Rotating Scrum Masters

Feb 5, 2014

I occasionally see teams that rotate the Scrum Master role. These are usually teams new to scrum, with no real appreciation of what a Scrum Master really does. Sometimes few are interested in signing up for a role so ill-defined (in their mind), so rotation is a way to “share the burden”. Other times we have an abundance of people who want to be Scrum Masters, often predicated on some misunderstanding, and rotation is seen as a way to be “fair” and avoid conflict.

Rotating the Scrum Master role is problematic. Once you understand the depth and breadth of skills required to be a journeyman SM, and the amount of learning necessary to be even moderately successful, it will become quite clear this is not a role that can be tossed back & forth like an old sweater, worn for a sprint and handed on. A Scrum Master is a master of scrum.

“Some teams that struggle with choosing the best ScrumMaster decide that an appropriate strategy is to rotate the role among all team members. I don’t advocate this, as I don’t think it demonstrates an appropriate respect for the challenges and significance of the role.”Mike Cohn, founder of Scrum Alliance, author of several books on scrum.

Rotating ScrumMaster is perhaps always a bad idea. It indeed dilutes the ScrumMaster role. A good ScrumMaster has 4 “focus areas”: Team, PO, Organization, Dev Practices. However, what happens if you have a rotating ScrumMaster is that he only starts focusing on the team and the PO/Organization suffer.” – Bas Vodde

“The skills of a good SM are quite different from those of most team members and from what I’ve witnessed when a team member takes on the SM role, they tend to focus on the team and often even want to somehow continue to be a part of the team.” – Stuart Turner

The solution seems to be more education on the role of the Scrum Master, and exposing these teams to some good examples of SMs living the agile values and helping their teams & Product Owners.