The ScrumMaster should be responsible for making sure that the team is productive and constantly increase productivity. This should be done in any way necessary, including modifying the Scrum process to fit the teams reality.

Note: here I spell it ScrumMaster as the Scrum Alliance writes it. The name tends to be written in any combination, like Scrum Master, Scrummaster, Scrum master… I personally don’t think it matters.

More importantly, I believe that the  ScrumMaster should constantly work for creating more and more collective awareness and collective intelligence in the team for what needs to be done, when and how. In other words the ScrumMaster should place responsibility to ‘run’ the team in the team as a whole and not in him/her as a person.

The collective awareness and intelligence that is created this way is greatly superior to traditional top-down project and team management. In a good case the team is so aware that they only need to ask the ScrumMaster for help when the see that they need it.

This way of relating to team support can also be interpreted as the ScrumMaster should over time work to eliminate his or her own role.

In most teams however the ScrumMaster sometimes have to step in and act more like a project manager and formal authority. My experience tells me that the team will gain a lot if the ScrumMaster steps back as quickly as possible and let the team take responsibility.

If you have attempted to step back in this way you have probably also seen that it can cause friction, both in the team and in yourself. It will challenge the team to function in a way that they may never have done before and it may challenge your ideas about you as a leader and expert.

On the same tangent I believe the ScrumMaster should help the team remove impediments but in such a way that eventually impediments are removed by the team-members themselves, without management taking unnecessary responsibility. Naturally impediments should be removed in a smart way; If highly paid experts spends time on trivial problems a support function may be better suited to work on the problem.

As an Agile coach, team coach and ScrumMaster I have been part of and seen many teams reaching high-levels of collective awareness. These experiences are evidence to me that the team as a whole and any individual team-member can take care of the following standard tasks often done by a dedicated ScrumMaster, thus eliminating the need for the role altogether:

Helicopter awareness

  • Continuously check the queues in the process in order to create a smooth flow, that is the amount of work in the process steps from requirements to deployment.
  • Continuously monitor the quality of collaboration within the team and with other teams, especially if they are not co-located.
  • Continuously monitor impediments and raise awareness of them. Follow them up if nothing happens.
  • Make sure people are aware of and working on critical problems

Run meetings

  • The daily standup (The ScrumMaster can provide provides useful helicopter awareness)
  • Team planning meeting (The ScrumMaster can make sure the team sees the long term and the big-picture)
  • Sprint retrospective

I would like to hear your experiences of creating collective awareness and collective intelligence because I think we could do cool things together, especially when you apply it on a larger scale! If you want to talk just send me a tweet on @emilvikstrom.

Emil Vikström

Copyright © 2014 Emil Vikström. All Rights Reserved.

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