lowest level in the delivery chain and is there to a) make those people feel more empowered and b) absolve senior management from blame when (not if) things screw up.

    I am happy to let my developers work how they wish without micro-management, a they are supposed to be professional, but it is important that anyone (design, development, qa, penetration-tester, etc) involved in a project are given clear guidance. This comes from a professional project manager, not a developer taking on the role, or a client services person deciding how to run things.

    From the perspective of one who has run multiple (very) large projects concurrently with multiple agencies, teams and stakeholders, a bespoke process using the key checks and gateways of something like Prince2, the attention to QA of ISO, some personal responsibility from all concerned and a healthy dose of common sense is the best way of getting things done. Any defined process should only ever be treated as a guideline, not followed slavishly – and as a one tasked with ensuring all production is done correctly, I could easily follow that route.

    I’ve created bespoke working practices where needed and that has improved profitability across the board – but what actually makes things work is good staff doing their jobs and that means the PM drives a project on relentlessly, whilst managing change requests and altering costs and timings to suit what is feasible and what the requirements are. If the PM does this, based on a clearly written brief, and the developers quite accurately and work with quality in the forefront of their minds, with communication being open honest and constant, a project will work. If that stops happening at any stage, that’s where the senior management need to step in and get things back on track. Scrum won’t save poorly run agencies, protect lazy/slipshod developers, safeguard against poor management or lack of common sense. Nor will Prince2, or anything else. Poor staff, bad communication and lack of people taking personal culpability will kill a project (or an agency) stone dead regardless of what delivery method has been sold in by the latest Snake Oil salesman to wander in the door to ply their trade.

    Enjoy the new job, though!

    1. So, essentially what you’re saying is “Scrum is shit, what you do is a joke, but enjoy your job.” Thanks.

      You’re entitled to your opinion like everyone else, however.

      For the record, scrum is a framework for surfacing organizational dysfunction allowing you to fix the root problems will still turning out potentially shippable software every two weeks. Can Prince2 deliver potentially shippable software every two weeks? No. It can’t. Well, it could, but then it probably wouldn’t be very good. Prince2 and other “waterfall” methods of project management hides and often contributes to organizational dysfunction. Your description above shows a naive – at best – understanding of the Agile framework, the scrum toolset and the how, why and when it should be used.

      If you can be torn away from your gant chart for long enough, let me know and I’ll send you some links about scrum so you are better educated when making a decision on how next to run your “big project”.

  3. Scrum Master is a useless role , IMHO. Better hire senior developer(s) instead. Project Manager with Scum experience is good enough.
    Just my $0.02

  4. To me it is quite telling how defensive Scrum people get when people doubt “the method”. The point the user “Chance” was making is probably this: if you have a large project with several stakeholders (probably external) and contracts!!!!!! with real deadlines in it, Scrum is a very very risky way of doing things. I am a software engineer and data scientist. I have worked in classsical large sofware projects, on trading desks as a kind of DevOps engineer and for small “hidden champions” in the negineering and logistics sector in Germany (which IMHO is a place to look when you want to understand how software should be developed that actually adds bussiness value). I see a a lot of cases where Scrum is the way to go (and even experienced a very very productive Scrum team once), but there are cases where Scrum should not be applied. And I have experienced it once

  5. Proprietary trading firms laugh all project managers, mbas, and scrum masters out of their offices. The fundamental problem is profitability, not work management. Only the smartest quant traders with the smartest algorithms succeed. No amount of “scrumming” or “removing impediments” from scrum masters will surface that knowledge capitol. This is just the plain fact of life. Knowledge capitol is king and those who own it are the ones who make the meaningful decisions. Indeed, the most profitable enterprises started out not using scrum for anything, just implementation of a useful idea involving only a few individuals.

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