You are doing Scrum but the Scrum Master tells the team what to do!



If you are doing Scrum but the Scrum Master tells the team what to do then you may be missing the point.

Ultimately the Scrum Master should never tell the Development Team what to do and they should make sure that the Development Team has both the knowledge and the skills to work things out for themselves. This is critical to the teams ability to self organise going forward because we all learn by the mistakes we make.


A Scrum Master does NOT equal Project Manager. In Scrum, project management is the responsibility of the entire Scrum Team (Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team) and is distributed as such, with the Scrum Master keeping an eye on the mechanics of Scrum to make sure it is working. The top-down management model traditionally used for project execution is rejected in favour of self-organization and shared accountability. While this is alien to many organisations it has been proven time and time again to increase the accountability, efficiency and quality of the software delivered by the Scrum Team.

In Scrum the responsibilities between the Scrum Master and the Development Team are very explicit. The Scrum Master is there to serve the Development Team, not to manage them.

  • Scrum Master
    • Scrum Mechanics
    • Individual & Team Training
    • etc.
  • Development Team
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Engineering Practices
    • Grooming the Backlog (with Product Owner)
    • etc.

All implementation, whither centred around working together, working to build software or working on the backlog, is the purview of the Development Team. This, however, does not mean that the Development Team are left to flounder. I mentioned that the Scrum Master is responsible for making sure that the Development Team has the Knowledge and Skills necessary to allow that Development Team to resolve things themselves.

In order to allow the Scrum Master to provide the knowledge necessary to resolve conflicts they could ask questions of the team to illicit knowledge and learning.

The term Socratic questioning is used to describe a kind of questioning in which an original question is responded to as though it were an answer. This in turn forces the first questioner to reformulate a new question in light of the progress of the discourse.
Socratic method

Using this method a Scrum Master can “guide” a Development Team through the muddy waters of finding solutions to problems without enforcing their views or restricting the creativity of the Development Team.

Groups that defer to a person of higher status will miss many good ideas, and fail to tap and develop the talents of the entire group.
-Esther Derby: Why Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Skills Matter

In addition the Scrum Master should never provide the team with options, unless they are specifically asked by the team for their opinion or their assistance. This removes the responsibility of the Development Team to make decisions and may limit the options that the Development Team creates. If they are provided with options they are unlikely to try to formulate their own and if that option fails they can claim it is the responsibility of the person who provided that option and not of the Development Team.

You will have to have, learn, or improve requirements gathering and presentation techniques; quality techniques; refactoring; customer engagement; collaboration; teaming; conflict resolution techniques; and other practices, as well. But the Scrum framework will help you by providing continual feedback on your progress and success.
Ken Schwaber: Scrum As A Framework

The Development Team must be empowered to come up with resolutions to the problems that they have without interference.



Upcoming Training Opportunities

These are the next five classes we have, and you can check out our full public schedule of classes.

Live virtual Professional Scrum with UX online on 5th December over four half-days
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5 - 8 Dec, 2022
09:30-13:00 GMT
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We can deliver any of our courses as private in-house training over Microsoft Teams & Mural. We also recommend training based on your accountabilities or role, you can go directly to recommended courses for Scrum MastersProduct OwnersDevelopers and Agile Leaders.

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