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"We have openings for Scrum Masters"

Disclaimer: This post is purely based on my past job-hunt experience and ongoing trend with few postings on job boards. This doesn’t relate to my current job and doesn't talk about every scrum master job description. - Author

The Scenario:

“We have openings for Scrum Masters”
The more this statement excites me, the more it makes me skeptical of the forthcoming expectations.

During my consultant phase of experience, my resume was constantly open in the market for new projects and opportunities. In those 5 years, I came across hundreds and thousands of Agile/Scrum openings in the market, and the trend continues since I have so many recruiters in my professional network.

Many things changed in the past 7-8 years, but one thing that always bothers me is the expectation from a Scrum Master. In many cases, the role seems not well understood by the recruiter or the hiring manager itself. I am trying to collate the thoughts and shed some light on this less-discussed problem across the industry.

The Problem, a.k.a. the shortfalls:

Source: LinkedIn, Dice, Glassdoor, Indeed, Naukri, ZipRecruiter.

1. Do you really need a Scrum Master?

When I look at the job details for the open Scrum Master position, sometimes I feel that the hiring manager doesn’t understand what a Scrum Master does. Rather, do they even need a Scrum Master? They might be in search of something/someone else. Agile is a buzzword. Agile is the fashion. To cope up with market-buzz companies/recruiters blindly use it to lure the candidates. They fit different requirements under appealing titles, like Scrum Master. Mostly the requirements are tangled with traditional manager roles.

So, my question is, do you really need a Scrum Master?

2. Do you know what a Scrum Master does?

Sometimes, the job details described in the posting, or the details shared during the initial calls put me in a confusing state, whether my own understanding about a Scrum Master role is correct.

My feeling is that people don’t understand the importance of the role or there is a communication gap between multiple components in hiring, like recruiters, hiring managers, project, market need and company need.

It is the time to cumulatively understand what a Scrum Master does. The question is, do you want to?

3. Scrum Master is Manager equivalent in Agile?

Scrum Master is a servant leader. A manager should be a leader, while a leader is not necessarily a manager.

Most hirings for Scrum Masters suggest that the role is treated as a manager equivalent. And it is also understood by the hiring folks that a manager can fit well into a Scrum Master role. Going further, few companies/recruiters insist on the Managers to be hired as Scrum Master (example: PMP certified).

The question here is, are we confusing between the two forte?

Root Cause Analysis:

Agile is the new-age methodology, which attracts attention. Many companies have adopted Agile in several ways - using the standard or custom frameworks. And then there come blind followers, who tried to get on the wave without understanding the basics. (Read: People in Agile World)

There are companies that simply renamed the Project Manager roles to Scrum Masters and Business Analyst roles to Product Owners. This is not the correct agile implementation. Agile is more of the mindset than the practices and roles.

There are several mentalities that feel that a Scrum Master is nothing more than a meeting administrator for a few meetings in weeks. That leads to combining the role with other "value-adding" responsibilities. You can easily find the postings for hybrid roles like Scrum Master and Product Owner, Scrum Master and QA Lead, Scrum Master and Project Manager, and so on. (On side notes, learn more about Scrum Master’s success criteria: Can we not measure Servant Leaders' success?)

Potential Solutions:

  • Every hiring manager and recruiter for the Scrum Master role must ask each other the question if they understand what a Scrum Master does, and if they really need one.

  • Candidates should also confront inappropriate servant leadership requirements. True Scrum Masters should think twice before accepting the offers if that is the place you can, as a servant leader, make a positive agile impact.

  • Agile maturity across the industry is the ultimate solution, but it is not possible overnight. Agile Manifesto has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and agility is still budding at places and not matured at many. Understanding the core principles and values of Agile is more important than hurriedly implementing the frameworks that lead to many dysfunctions, like this recruiting one.

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