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Power of the Scrum Master in terms of making decisions – Part 2

The power of the Scrum Master (or the lack of powers) is one of the most controversial aspects of Scrums. For teams making the transition from other developmental models to Scrum, these powers can take a lot of time to understand. In the previous post of this series (Scrum Master and powers – Part 1), I wrote about how teams tend to think of a Scrum Master as a sort of Project Manager rather than somebody who coaches the team to understand issues that they face and how to resolve them. This is the best way for a Scrum Master to move ahead in terms of enabling the team to do decision making and not depend on the Scrum Master for taking decisions for them. In this post, I will try and explain more details related to decision making in the team.
One of the other major problems in the whole scenario is over the role of stakeholders. For higher management, there is the need to have a single person who is responsible for the project, who can understand the concern of the stakeholders, deliver status reports from time to time, and most important, be the go to person for the project (stakeholders, especially senior management for traditional organizations do not really understand the concept of an enabled team with more powers and need a person equivalent to a project manager). And since in most cases, the Scrum Master tends to have a more senior profile than the Scrum team members (who would be either developers, or testers, or the user experience designer), and is the one who is seen by the stakeholders as the project manager for the team.
This gets more challenging. The Scrum Master will be asked to take this responsibility, seem as the person responsible for the project, and yet ensure that this quasi-authority does not pass onto interactions with the team. For interactions within the Scrum team, the Scrum Master is not a project manager, since there is no concept of a project manager within the Scrum team. At the same time, the Scrum Master has to be engaged in a relentless quest to ensure that the challenges and the changed expectations from the Scrum team are passed onto senior management (for example, teams during transition to Scrum from other developmental models tend to under-deliver for the first few Sprints before starting to see the advantages of the Sprint methodology; this reduced performance of the team can be very frustrating for everybody involved and there needs to be a lot of patience shown during such time periods).
Even when the team runs into problems, it is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to show the issues involved, get the team to explore various options that can be taken (when there are multiple such options, then to evaluate the benefits and problems of these options) and then to actually go down a path. The temptation is incredible to try and move the team in a certain direction if the Scrum Master believes that this is the right direction to go, but this is not the right way. Even if the team is going in a wrong direction, the Scrum Master should act as a coach, and ensure that team members evaluate the pros and cons of the options.

More tips about the powers and interactions of the Scrum Master (Powers of the Scrum Master – Part 3)

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