Scrum Rules: Your Scrum Master Never Tells the Team How to Solve a Technical Problem

September 1, 2020
3 minute read

Solving technical problems is the job of the product developers on the Scrum Team, not the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is responsible for the Scrum process and has authority over the team only in this limited realm. By overstepping the bounds of authority in this way, the Scrum Master becomes an obstacle for the team by reducing its ability to self-organize.

A Scrum Master who is part of a team that has reached a high-performance state may be able to safely make technical suggestions, but should always be careful not to push the team to accept those suggestions.

This is mostly a problem for Scrum Masters who have strong technical backgrounds related to the product that the Scrum Team is developing. For these people, the challenge is mostly around ego. The technical background a person has often leads them to believe they can solve technical problems better than any number of other talented technical contributors. Overcoming ego is an age-old philosophical challenge – but there are a few environmental conditions that can help a Scrum Master who is willing to give up technical contributions:

The organization officially relieves the Scrum Master of responsibility for results! This will help ensure that the Scrum Master is not controlling technical decisions out of fear for their own performance evaluation.

Likewise, relieving the Scrum Master of technical authority can help. In this case, it is critical that that authority be explicitly replaced with Scrum Master authority in order to ensure that the change is not seen as a demotion.

Provide a leadership coach for the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is a servant leader, not a micro-manager. Many people are given leadership positions without the support do do well in those positions. A coach can make a huge difference with both skill development and encouragement to let go of old behaviours.

The Development Team consists of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable Increment of “Done” product at the end of each Sprint. Only members of the Development Team create the Increment…. — The Scrum Guide

No one (not even the Scrum Master) tells the Development Team how to turn Product Backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality — The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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