an experiment – don’t come to standup today

What does the Scrum Master do in the role, besides facilitate the daily standup? Have you ever thought perhaps a team was too dependent on the Scrum Master for this meeting? What have you done to address this issue? Right now, I’m with a group that I feel is in this predicament. This group went through training together and could rotate the position, as frequently as on a daily basis. After the training each team elected a developer to fulfill this role. Time was deducted in Sprint planning to handle the additional responsibilities of the role.

Recently after standup I asked the teams involved to raise their hand if they were a Scrum Master. One person would raise their hand. It would be the appointed Scrum Master. I then asked for those who went through the training to raise their hands, which was everyone else in the room. I then pointed out that everyone with hands raised IS a Master of Scrum. It sunk in a little.

The next test came when one of the Scrum Masters had to be absent for a standup, and notified the team. This person did not have a backup Scrum Master in place, and was hoping to see the team organize and someone volunteer for the role. Instead, the command chain appointed a team lead the duties.

It got me to thinking, what if the Scrum Masters for each team just did not show up? There would be no time to plan what to do. How would the teams organize? I’ve really been trying to impress on the teams to begin the meeting when scheduled, regardless of who is in the room. Would they think of this, and the fact that everyone is a Scrum Master, and get it going?

I then sent out the following email to them:

Subject: an experiment – don’t come to standup today

…I think the teams are too dependent on the Scrum Master. I want you to not come, not to mention it is time for standup, nothing. Do what you can to just sort of fade away without anyone noticing. I’ll be there to observe how the teams react and organize themselves…

After just a couple of minutes of wondering what was going on, each team effectively found the solution. They would remember that anyone could fulfill this role, and that the meeting must go on. The teams were effective in communicating to each other progress on their tasks, and discussing how to solve blocking issues. All the teams also finished within the 15 minutes allotted. We debriefed in the Scrum of Scrums meeting that day.

Yet I still wonder, especially as the Scrum Masters are developers on the team also responsible for creating value, do people really understand what is expected of this role besides facilitating the daily standup?

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