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InfoQ Homepage News Is the ScrumMaster a Full Time Role? Yes, According to the ScrumMaster Manifesto

Is the ScrumMaster a Full Time Role? Yes, According to the ScrumMaster Manifesto

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The debate as to whether a ScrumMaster is a full-time or part-time role in an Agile teams has created a lot of discussion in the community in recent months. 

At the Scrum Alliance Global Gathering: London 2011, Paul Goddard led a session entitled "ScrumMaster - role or job?" where he shared his research:

75% of ScrumMasters dedicate less than half of their time to being a ScrumMaster for their current team.
45% of ScrumMasters support 2 or more different Scrum teams.
88% of ScrumMasters take on additional responsibilities beyond that of a ScrumMaster.

This session resulted in the creation of a ScrumMaster Manifesto. The opening statement makes a clear statement where the authors stand on the role:

We believe the ScrumMaster is a full-time position for one person on one Scrum team

The manifesto continues to list twelve ScrumMaster pocket principles:

1.  Dedicated Delivery Improver
2.  Foster Continuous Improvement
3.  Help Continuous Improvement
4.  Empower Coach Deliver
5.  Nurtures The Team
6.  Transparent Team Helper
7.  Commitment To Excellence
8.  Empathetic Evangelistic Guide
9.  Resistant Persistent Dedicated
10. Help The Team
11. Awareness Then Improvement
12. Agile Driving Force

Paul Goddard explained on his Agilify blog the reasons behind drafting the manifesto:

...I noticed a trend in the training classes I was running and when I was coaching new ScrumMasters. When I asked the question, “Is the ScrumMaster a full-time position on the Scrum team?” the vast majority of people would answer “No.” My concern was that those ScrumMasters could already be compromising their teams (and organizations) chances of truly embracing Scrum, by not seeing the ScrumMaster as a dedicated person on the Scrum team. This is a trend that continued to grow over time and encouraged me to submit a session on this topic...

Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum stated the following in relation to ScrumMaster in his Scrum Handbook written in 2010:

Since Scrum makes visible many impediments and threats to the team’s and Product Owner’s effectiveness, it is important to have an engaged ScrumMaster working energetically to help resolve those
issues... Scrum teams should have a dedicated full-time ScrumMaster, although a smaller team might have a team member play this role (carrying a lighter load of regular work when they do so).

ln a recent discussion on the scrumdevelopment Yahoo! group, Jeff went on to confirm that the ScrumMaster should be a full-time role, however they can pull tasks from the backlog:

The ScrumMaster (or any other team member) does not commit to specific backlog items. The team as a whole forecasts that they will get it done. When the ScrumMaster has time he pulls from the sprint backlog. For the first ScrumMaster, John Scumniotales, this was 80% of the time by design. As his manager and Chief Engineer I was offloading all his impediments. In my last company the rule was that in any daily meeting if the team sees the ScrumMaster is not spending enough time on impediments, the team takes the ScrumMaster's work away from him or her.

John Piekos on his Agile Making Progress blog shared his learnings on the transition from waterfall to Scrum in his organization:

Though we “took the training” and “read the literature” which repeatedly said the roles of ScrumMaster and Product Owner were full time jobs, we weren’t true believers.  Our “muscle memory” way of working had everyone juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, it was the way we were used to working. During the course of our Agile Pilot projects, however, we got convinced pretty quickly that Scrum roles could not be part-time. Scrum is more intensive than waterfall development.

Marcel Baumann in a recent blog post has an slightly alternate view on the role when dealing with teams that are more experienced.

I agree with the Manifesto authors that Scrum Master role is a fulltime job when working with a new Scrum team and team members new to the Agile and Scrum way of working. But I am convinced that a Scrum Master can support multiple experienced Scrum teams.

Wayne Grant has a differering viewpoint from a software developer perspective:

Ideally I think that the Scrum Master should spend most of their time being a Scrum Master. However, my own experience shows me that I am a more efficient Scrum Master if I do the same work as the team so that I share the same experiences as them. This doesn’t need to be a large amount of development work and may even take the form of the Scrum Master pairing with team members.

Lasse Koskela concisely sums up the options:

We need to have full-time Scrum Masters because we need them to be good at what they do and good Scrum Masters help increase our productivity. At the same time, we need to have part-time Scrum Masters because their technical contribution increases our productivity.

It is clear that there are misunderstandings about the ScrumMaster role from those new to Agile and Scrum and division amongst the existing commmunity. Should a ScrumMaster be a full-time role or should it depend on the experience of the team?  

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