The Scrum Master’s Dilemma

My daughter Miya and dog friend Sophie 2002 by kjudy

A metaphor for the Scrum Master is a vigilant sheepdog protecting their flock.

At the Fall Scrum Gathering, I met practitioners facing different challenges in their agile practice.

Some faced profound impediments that their organizations were unable or unwilling to address. The effect on the project and team was dire and the Scrum Master had exhausted all avenues to raise alarm.

It’s human nature, unfortunately, to associate an unpleasant message with the messenger. A vocal Scrum Master can be seen as the problem.

In those fraught circumstances a Scrum Master has to balance the interests of the team, the company and themselves. Can the project deliver in spite of the obstacles? Should the Scrum Master accept the dysfunction or not? At what cost?

As Ken Schwaber says in Agile Project Management with Scrum, “A dead sheepdog is a useless sheepdog.” Still, a useless sheepdog is also a useless sheepdog.

As JP Boodhoo says, “develop with passion.” As my friend Luke Melia says, “live with passion.”

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.

3 thoughts on “The Scrum Master’s Dilemma

  1. Well, I’ve gotten KIA, so I have a little bit different take to it now. My first priority is to provide for my family, so not getting fired is the first item on my backlog.

  2. I’ve been KIA as well! But you know what? My feelings are it’s better to be true to yourself vs. conforming to what the idiot managers – who usually know jack about development – tell you to do. Yes, pushing back on management is a risk, but there are always better jobs working at better companies with better people who “get it.”

    If you want to expand your skill set you have to study hard, apply the knowledge, be vocal, and take risks. I guess the alternative is to remain on a crappy project simply for the paycheck. At that point you’ve relegated yourself to a strumpet.

    On my last project I fought management the entire time! Even though our team was rapidly and consistently delivering functionality to the business unit I was let go because I refused to go conform to the idiot manager’s desire for waterfall development and Gantt charts. What a joke!

  3. KIA here as well.

    There are many organizations that just cannot deal with Scrum. Right now I hope to get back to development to stay out of the harm’s way in the future.

    The major problem for Scrum Masters are managers that do not know development and see Scrum Masters as a threat to their livelihood. And truth be told – they’re right. The problem is that they react to the perceived threat by getting rid of the problem, aka the Scrum Master.

    You really need to be in the right place at the right time. Otherwise getting KIA is a major risk.

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