Dedicated ScrumMaster or a shared role?


I am exploring an idea:

Does a team need a full time scrummaster or can the role/responsibilities be distributed, shared, or rotated?

Thoughts on Scrum-ban Approach?

@MattMorgis sounds like you guys are pretty mature; how do you resolve impediments/blockers? Who owns it, the person impacted?


That’s a very good question that I never really put thought into before. It kind of organically expresses itself. Normally it defaults to the member who is impacted by the blocker, if it remains an issue someone else normally steps up or we go to our dev manager or P.O. for help if it’s something we can’t take care of right away or need something from someone over our heads.


Worth the read - there’s a lot of these duties that are shared by my entire team, some that fall in my court, and some that fall on our team’s development manager. I have some more questions after reading that and will post a better reply later.

These discussions are great!! I’ve been on the coalition all morning and procrastinating coding :sweat_smile:


At my current company with 100+ teams using SAFe they started with each team having a SM, voluntold from the team with 25-50% of their time devoted to SM. Now 2+ years on our #1 problem is that they don’t do the SM job properly and it’s holding us back from high performance. They are pretty good at facilitating the ceremonies but really lack at coaching agile/scrum principles and values. We have a group of 9 individuals across the world coaching these 100 SM’s but it doesn’t scale properly.


@dmahlitz 100+ teams using SAFe? My mind=blown. How does that even work?


I am Guessing Multiple Agile Release Trains average recommended is 150 People. I am in the Dedicated Scrum Master camp. Till the team hits RI and then it should just groove… I also like to have a Lean Manager in the beginning with my Kanban Teams but once they feel the flow it is time to bounce


Great post. I believe that the scrum master role is distinct, but in certain cases a scrum master may split their time across a few teams. Two teams is the max for most places I’ve worked. Should they split their time? Well, that depends on many things…here are a few:

  • Is the team converting from waterfall or are they already up and running with Scrum?
  • If they are up and running, what is their maturity level?
  • How capable is the product owner?
  • How available and responsive is the product owner to the dev team?
  • Is their an agile coach around to support the SM? If so, how many teams is the coach supporting?
  • Is there a PM in the mix? If so, what is their role and their agile maturity?
  • How strong is the development team? Is their obvious technical leadership?
  • What is the mindset of the development managers? Are managers impediments or supportive? Are they catalysts for change?


@andybacon Nailed it… these are the question i ask too. I also what to know the Time Zones. I had three teams at one point in Columbus Oh, Geneva, and Hong Kong due to the time zones i could keep up with the but the Work life balance was terrible.


Forgive my ignorance, what does RI stand for in this context?
Thanks, Marjan


Shu, ha, ri

  • Shu – Follow the Rule
  • Ha – Break the Rule
  • Ri – Be the Rule


Thanks Andy. Very familiar with the concept of Shu Ha Ri, but in a totally different context (Taiko drumming). Was planning a blog post about it. May now “just” link to the one you mentioned. (Reading soon).


By the way, I know them as Shu “Follow the style of the master”, Ha “Start experimenting with the style” and Ri “Develop your own style”, but I guess that’s not very succinct :wink:


Noh Theater, Aikido, Taiko Drumming, Rugby, Beer Brewing, Scrum Development … I think the concept works in all of those :slight_smile:

Would love to hear more about how it works in the cycle of learning drumming…


:slight_smile: I’ll write it up some time (was planning on doing so anyway) and ping you in HappyMelly or here


This question comes up a lot, and contributors here introduce some good ideas.

For me, I think the bottom line is, do what works for you under the circumstances. Here is a blog post I wrote some time ago that gives more detail.


I can’t believe I haven’t responded yet here. I am in the do what makes sense camp. Anyone saying “the rule is this…” needs to try a spoonful of empiricism. I have seen any of the previously mentioned suggestions work and fail. I’ve seen some work for a while then fail too. It’s a function of maturity/safety/engagement/context. For new teams though, I do believe there is value in starting with a scrum master (dedicated or split) if you are hell bent on doing Scrum.


I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit. Consider the following scenario -

You have a mature product development team, that’s cross-functional and has everything they need to build and ship. They’ve been working together as a team for a long time, know the technology and product inside and out. They dont have ‘big company’ impediments like excessive governance and reporting. They’re co-located with product management, sales and support and have solid clarity from their product manager and have supportive management. They deliver every 2 weeks at a sustainable rate and there’s little to get in their way.

Does this team need a dedicated scrum master? If so, what value are they adding?


@rjenkins you just described utopia, been working in software 20+ years and never heard what you describe, always something coming around the bend. You’re always in a tornado or ones coming around the corner :slight_smile: :cloud_tornado:


Is it really though? I dont see why, given the right environment and support that you couldnt replicate that inside of 12 months.

Naturally, management will get in the way… there’s your tornado.