Some time ago, I joined a new company and was asked to take on a newly formed Scrum Team. These were people who were new to Agile, although they’d had some training. As I began working with the team, I had a concern that they didn’t fully trust me. Perhaps they thought I was managing them or watching them. Why would that be, I wondered? Surely they knew what a ScrumMaster was for?
As I reflected on this, I thought about the term ScrumMaster
. What does the word "Master" imply? My take would be "a person who is very skilled in a particular job or activity." This is the person on the team who had really mastered Scrum.
But perhaps they
- A person who employs a servant or owns a slave.
- A person who has control over a particular situation.
Without a working knowledge of Scrum, I could see how it might be easy to misunderstand the role of someone with this title. In which case, you could certainly be forgiven for mistrusting him or her.
So what would be a better term then? Scrum Guru? Scrum Champion? Scrum Facilitator?
As I reflect on this team and where we have come over the last year, I’m delighted to see that our relationship has really changed. I’m a team member now, not a management spy. I believe the team trusts me, and we’ve come a long way. How do I know that? The team now has its own name for me: They call me their Scrum Mum! I love this analogy. My job as a parent is to care for and nurture my children so that they grow in their independence and become responsible adults. This is not so different from my aspirations for my team — that they become experienced and responsible Agilists.
I’m not proposing that we widely adopt the term "Scrum Mum," but here’s my final thought. If the Scrum Guide
can be updated to remove the word "grooming" due to its negative connotations, then perhaps "master" should be the next word to go.