The Agile Master

Catchy? No, I’m not proclaiming myself a master at Agile… actually I wanted to pose a question. In Scrum, there is a role called the “Scrum Master”. It’s very unique, and it speaks to what that person is all about. They will (in a manner of speaking) master the Scrum. Not the Scrum Team, but the Scrum itself. They facilitate, lead, coach, and in general do what needs to be done to facilitate the Scrum for their team, so that the team can focus on delivering value.

However, once you get outside of Scrum, does that person disappear? Just because you’re running some other Agile flavor like Crystal or Lean Software Development (maybe supplemented using Kanban to control work-in-progress) on a DevOps team, does the need for a “Scrum Master”-like person disappear? The most common title I’ve seen is the “Agile Coach”, which is a great title as well. One of my favorite books (indeed, my coaching bible) is Lyssa Adkins’ Coaching Agile Teams which uses Agile Coach as the title of this role. However to me, “Agile Coach” can be both too narrow and too broad of a description or role. If only interacting with a team, this person does far more than coach. Like the Scrum Master above, this person will not only coach and teach, but facilitate, remove impediments, resolve conflicts, and solve problems. On the other hand, I’ve seen Agile Coach thought of and described as a coach/mentor for a group of “Scrum Master” like people, be they actual Scrum Masters on Scrum teams, or other such facilitators.

There is a distinct difference which seems to go unaddressed. Scrum Alliance makes a distinction between the Scrum Master/Scrum Professional level and Scrum Coach/Scrum Trainer level of certifications. Scrum.org does not, but they do make a distinction for experts which they list on their site.  Agile as a discipline at large does not seem to do so. Scrum Master sounds focused, Agile Coach is kinda nebulous, and doesn’t speak to your team’s discipline.

Maybe we can just add “Master” to the flavor of agile your team most closely resembles? That sounds fun!

  • The XP Master! World of Warcraft here I come! Or, a Windows guru from last decade.
  • The Lean Master! I can lean at any angle! 30 degrees, 32 degrees, you name it! (OK I know it’s supposed to be bend, bite my shiny, metal… ahem.)
  • The Crystal Master! New age hippy, or reject boss from the Legend of Zelda series?
  • The Agile Master! I don’t know, sounds like it outranks a mere Coach…

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really amount to much, mostly semantics and curiosity. As with many things, I don’t know the answer, I just pose the questions.  What do you think? Leave me some comments!

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