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Should the ScrumMaster Be the Team's Shield or on the Firing Line?

22 February 2016

Olufemi Sonuga

Should your ScrumMaster be the team's shield or be on the firing line? To some, this may be a confusing question, but to me, it's straightforward. Being the "shield" means protecting the team from external influences, such as the powerful stakeholder who wants to poach a team member to do some other "quick" work for them. Being "on the firing line" means going head-to-head and politicking with that powerful or influential stakeholder.

Being the shield almost guarantees that the ScrumMaster will not create enemies but rather gain more ground. Stakeholders in question will not only be stopped in their tracks but will also gain a better understanding of what needs to get done. They will also realize that poaching a team member cannot only have an impeding effect on the development team but also earn the stakeholder some bad "street cred." What stakeholder would like to see their name assigned to failure? I believe the answer to that is no one.

By contrast, being "on the firing line" is when a ScrumMaster goes up against it with a stakeholder or any other external influencer. He or she does not explain the rationale as to why the stakeholder cannot poach a team member for a quick task and in fact badmouths that other stakeholder. Partaking in these actions will quickly gain enemies, and people will start to shy away not only from the Scrum process but the ScrumMaster as an individual. Eventually the ScrumMaster will start to see a pattern emerge, one in which he or she is constantly out of a job (not good "street cred," in my book).

We as ScrumMasters are more like psychologists and therapists rolled into one, because not only do we have to understand the stakeholders' motivations but also recondition their mindset into thinking about other people's wants and benefits. (Let's face it, most stakeholders are generally out for Numero Uno.)

To conclude, as a ScrumMaster, never opt to be on the firing line. Instead, strive to become your team's shield.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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