Scrum MasterA place I previously worked thought they could fulfill the Scrum Master role by having Project Managers take on the responsibilities. Sound familiar? Though it isn’t specifically a bad thing, nor terribly uncommon; in this situation, the Scrum Master part of this PM’s role was never enforced or implemented. This leaves a much-needed function to fill. Not all organizations push the Scrum Master role to the side, but many misunderstand what a Scrum Master’s work entails or the importance they play in the Scrum framework.  This misunderstanding leads organizations to circumvent the crucial role in one “interesting” way or another.

Project Management tasks and duties do not directly translate to a Scrum Master’s responsibilities. A Scrum Master is not tasked with managing the Scrum team’s project, but rather they’re a member of the team and seen as an equal player – fostering empowerment, creativity, self-organization, improvement, facilitation, and success. Oftentimes, only one of many functions is emphasized within organizations when it comes to Scrum Masters, and that is making sure to remove impediments for the development team. Now, this is the mutual trait among Scrum Masters and Project Managers, but disregarding the servant-leader position and a majority of its intended responsibilities becomes an impediment in and of itself for the team.

Further Disadvantages Within the Scrum Team

Whether pushing these responsibilities to a PM, Project Owner, or other Scrum team member, someone is taking on two jobs. The stress of taking on two roles at your job will lead to a decrease in performance quality and it’s nearly inevitable you’ll end up focusing on only one of those roles.  Undermining the Scrum Master affects the dynamics of the entire Scrum Team – you are eliminating the backbone of the group.

Okay, so, you haven’t experienced working with a Scrum Master that is responsible for multiple roles.  Have you worked on a Scrum Team that doesn’t have a Scrum Master at all?  This can be an even more frustrating situation to be in – the prolonging of role fulfillment. In this scenario, management is telling the team that the role is not important enough to make a priority to fill. This can be compared to giving the team only half the instruments they need to execute a job efficiently. It demonstrates a lack of interest, support, and dedication from the company in the implementation of Agile. Is this what you want to be signaling to your development teams?

How This Affects the Organization Overall

There is a reason the business has decided to adopt Scrum in the first place, and change is hard to roll out since it challenges the norm and conflicts with cultural barriers. The Scrum Master is the Scrum Team’s advocate and they are driving for change. An absence of this important role diminishes the Scrum Team’s ability to push for transformation in the overall business.

The responsibilities of the Scrum Master end up falling to the rest of the team to try to uphold.  This becomes a major disruption within a Sprint and therefore reduces the value the business can produce from that Sprint. The organization then becomes responsible for producing a low-valued or even canceled increment for the customer, damaging its quality and reputation in the process. This can lead the business to technical debt and costly attempts to