Scrum Master and Manager – Working Equation

Yamini Hundare
Scrum Master
Posted on
Apr 25, 2022
Updated on
May 23, 2022
Table of Content

Scrum Master Sync  - Episode II

Scrum is extensively used in the corporate world alongside the hierarchical structure. The Scrum Guide talks about the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development team's roles and responsibilities. So where do “Manager” (Product Manager, Engineering Manager, Project Manager, Scrum Manager, and so on) fit in this equation?

This was one of the topics discussed during SMS; if you want to know more about SMS kindly refer to “Scrum Master Sync

SMS Case #3: Drawing boundaries between Scrum Master and Manager

Case background

Since each organization has its own set of designations, I've used the general term "Manager," although the expectations and obligations of these roles are somewhat similar. I'm not saying that managers aren't necessary; they do play an important function in the ecosystem and are vital. Scrum and the Scrum team are concerned with the delivery of products and the team’s performance. Managers, on the other hand, focus on all of the other critical aspects of hiring, evaluation, performance review, retention, mentorship, team development, and so on.

Many Scrum Masters are bothered by the conflict between these two roles, raising the question of where to draw the line. When this subject was brought up for discussion, Scrum Masters expressed their dissatisfaction not with the friction, but with the lack of distinct boundaries between duties. They agreed that it wasn't deliberate, but it seemed like someone was stepping on their toes and invading their space.

Discussion

  • Why do these two roles have overlapping responsibilities or blurred boundaries? Scrum describes the role and responsibilities of the Development team, Product Owner, and Scrum Master, together defined as a Scrum Team. It is important to understand that a Manager of any form is a stakeholder and not an active part of the Scrum Team.
  • Is there a clear norm or a baseline that defines who is responsible for what in the organization? Every individual and team has its own set of boundaries, but they should be quite close to the baseline. It is important to draw boundaries and clearly communicate them throughout the Scrum team in an organization.
  • It is vital to express our opinions and have open communication within the Scrum Master community and the Manager community. This could be inadvertent, and the managers may be unaware of the issue. At times, managers aren't even fully aware of Scrum. As a result, it is critical that they stay educated and that honest communication between the two roles – Scrum Masters and Managers – is maintained.
  • Who is in charge of defining the boundary between these two roles? Members of both communities need to align with the organization and define these boundaries.
  • Is the Manager or Scrum Master accountable for other teams, and what are their expected responsibilities? How does this affect your team's present paradigm and boundaries?

Conclusion

It is the joint responsibility of the Scrum Masters, Managers, and the organization to define the boundaries between these roles. We held some follow-up sessions to define these boundaries: The first meeting was only for the Scrum Master community to see if we were all on the same page about our roles, and were surprised to find that we shared a lot of common ground, but we also had some disagreements, which we addressed and discussed in a constructive manner. The fact is that each Scrum Master or Manager is unique, and we must strive to be close to the baseline rather than sticking to it.

The second most important point that was brought up was that Managers are stakeholders and not an active part of the Scrum Team.

Forming agreements and having honest communication between the two groups supported by the organization’s leadership is critical. Setting expectations and coaching the stakeholders (in this case, the Manager) helps define clear boundaries.

About the author

Yamini Hundare
Scrum Master

I am an agile enthusiast, focused on learning and facilitation. I am passionate about building and supporting the agile community. I love experimenting with writing I actively write articles and children's storybooks

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