Language is rough sometimes. It messes things up, and changes the way we perceive things in substantive ways.
This is certainly true with the title “ScrumMaster”. It implies that it is a role – a full time job even, just by virtue of being a title.
What would happen if we assigned a title of “UnitTester”. Imagine the implications – we’d start isolating individuals, having them do nothing but write unit tests, they’d start to defend their turf and prevent others from doing it. Managers would make job postings. Recruiters would be all like “Ya – lookin’ for a Senior UnitTester to fill a really transformative role” ….. ok, well something like that.
The mechanisms that scrum uses to balance all the natural, competing and complementary forces that arise during the course of software delivery is brilliant. But the mechanisms need to be facilitated – groups of people aren’t good at maintaining momentum without someone focused on that. Because of Conway’s law – and we can get into the mechanics of this in another post – methodology and the structure of the software are very closely related. The best equipped individuals to be facilitating these mechanisms are the members of the team that are delivering the software. Further, having one finger on the pulse of the methodology gives every developer a sense if it starts to head in a direction that’s not aligned with the collective vision for the architecture (again, tightly connected via Conway).
So the language that we’ve historically used to designate the person who is facilitating scrum mechanisms, is the very thing that’s driven facilitation in a very inappropriate direction.
For action items – I got two things for you:
#1 – everyone on the team should regularly facilitate. It’s not hard. Just do it.
#2 – to use language to our advantage here – we can refer to the activity, “facilitating”, rather than some imaginary role “ScrumMaster”. It will create the correct perception that this is just an activity that everyone does. Just like unit testing.