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Scrum Masters Should Be Cross-Functional

December 7th, 2010

I have enjoyed a two day Certified Scrum Master course with Chet Hendrickson and Henrik Kniberg as teachers. A big part of the course was dedicated to questions and answers (implemented as a Scrum exercise) and lots of interesting subjects were elaborated upon by Chet and Henrik. I figured I’d document some of them on this blog, starting with this question:

“Should Scrum Masters code?”

Both Henrik and Chet agreed that the Scrum Master role may or may not be a full time job depending on several circumstances like team size, the maturity (in Scrum a sense) of the team, etc. In fact, a Scrum Master should strive for making her role redundant.

The Scrum Master is needed the most in the beginning, but once the worst impediments are removed and the team gets more comfortable with the process, the role becomes less important. At that point, the Scrum Master work load becomes unevenly distributed, and tends to be concentrated towards the beginning and end of the sprints. When that happens, you have basically two options:

Alternative 1: Make the Scrum Master role for this team a part time assignment.

Alternative 2: Keep the full time Scrum Master but have her or him participate in development activities when there’s time for that.

Of these two, the second one is much preferred, mostly because a “drop-in” Scrum Master will be less effective in discovering and removing impediments. So, in that perspective having a Scrum Master that is cross-functional seems like a good idea.

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