Monday, February 9, 2009

SM vs. PM...

Great thread on the VersionOne user forums-

Question from Andre L. Nelson
We have been having a big debate at my company about what is the role of the Scrum Master and the PM/Supervisor in Scrum. We are uncertain if they should be the same person or if they should be separate people. ... I'm kinda just throwing out a line and hoping for some insight from the community about either what they are doing with this or if there are any other posts or blogs I could read for insight.

From Skip Angel, SolutionsIQ Agile Coach:
Here's what I usually ask to determine if the person can be effective
as a ScrumMaster:
  • Will the team have autonomy so they can truly self-organize?
  • Will the team be able to make their own commitments each sprint?
  • Does the team trust the ScrumMaster to protect the team so they can have focus?
  • Will the ScrumMaster allow the team to determine the best solution and approach to work that makes sense for them given their collective team skills, knowledge, experience?
  • Will the ScrumMaster uphold the Scrum process when things get challenging?
  • Is the ScrumMaster somebody the team feels comfortable bringing impediments and bad news to help resolve?
  • Is the ScrumMaster a good facilitator that will help the team get through meetings but not be a participant in those discussions?
  • Does the ScrumMaster have the authority to do whatever is needed to resolve or escalate impediments the team is having?
If there are more No's than Yes's above, I would seriously consider looking for another person that is better suited for the role.

My thoughts:
  • For me, the scrum master is dedicated to a scrum team (or at most two).... the project manager may not be.
  • Project managers should focus more on resources (hiring/firing/vacations), managing dates (setting expectations), and managing risk
  • Scrum masters should focus on the team, process, and impediments.
  • I can envision a person doing both roles if the project is supported by only one scrum team (or two).
In my last company, we had 8 scrum teams working on 8 modules that built up to one product (and one release schedule). In this case, we had a product manager and a separate project/release manager working across those 8 scrum teams. I was the scrum master for one team. I dealt with the issues that Skip mentioned, and the project manager dealt with the scrum of scrums issues. This is one example where both roles are needed.

Some people argue different viewpoints on this topic, but I believe the answer differs greatly based on the size of the company, the alignment of scrum teams to products, and the culture of the company.

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