During difficult times, many companies begin to look for potential savings. And where to save is always different. When a developer leaves, I won’t have a finished application, but what happens if the Scrum Master leaves? The work of the Scrum Master Team is usually reflected in the results of the work of the entire team.
Let’s take a look at what causes a reduction in the number of Scrum Masters in your company. To be more specific, this is a situation where we do not yet have self-organizing teams in the company. Teams are also not yet continuing to build an agile way of working on their own.
One of the tasks of a good Scrum Master is to help the team continuously improve its effectiveness. This is helped, for example, by conducting retrospectives, where the team thinks about how it can improve its work. Greater efficiency is also helped by moderating stand up meetings, where the team has to synchronize over how to achieve the sprint goal they have set and how to deal with obstacles along the way. A good scrum master has many such tools at his disposal.
Reducing the number of well-functioning Scrum Masters in terms of savings will ultimately translate into a decrease in team performance.
Overload remaining Scrum Masters
If the remaining Scrum Master Team decides to save the situation and help the Teams beyond their capacity, the remaining Scrum Masters will most likely be overloaded.
An overloaded Scrum Master usually only attends the ceremonies of the assigned teams, but this is where his cooperation with the teams ends. And so it may soon happen that the team stops seeing its value and the idea of agility gradually begins to lose its meaning. You can learn more about this topic in our article How many teams can an agile coach have at once?
If someone from the team tries to replace the missing Scrum Master, it is to some extent a good thing. However, it is necessary to take into account that the capacity that the team devoted to the replacement of the Scrum Master will be missing in delivery elsewhere.
Increasing the cost of agile transformation in the company in the future
Every agile transformation requires active support from management. If the company’s management does not support the transition to an agile way of operating, then people spend significantly less effort to embark on the transformation.
So when the Scrum Master team is more widely targeted in the first wave of savings, it’s a clear signal to the company that agility is a lower priority in the eyes of management. And it will be harder and more expensive to return to agility in the future. Because this is, among other things, a cultural change, every other interrupted/failed attempt to get into agility will be more costly and more difficult for people in the company to believe it again.
Wasted investment – return of teams to the original mode of operation
If the team is still undergoing a transformation and is not yet experienced enough to adopt agility as its new mode of work, it can lead to the unsuccessful investment that has been put into building agility in the company. Such a team, without the support of the Scrum Master, will gradually return to the mode of operation that it knew best before. Thus, it will converge to the original state before the agile transformation.
Slowing progress towards expectations from agile transformation
If you, as a company, have set expectations for the agile transformation, then another consequence of reducing the Scrum Master team is to slow down progress towards achieving the set goals.
The goal of every good Scrum Master is their own substitutability. However, it takes time to achieve self-organizing teams. Therefore, if there is a premature decrease in the number of well-functioning Scrum Masters in the company, it will be reflected:
- to the reduction of team performance,
- increasing the cost of a future return to agile functioning,
- or even at risk of losing confidence in agility in the company.
So what to do if you have to save? If your Scrum Master team is performing well:
- Always look for different sources of savings and balance them proportionally.
- Avoid antipatterns:
- Avoid overloading the remaining Scrum Masters so that other teams don’t get worse
- Do not combine the roles of Scrum Masters and Product Owners together, neither role would perform well
- If a team without a Scrum Master wants to continue working in an agile way, sometimes it can help to have a developer temporarily do the Scrum Master. At that point, the team loses a developer, or gains a scrum master who does not have enough focus for his work and will most likely not work well.
- If there is no other option, consider whether some teams that are still very early adopting, can temporarily revert to the original mode of operation.
- Listen to people and work with their motivation, because many people who have become accustomed to the agile way of working may find coming back highly demotivating.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works everywhere, it is a solution to a crisis situation. You may disagree with some of our observations. However, if this article has managed to bring at least a little closer to the risks of reducing of well-functioning Scrum Masters, then this article has fulfilled its purpose. Do not hesitate to write to us about your experience!