Is the Scrum Master role extinct?

With the recent news about Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches being laid off in organizations, the question that comes to mind is whether we are at the end of the road with regard to these roles that have in the past focused on building agile capabilities in organizations on a full time basis.

My opinion is that organizations will continue to have a need for people who are focused on helping teams to continuously improve their ways of working, improving team and organizational effectiveness.

In the Scrum Guide 2020, roles were replaced with accountabilities and I advise our clients that the implication of this change includes the notion that adopting the Scrum Framework doesn’t require recruiting people with the Scrum Master job title; however, for a successful adoption of the Scrum Framework, an individual will be required to fulfil the accountability of the Scrum Master as defined within the Scrum Framework.

There are a number of roles that could be considered for the Scrum Master accountability including Line Managers, Delivery Managers and Team Leads; however, these individuals are required to be true leaders as defined by the Scrum Framework. These individuals are required to embody the Scrum Values of Commitment, Courage, Focus, Openness and Respect; these individuals are required to lead by example. They are required to lead the adoption of the Scrum Framework within the team and their organization. I believe that if and only if, these individuals are able to make these changes and become true ambassadors for championing better ways of working in the workplace, then we might have come to the end of the road for dedicated roles such as Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches.

Organizational Leaders must also recognize the shift that is required and support these managers by providing the right environment to succeed. An environment where these managers are able to improve the team(s) ways of working and an environment where these managers are measured for impact on building effective teams that are able to deliver value to their customers.

However, there will still be situations where the organization is not ready for the change that is required for managers to take on the Scrum Master accountability and in this case, I will advocate for dedicated Scrum Masters/Agile Coaches that will help the team and the organization adopt the Scrum Framework.

To summarize, I don’t think that the role of the Scrum Master is going extinct, however, we should view the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Developers as accountabilities within the Scrum Framework; these accountabilities do not have to map to a job title. Whether Scrum Master accountabilities are fulfilled by dedicated roles or taken up by managers in the current team construct would depend on a number of factors including the readiness of the organization and the agile maturity of the organization.

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