Picking Scrum Masters

What: Dogmatic Scrum Masters may doom your implementation

Symptoms: If you witness any of the following behaviors, you have a DSM

  • Displays limited flexibility. The DSM may be usually enthusiastic believers in scrum but they view the world through a black/white prism. The DSM may tie up scrum of scrums for hours fighting tooth and nail against the team “bastardizing” Scrum.
  • Does not hold their team accountable but fights when others do that they are “bastardizing” the team’s independence. I have witnessed a DSM who championed his team when he should have been trying to figure out why his team was repeatedly not completing stories for multiple sprints. When questioned, the DSM would vociferously defend his team from outside interference rather than try to get to the bottom of the problem.

Results: The DSM causes a triple whammy. One, they may poison their team by not holding them accountable. The team then thinks this is normal and begins to repeatedly miss commitments that they themselves had made. Second, other teams see this and it quickly spreads. Finally, upper management will also notice during sprint reviews that stories taken were not completed repeatedly. This will directly lead to upper management losing confidence in the agile implementation.

Actions: My recommendation would be to try to work with them for a sprint or two (no longer than a month to six weeks) and if you don’t see the changes that are necessary, change scrum masters. I cannot stress how corrosive this is.

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