Scrum Masters: Who’s Driving?


What do you think?

Care to share?

I’m listening…

22 Replies to “Scrum Masters: Who’s Driving?”

  1. I don’t think Scrum Masters drive results. We drive the process, and the team drives results based upon their team working agreement, and encouragement/acceptance by Product Owners and stakeholders.

      1. Ken, we can encourage the team to make the right decisions when completing stories. Such as ensuring they meet the Definition of Done. Remind the team of their commitments to all stakeholders/customers involved to ensure a quality product is delivered. I also remind my teams that they should remember to engage stakeholders/customers at all times during a Sprint. If a stakeholder/customer suggests a change that it is incumbent upon them to add a story to the backlog for the change, and to then let the PO know about the change to ensure proper ordering of the stories in Product Backlog. This is just to name a few things.

  2. Aren’t Scrum Masters more like the driving instructor teaching the team how to use the pedals, gears and steering wheel? So that the team is equipped with the skills to drive itself?

    1. Yes, great point, Simon!

      IMO, while helping people transition from command-and-control protocols to self-organizing teamwork, it seems like we are often teaching/encouraging team members to learn how to give themselves “permission” to take initiative, innovate if needed, consult with their peers and customers, decide, and act…doing the right thing…the best thing to deliver value…toward realizing the expected product…with transparency…and with authority to decide, act, inspect and adapt and accountability for the results, and

      Folks, “Simon says…” teach your teams to drive themselves. So that’s what we should be doing!

  3. According to the Scrum guide, the Scrum Master is there to enforce the scrum rituals, etc. Like the daily scrum etc.

    There is nothing there more to it than that; the SM is a functionary.

    It is only coaches etc who think that the SM is “more equal” or should “guide” the team.


    1. Hey Jordan, thanks for the reminder. An acting “ScrumMaster” should be held accountable to the Scrum BOK.

      Guess it’s time for me to get off my butt and review the current Scrum framework…at ScrumAlliance and Otherwise, I might turn into one of Schwaber’s “Scrum but…” practitioners, next time I doff my coach’s hat and don a ScrumMaster’s hat.

      “But…” the Scrum BOK is changing, at least, so there’s yet another reason I need to review (besides the fact that my CSM cert is 6 years old). Just last month (Apr 5), that other Ken blogged about morphing from “Scrum But” to “Scrum And” …and it looks quite progressive and attractive! KS wrote, “four threads of improvement beyond the framework are Scrum,Technology, People, and Business (domain).” Read it at and enjoy!

      Thanks again, Jordan, for the nudge! Counterpoint keeps my brain robust!


      1. FYI: Ken Schwaber’s new “Scrum And” perspective really resonates with me. Now I can ditch my “Scrum But” dunce cap. No more shame in pursuing “Scrum And” improvements. πŸ˜‰

        So, coming out of the “Agile Coaches Closet” so to speak, I’ll freely admit it: I’ve been a “Scrum Plus” advocate for years now — Scrum + XP, Scrum + FDD, or Scrum + whatever-floats-your-boat. My job as a coach is to be team enabler. For myself, I don’t want to suffer without continuous integration. We can add BDD/[A]TDD or whatever else works well to focus product content and engineering practices, above and beyond the fundamental orchestration framework (i.e. the social process) of Scrum.

        Scrum is an excellent framework. It’s just never been “enough” for me. I don’t need “more” but I do want “better” when it streamlines the job or simplifies the problem. For example, I’m addicted to Cumulative Flow Diagrams (CFD). I can spot burn, churn, bottlenecks and cycle times in the “blink of an eye” on a single chart. Scrum as a framework doesn’t preclude that. And if someone else would rather read a burn down chart, a burn up, or whatever… that’s no problem. We can hang all of those plots on the walls and post them in our portals. Same data. Multiple perspectives. Whatever we need for visibility. Whatever helps “drive” us toward excellence.

        Orthodoxy? Not for me. Pragmatism, i.e. “intelligent practice.” That’s what excites me! Inspect and adapt… experiment and verify… innovate, etc… as needed to attempt improvement. I’ll never be satisfied enough to stop trying to improve on the status quo. In fact, I think that’s how many of us got to this point… where agility has become a big deal.

        “But…” we don’t dwell here… not for long.

        So, I continue to “Press ON!” πŸ˜‰

        1. To me scrum and is just a tacit admission that Scrum doesn’t work.

          So to me, ignore the Scrum, do the And, and you’ll be fine….

          On my blog you can click “my approach” and see how I do it, which has nothing to do with scrum but many feel is highly productive give it a look πŸ™‚


          1. I don’t agree that “Scrum doesn’t work” at all. Why not? If for no other reason than this:

            Any approach that promotes self-organizing team work will garner more engagement and commitment. Fundamentally, there are well-confirmed behavioral science experiments such as the so-called “lottery ticket” experiment that “reveals an inconvenient truth about human nature: When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome β€” by a factor of five to one” (!) according to blogger Scott Keller, a director at McKinsey & Company, in (worth reading).

            IMO, That correlates well with Daniel Pink’s assertions about “autonomy” as a critical determinant of what “drives” people.

          2. Ken

            This comment: “Any approach that promotes self-organizing team work will garner more engagement and commitment.” Used as a justification for doing Scrum makes zero sense.

            You’re saying because Scrum offers one and only thing, as slogan more than a reality, that therefore makes the whole method valid.

            This seems illogical on so many levels but just briefly

            1) One can self organize without doing Scrum

            2) Most Scrum organizations I have seen are self organizing in name only (hence why I call it a slogan)

            3) In name only or not, the team is serving the whims of the PO and can select from what is on that menu only. To me that is not autonomy.

            4) Saying that a gym shoe has candy coating doesn’t mean that one is not eating a gym shoe at the end of the day


          3. The question at hand is this: “Who’s Driving?”

            For those who choose to practice Scrum, the question remains: Who or what drives results? I’m not asking whether folks should or should not use Scrum. So, to make it clear that there is a choice, I propose that we qualify the option as “Scrum If” — i.e., optional Scrum… *If* we choose to do Scrum, or not. So, now that we’ve got Scrum with or without any “if’s, and’s, or but’s” covered πŸ˜‰ we can stay on-topic: Do ScrumMasters “DRIVE” results? And that’s one of the questions to be considered when electing to use Scrum, or not.

            Fair enough?

          4. Jordan, I’ll also offer another perspective on your point (3) about “serving the whims of the PO” and “autonomy” because I believe those are relevant to the “Who’s Driving?” question at hand, assuming “Scrum If” of course πŸ˜‰

            First, the PO: If we are doing Scrum, then the Product Owner is responsible for prioritizing and accepting the team’s work. See “NOT Doing Scrum – Back to the Basics” at for details. So, it could be that the PO is driving, couldn’t it? See “Product Owners are KEY!” at
   if you like.

            The Product Owner is the proxy for the stakeholder(s) who have put money on the table to fund product development. Our sponsor(s) want something either built or repaired, to support the business. The PO controls what goes into the product backlog. So, yes, that’s the “menu” (in point 3), composed and limited by the PO. And, if we are on a Scrum Team doing Scrum, the Product Backlog defines our “Purpose” — one of the three elements that DRIVE us, according to Dan Pink.

            About Autonomy: Keep in mind that Dan Pink’s three DRIVE elements are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. The PO’s Product Backlog (the “menu” in your point 3) defines our purpose. That controls our focus, but does *not* limit our autonomy. Autonomy is orthogonal to Purpose. Indeed, the PO chooses the “menu” and that limits our immediate business purpose for participating. If the business purpose fits an individual’s hierarchy of purposes, then that business — focused through the lens of the PO’s Product Backlog — can serve as a personal driver to those of us who have been “drafted” (or better, “enlisted” i.e. “signed up”) for the Scrum team.

            Rest assured that “creativity” thrives under constraint. So, a limited “menu” only serves to focus our efforts on the desired product, without limiting our autonomy. In fact, those limits may fire us up, or foster innovation and problem-solving! If you are startled by that assertion, go ask Marissa Mayer (Google VP) about that [Business Week, Feb. 1, 2006]. She’s been the ultimate “PO” of Search and User Experience at Google, Scrum or no Scrum.

            –Ken πŸ˜‰

          5. OK, so then, IF someone is doing Scrum, Then, you would agree, I take it, that the PO is the driver and not the scrum master?


          6. Jordan, I would agree that the PO is *a* driver. Perhaps not the only driver.

            We’ve seen too many job descriptions asking for a “Scrum Master” along with an explicitly stated responsibility “to drive results.” Doesn’t that strike you as odd? It seems so to me. See

            Those “drive” perspective(s) seem like a topic to explore. Thus, the headline,
            “Scrum Masters: Who’s Driving?”

  4. Lots of things seem strange. The fact that people take Scrum seriously at all seems strange.

    Nevertheless, and one of the things most frustrating about discussing Scrum, is that everyone has it’s own opinion of what Scrum is.

    The Scrum Guide is clear about it — not that I subscribe to it — but the scrum guide states that the SM is not a team leader.

    However, the Scrum Guide, despite it’s allegedly self organizing missivies, is that the PO essentially has dictatorial powers imbued in a single person.

    Is that Strange? Yes.

    I’ve seen postings looking for “Scrum Bigots”. No joke. Is that strange? In a way, yes, in another way no.

    Would I rather have 1 manager or 3?

    PO is 1, SM is possibly one, if they are a “driver” and the team as a whole is #3.

    Or would I rather have 1 professional manager….I’d rather have 1 professional manager, not a BA promoted to PO, or a SM on an ego trip.

    But that’s just me πŸ™‚

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