5 Bad Scrum Master Habits you should quit right now

5 Bad Scrum Master Habits you should quit right now

You’re an amazing Scrum Master, right? How would you know if you weren’t? Wouldn’t you want to know? In this vlog, we talk about 5 common bad Scrum Master habits one might develop and should quit right now!

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Robb: Greg, I’ve got five bad habits that Scrum Masters seriously need to stop. 

Greg: Oh yeah, I’m curious. What are they? 

Robb: So let’s start with number one. Basically, you stop learning about your craft. Have you ever seen this, Greg? I mean, people get their Scrum Master certifications and are like “I’m done. I don’t need to learn any more about Scrum anymore and the organization should just magically evolve around me.”

Greg: I have seen that actually. I think that’s sort of the certificate criticism that we hear people going out and getting their certifications and then thinking, well, now I’m an expert. So you’re saying they need to stop claiming to be an expert and continue learning their craft? Like, Scrum has endless learning opportunities. Scrum Masters have to demonstrate that first.

Robb: Yes, there are so many books to be read. There’s way too much to learn and every organization is different. There’s a lot of problems to solve. So we just have to keep learning. We have to keep reading books. 

Greg: I get that. I like that one. What’s the next one you got?

Robb: Basically, a Scrum Master is the Scrum cop. They come into all your events, and they’re like, “that’s not Scrum.” And you’re like, “Dude, I don’t care. I just want to get my work done.”

Greg: Okay, yeah. So with some of the coaching that we’ve done I think we picked that up as a potential habit for Scrum Masters. They feel like it is their obligation to be the Scrum cop. No matter what they’re going to enforce the law of Scrum versus the attitude or the spirit of why those boundaries or rules exist. So Yeah, I get that too. 

I think that can actually have an adverse effect on the organization not liking Scrum framework, when you have somebody running around as a Scrum cop. So you get the poison in the pot there and it can actually ruin it. That’s a good one.

Robb: I’ve never received a Scrum ticket before, but I would love to see what those fines are. 

Greg: (laughing) Scrum jail. Alright, this is your five and four. I’m curious what these next three are. What’s the next one you got?

Robb: All right, number three. They run all the meetings. They are the “Master of Ceremonies.” That’s a bad habit. Dude, stop please.

Greg: Okay, you already got me triggered with ceremonies anyway because people say Scrum ceremonies and then by nature you have Scrum Master say “these are my holy events in which I am in charge of the master of ceremonies.” Okay, so throw me though your thoughts as to why that’s a bad thing for having a Scrum Master run all the ceremonies/events.

Robb: First off, it’s a waste of time. Most events can be run by the people that are involved. Like a Daily Scrum, the Scrum Master is only an optional attendee, they’re only there to make sure that it happened and it stuck to a time box. The developers are fully capable of running that meeting and no one needs to report to a Scrum Master. But you know, the Sprint reviews, oftentimes a Product Owner has taken a big lead on that. So what do you do in that meeting? The Sprint Retrospective, there are plenty of ways where the teams can self manage around facilitating that event. You don’t, as a Scrum Master, have to be the one that runs all these meetings. And when you do, it sounds like your job is just a meeting runner and I don’t know if anybody’s going to justify that kind of headcount on their budget.

Greg: Yeah, I can buy that. Makes sense to me. That’s a good one. So we got two more to go. What’s the next one? 

Robb: So number two, we’re going to come in as “Captain blame.” You blame everybody else for why Scrum doesn’t work except for yourself. Like, “oh, managers, if only managers were on board. If only the leadership were on board.” But you’ve done very little to get them on board, very little to help usher the organization along. In the Scrum guide they even talk about the third thing a Scrum Master does to serve is serve the organization as a whole. It’s not just about working with the teams directly. So if you’re the type that’s just blaming everyone else, stop it.

Greg: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s a good one. What does the Scrum Guide say? That you’re accountable for the Scrum team’s effectiveness? So blame doesn’t really fit with accountability. Sounds like a cop out to me. That’s a good one. 

Robb: Yeah, I didn’t see blame the Scrum Guide at all when I looked it up last time.

Greg: (laughing)  It’s true. It showed up zero times.

So what’s Your number one, Robb? The number one habit that Scrum Masters must stop at all costs?

Robb: You’re solving everybody else’s problems. Somebody has an issue and you go in there and you come up with a solution. Somebody has a problem at the Daily Scrum and you’re the one to fix it. Somebody has a retrospective idea. You’re the one that takes the action item. If you’re doing all of the things you’re not improving self management and you’re also creating a reliance issue. Also, how are you ever going to take a vacation if you’re doing all the things?

Greg: So Scrum Masters are impediment removers? That’s their jam, isn’t that solving people’s problems?

Robb: Well, causing the removal of impediments is the way it’s described in the Scrum guide, and here I am being a Scrum cop. The idea is, you maybe identify, but you usher along a solution or you get this to the right people. You may be involved in the solution actively, but you may not. You may go talk to an adjacent team and present a problem and they’re the ones that solve it. But the main problem that I’m seeing with this, you solve all the problems, is oftentimes in traditional organizations the team leader, the manager, is the one that solves all the problems. And everybody goes to them with the problems and if your solutions aren’t the best solution, people follow it because, well, while you’re the leader, you’re the Scrum Master. It can sub optimize solutions and their speedy deliveries.

Greg: Interesting. All right. On that theme, I think I have a bonus…must stop. 

Robb: Yeah?

Greg: Yeah. It’s a Scrum Master who pretty much is so passive they literally don’t help the team with the true impediments that are causing them to be ineffective. Here’s what my thoughts are on this. It is usually at the organizational level. Not usually, but can be at the organizational level. When teams are very focused on their own context, or in their own arena, and they don’t work with the organization to cause for a more effective team that can be problematic. So when Scrum Masters are so myopic, they only see the team and nothing else around them. I think they can be guilty of literally not removing any impediments and causing the team some harm in terms of being able to be efficient. 

So there’s my bonus tip, Scrum Masters who remove zero impediments.

Robb: If you know of some bad habits Scrum Masters need to stop please email us. We would love to hear them. Who knows, we may even turn that into a video for you. 

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Scrum.org Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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