Why do developers hate Scrum Masters?

Marin Pavelić

We asked a developer turned Scrum master.

Scrum makes peace when there is war, bringing together business people and developers. Defined like that, it sounds like a win-win situation.

But then, if one is a Scrum Master, there is a good chance that many people don’t like them and that their role is greatly misunderstood. When you mention Scrum to developers, they won’t hesitate to express negative opinions, criticize, and make fun of it. At best, they will say Scrum Master is a fictional or non-existent role.

To find out if Scrum and Scrum Masters deserved the hate, we talked with Josip Osrečki, a developer turned Scrum Master and a Head of Business Agility at Devōt, a mid-size development agency.

Why people don’t like Scrum?

If we look at the early examples of agile stories before Scrum appeared, people didn’t like project managers either. There has always been this negative attitude towards organizational structures that impose rules, and Scrum is usually imposed on employees. The resistance starts because it comes with new concepts like backlog and sprint, Josip explains:

A big problem lies in the heap of new words that aren’t tailored to programmers. If someone came to me with a completely new framework and started throwing words like refinement and retrospective at me, I’d resist at first.

Another reason people don’t like Scrum is because organizations don’t use it correctly. When it’s not used correctly, it becomes Zombie Scrum. Josip compares it to driving a car:

It’s like driving a car. Someone tells you to go left, and then go right. It would be best if you thought about the goal and how to reach it.

We have a daily, ergo, we do Scrum. It’s like thinking you’re smart just because you have a brain.

Scrum brings people together in one team

Scrum is a perfect tool that enables short feedback loops and product development in small increments so that something can be validated in time, Josip points out:

You create a small part of the application and check if it works. Incremental development is significant in software because of its complexity.

Bringing developers and business people together in one cross-functional team solves the problem of long feedback loops. Also, it eliminates situations such as developers hating the business analysts who wrote 100 pages of documentation or business analysts blaming the developers for taking too long to do the job.

When you make all the teams sit together, then people start talking in a different language, Josip explains:

As a developer, I have learned that there is a customer out there who has requirements, not just my code. The business analyst knows that some technical requirements are not easy to solve, and that’s why I need to go through what they want me to do so that I can see if I can do it at all.

Scrum brings people together in one team and enables short feedback loops. Then we can be much more adaptable in the market.

Scrum Master is not a two-day certificate

Scrum Master role implies that the person should know only Scrum in order to “manage” the team. This often gives them little real mandate to support true organisation change. This is why some people in Agile are already moving away from the term Scrum master and so does he.

He prefers the term organizational or team performance coach because Scrum master sounds like they are the master of the whole team. On the other hand, an organizational coach sounds like someone who wants to enable people to work more comfortably and for the team to improve, Josip points out.

Also, the trivialization of the role has dramatically inflicted a lack of respect for the position. There are examples of people getting a Scrum Master certificate after a two-day course. It’s no wonder that people think that a Scrum Master brings coffee and arranges meetings, Josip explains.

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