Joshua L. Roberts

Agile / Lean Enterprise Transformation Coach

Week Fifteen – Master of Scrum?

By Josh Roberts | September 15, 2014 | 0 Comment

As we build our Agile organization, the ScrumMaster will be a new, key role at the team level. Remember, the foundation of our future organization is Agile Teams. With servant leadership in mind, we are flipping the org chart, putting the team back on top as visualized by Agile Transformation Inc. in the graphic below.

flipped hierarchy

This notion of value creation at the team level aligns well with Al Shalloway’s visualization of how value flows through an organization. Remember, with the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), we will be managing the work of Agile Teams around value streams. And, value will be created by “knowledge workers”.

al shalloway

So, what is a knowledge worker? They are workers whose main capital is their knowledge. In other words, they think for a living. Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” in the late 1950s to describe an age in which people use their brains more than their backs.


Knowledge workers include doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, engineers, scientists, and, yes, IT professionals. What’s important to understand about knowledge workers is that they require a different style of management. Or, should I say leadership. They operate best within an environment that provides a high degree of autonomy, while still encouraging collaboration and communication.

“The average knowledge worker spends 61% of their workweek communicating and interacting with others” – IDS, McKinsey Global Institute

knowldge worker vin diagram

Scrum is an Agile Team framework that creates just such an environment for knowledge workers. Rather than being ”managed”, knowledge workers seek to be “inspired”. With Scrum, servant leadership is practiced by the ScrumMaster and management team. Their focus is on giving priority attention to the needs of the team. The ScrumMaster must move a team from that of individualism to a cohesive unit, and this is no small task.

“Scrum helps us build great teams of people, not teams of great people” – Barry Turner

The ScrumMaster is the “master of the process”, not of the team. Historically, managers have been trained to drive results from the outside in. A ScrumMaster does the opposite by inspiring a team from within. They must work with the Product Owner to create a vision for the work, establish clear objectives, and explain the business drivers such that a Scrum Team can determine “how” best to meet the objectives in a self-managed fashion.

Agile Transformation Inc. does a good job of summarizing the ScrumMaster role with the following graphic.

scrummaster role

If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a great ScrumMaster, below are some helpful links:

ScrumMaster Role

Scrum Roles

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)


Josh Roberts

Agile / Lean Transformation Coach - Passionate About Delivering Value!


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