Do you rotate Scrum masters in teams?

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Rotate Scrum masterDo you have the same person acting as a Scrum master for every iteration in your team(s)? Or do different team members take the role on turns? I’d like to hear how you do it, what works for you, and why.

The Scrum master rol should be fixed *during* an iteration but it can change *over* the iterations. So for instance one team member can be Scrum master for iterations 1 and 2, then another team member for 3 and 4, then the first team member again for iteration 5 and 6, etc.

Having the same person for the Scrum master in every iteration is easy, and it makes things clear for everyone. Most teams do this, and it seems to work. So why would you rotate the Scrum master role?

One advantage of switching the Scrum master is that during an iteration the Scrum master can focus with the team on realizing the user stories from the ongoing iteration, while the Scrum master for the next iteration gives extra attention on grooming the backlog with the product owner, and having good user stories when the next iteration starts.

Another advantage of Scrum master rotation is that you have a backup in case the team’s Scrum master becomes ill, is away for a longer period or not available due to some other reason.

If there is more than one team members who acts as a Scrum master then they can support each other when things get tough. They can also learn from each other.

Have you rotated the Scrum master role? Or do you work with fixed Scrum masters? I would love to hear from you!

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About Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.
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4 Responses to Do you rotate Scrum masters in teams?

  1. Nikolaos Raptis says:

    Well I think rotating scrum master is not the best approach. The reason for me is that scrum master role is complex. If it was clear what a scrum master should do then everyone could do it.

    But its not that case. Scrum Master should have deep knowledge and understanding of agile principles. Also she must be ready to protect the team from external interruption which mean many times probably even some conflict with external stakeholders and managers. Not everyone can do that. Person character plays an important role.

    Removing impediments has a broad meaning and some organization environments. Not everyone can cope with all the challenges and that’s why scrum masters are hard to find in general.

    Rotating Scrum Masters has benefits if extra effort is applied in passing the state of mind that a scrum master should have. Its a role that goes deep and it needs continues improvement and training.

    • BenLinders says:

      Nikolaos, I fully understand and recognize your concerns. I never said being a Scrum master is easy (the same is true for being a product owner or team member BTW).

      Your reply reveals something that has been bugging me and which worries me. If the Scrum master role is so hard to do, if specific skills are needed, if it’s difficult to find good Scrum masters, then something must be wrong here.

      Agile including Scrum are there to help us to do our work better. And yes, that can take time, can be difficult at times, and will need training and the development of skills. But it shouldn’t be so damn hard that only a few of us are able to play the game.

      • Nikolaos Raptis says:

        Thanks for the reply Ben. Yes I understand what you mean. Sure that’s the spirit and the goal a team should have. Meaning that understanding why scrum master does what she does then you have a good chance to increase awareness and effectiveness in the team.

        In the end if you achieve this level scrum master role could be obsolete or better could be described more accurately in the environment of the organization.

        That because the team will be effective enough and the only part that it will be “missing” is just to specify trivial or repeated tasks that the scrum master must do.

        But first the team should reach that state which is the most difficult part. Personally I have experienced that most of the times people are not much interesting understanding the role or they search for well defined guidelines to feel more comfortable.

        Especially if they are developers too and have to write code and in the same time being in the position to remove impediments. Buts that’s another interesting topic.

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  • Ben Linders – Independent Consultant Agile, Lean, Quality, and Continuous Improvement

    Ben Linders
    Ik help organisaties om effectiever software te ontwikkelen. Neem contact op voor mijn diensten.

    I help organizations to effectively develop software. Contact me to hear about my services.