I recently went to Agile Lyon where this year's theme was about management. I'm not a manager myself since I'm a developer; well more of a lead developer and my role is to help other developers. Although due to my natural tendency towards the impostor syndrome, it's hard for me to qualify myself as "better" than other developers and that I can help them if they need it.

But enough about me, I'm obviously not the manager of a scrum team. Usually, teams migrating to Agile will want to fit in existing roles into Scrum roles. There are three roles in Scrum :

  • Product Owner (PO)
  • Scrum Master (SM)
  • Development Team: UX, UI, Software Developers, Quality Analysis, Business Analysts, ...

Product Owner

The only roles which look like managing positions at first and naive glance are those of the PO and SM. In my current team, the PO was previously a boss. The Scrum Master sees the PO role as an interface between the development team and the outside world. Perfect! That's just like being a boss! Actually, that's not it at all. A PO is supposed to shelter from people outside the team. He should gather requirements from outside, but the team is welcome to communicate to business experts, users, and clients if needs are. The PO is responsible for writing User Stories which are well crafted and small enough. These User Stories should also be written according to current business objectives to be later discussed at Backlog Grooming.

That rules out the Product Owner as the managing role.

Scrum Master

Scrum Master has the word "Master" in it. This may be what we are looking for. Actually, "Master" is to be interpreted in the martial arts kind of way. A Scrum Master is an expert in Scrum. The Scrum Master is supposed to make sure that the Scrum team (PO and Development Team) understands fully the Agile Manifesto and the values behind Scrum Ceremonies. The Scrum Master is not there to take care of the Agile tools like the Scrum Board (paper or digital); that's the team's role. His goal is to make sure the principles are well understood and put into action.

Seems the Scrum Master is not a manager as well.

Who is the manager, then?

What should be the manager's goal? That depends on your definition of a manager. Let's rule out the boss, who is here to check the work being done by the team and merely applies decisions from his hierarchy. That's not a manager.

A manager is someone who leads by example. The Scrum Master makes sure everyone feels comfortable in their daily job. The Scrum Master doesn't interfere with the product, but his main concern is with people. Instead of having a team at his service, as a boss would have, the Scrum Master is in the service of his team.

This doesn't have to be a full-time job. This type of management can be compatible with a Scrum Master's role, for example. Romain Couturier pointed out that a Scrum Master should be concerned with three things and do them well :

  • Organisation
  • Development Team
  • Product Owner

A Scrum Master should communicate with the organization, to inform the organization about what the team is building and how, but also to tell the team about the organizational facts that are relevant to the project. The Scrum Master should also work alongside with the PO to make sure that stories are well-sized and are written according to the project's orientation. The Scrum Master should also be close to the Development Team to ensure everyone is following agile principles.

TLDR;

It seems that in a Scrum team, managing tasks are not concentrated in a single person as is the case in a traditional team. Some postures are better suited for a Scrum Master's position whereas others may go with a PO's role. And some postures are elegantly distributed among the team as is the case during Scrum ceremonies. Think of daily meetings, retrospectives, which are team management tools in which the whole team is proactive.

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