A ScrumMaster of ScrumMasters

April 5, 2011 pheiramo

Super Scrum MasterOne client asked me to write a job description for a ‘ScrumMaster of ScrumMasters.’ So I made up one, based on what I understand of the role.

What is a ScrumMaster of ScrumMasters?

A ScrumMaster is a role for a person who helps impressive Scrum teams in their forming, welfare, and continuous improvement through servant leadership, coaching and challenging. So, just like a Scrum of Scrums connects teams in their daily collaboration over dependencies and impediments, ScrumMaster of ScrumMasters connects team level ScrumMasters in their work. SM of SMs is everything that a ScrumMaster is, except in larger scale – a Super ScrumMaster. Some people might also call the role an organizational coach.

When scaling Scrum beyond one team, we need to address how each of the roles scale and communicate with the other instances of that role. For teams, one way to do it is to have a Scrum of Scrums (obviously, that’s not a sufficient level of coordination, just like a daily Scrum is insufficient for all team level communication). Product Owners can form a PO team that jointly (under the direction of chief PO) steer the product teams to common goals. So logically, also ScrumMasters need to have a way to connect with each other.

Just like with teams, you don’t need a SM of SMs, and you can have an “egalitarian” SM team that manages itself. After all, if any group has the skills and understanding to self-organize into a team, it should be the SM team. So we don’t need a team leader per se. We need someone who can take ScrumMastering to a new level. Someone with insight on how Scrum (or Agile in general) works in larger scale. Someone who is capable of supporting the Scrum of Scrums and the Chief PO in their responsibilities. Someone who is coaching the ScrumMasters and helping them become better in their jobs.

Transcending Beyond the Team

I have seen a few cases where individuals have transcended beyond the team and directed their efforts to improving the greater organization. I have seen some situations where there should have been such an individual (e.g. cases where teams work properly, but no-one is looking at the health and operation of the “program”). And logically, being a ScrumMaster isn’t just a team level thing – it’s a career in shaping organizations into collaborative powerhouses (something that isn’t seen much in this industry yet, let alone in all industries).

Now, if we are adding a new position/role into an organization, are we adding “extra weight”? If nothing else changes, yes, this would be an additional person in the organization. The existence of this role must be justified by that person increasing the capabilities and effectiveness of the PO & team organization by more than his or her salary. But if we think about that role, we can see that it is close to an Agile correspondent to what traditional organizations would call “process improvement manager” (or similar). It could also replace the traditional QA manager role, because, frankly, I can’t really see what role a QA manager would really do in an Agile organization, except to coach and help teams in achieving higher level in their ability to deliver quality products.

Defining a Career Path

Also, we need to provide ScrumMasters with a reasonable career path, if they are so inclined. Currently, the only typical way “upward” for good ScrumMasters is to leave the organization and become Agile coaches. It is understandable as there is significant demand for this understanding in the market, but for organizations this is not a wise situation. They are losing the people they would most need in scaling Agile beyond the teams.

So, finally onto the job description. Take this only as a sample idea. A raw template, if you wish.

The Job Description

As a ScrumMaster of ScrumMasters, we expect you to be the leading driver the following areas of our operation:

  • Coaching the ScrumMasters in our teams into kick-ass ScrumMasters, capable of supporting powerful self-organization and paving way for even more ingenious and value-generating teams
  • Organizing and facilitating the operation of ScrumMaster community of practice
  • Supporting and facilitating the operation of Product Owner team, both internally and in stakeholder interfaces
  • Supporting Product Owners, ScrumMasters and Engineering Managers in the development of the product organization and its internal ways of working
  • Working with Chief Product Owner and Engineering Managers in extending and supporting Agile in the organization outside the product development group

We expect you to have deep understanding of how to enable the above and have the experience, skills and mindset to help it happen. You understand that you are not responsible for single-handedly saving the world, but that you are the central catalyst and energizer helping us achieve our goals together. We expect you to contribute positively to our understanding and capability in all things Agile.

In your work, you will be supported by the ScrumMasters, Development Teams, Product Owners and Engineering Managers. You’re not alone 🙂

PS. Understanding how Agile affect the whole organization and skills in creating an Agile organization is definitely a bonus.

What do you think? Do you see a role for a ScrumMaster of ScrumMaster’s in your organization? What would you add to the job description?

Photo credit: Juan Banda

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