Why Scrum Masters can’t be responsible for delivery
Someone recently asked me if I could point them to some reading about whether Scrum Masters should be responsible for delivery or not. I strongly believe Scrum Masters should not be directly responsible for delivery, but after hunting online I can’t really find anything that talks specifically to this point. So I thought a blog post was in order.
I like to think of it as the Scrum Master being responsible for the long term health of the team/product. Their focus is always much longer term that one release, and I tend to find if they are made responsible for the immediate release, then their focus shifts to that rather than the longer term. They also choose delivery over both quality and process which are the two things they are responsible for upholding.
The Scrum Master is perfectly balanced in Scrum against the Product Owner. With the PO worrying about delivery and ROI and the Scrum Master worried about quality, process and the team. If you make the SM responsible for delivery you collapse the healthy tension Scrum tries so hard to create.
Some examples of what might happen if you make the Scrum Master responsible for delivery:
- If the client wants an urgent patch for some issues, usually the Scrum Master will be checking the team don’t release unless they have met the definition of done. If the SM is now responsible for delivery, he might be tempted to look the other way.
- The team don’t finish their stories, and it’s time for a retrospective. A long term focused SM will hold the retro to understand how this can be avoided in future. An SM who is on the line for delivery might cancel the retro to get the stories finished.
- A team with alot of bugs might want to ignore them to get the release out. A good SM will remind them that quality is more important that building more features. An SM responsible for delivery, might encourage them to focus on features not quality.
There are probably many more than this. If your organisation wants to make the Scrum Master responsible for delivery, you need to ask what problem they are trying to solve. Is it because the team aren’t delivering? Maybe seek to understand why that is rather than making the problem worse. Is it because your organisation doesn’t understand the Scrum Master role, and is trying to turn them into project managers? Is it because your management believes that without someone controlling the delivery it won’t happen?
If your organisation make Scrum Masters responsible for delivery, post a comment to let me know why you think that is. Maybe I can help suggest some other ways of looking at the real problem.