If you look for a new job as a Scrum Master, there is one puzzle you have to solve before you accept the offer: does the company I want to work for truly respect agile values or not? I went through tens of job ads for Scrum Masters and listed the five most common antipatterns to beware of. All examples below come from real job descriptions.
Antipattern #1 – Delivery Manager
If you see for example this: “Your responsibility is fluent delivery” or “Your motto is ‘I live to ship’” or even this: “Drive Sprint Agile Delivery for Development teams” (nonsense – there is no sprint agile delivery), then you know your desired company is not agile.
Sometimes the ads require you to be a team lead or do traditional project management activities like defining a plan or tracking its execution.
The companies that post such ads have something in common. They are focused on delivering an up-front plan (i. e. waterfall), not on constantly looking for a higher customer value (e. g. agile). You do not want to work for such a company.
Antipattern #2 – Jira Administrator
Very common. For example, “frequent work in JIRA with the help of the Scrum methodology”. Or even “Support the teams in the usage of agile tools like Jira, Confluence, and others. Optimize the usage of such tools.”
Well, you should certainly not optimize the usage of Jira or any other tool. If anything, you should help the teams improve their software development practices, even if it means that they will get rid of Jira (which I would strongly recommend).
Antipattern #3 – Inter-team coordinator
Very often you can find sentences like “Support in managing incoming/outgoing dependencies”, “orchestration of your team with the other teams” or “Cooperate with Product Managers, Product Owners, and other departments” (note the plurals). Sometimes it’s even in the job title “Scrum Master / Team Coordinator”.
What does it mean? I guess that teams in the company are not as self-managing as they should be. They cannot deliver the whole feature but only a part of it and need something from other teams (dependencies). Moreover, they cannot manage their dependencies themselves and they need a separate person to do it for them.
It might be tempting to accept the job as a challenge – you might want to teach the teams to self-manage their work and communicate with other teams. It’s a futile endeavor that cannot be solved at a team level. The fact that the coordinators and dependencies exist has been caused by top management decisions and you would need their support to remove the root causes. So unless you have top management support, it is better to look elsewhere.
Antipattern #4 – Team Assistant
This is less common, but it still appears way too often. E. g. “Preparing and hosting agile Meetings, such as Daily, Backlog Refinement, Retrospective, etc.” (note the capital M in the word meetings) or “organization and facilitation of Scrum events”.
Of course, a Scrum Master can facilitate a Scrum event, especially at the beginning of Scrum adoption, when the team is new and doesn’t know what to do. After a couple of Sprints, it should become a habit for the team, and the need for facilitation should slowly disappear (with the possible exception of a retrospective).
Making it a central point of a Scrum Master’s responsibilities shows that the company doesn’t understand agile values.
Antipattern #5 – Process Guardian
For example, “making sure that Scrum teams do not deviate from the process that could reduce their effectiveness”. Or “He/she is accountable for ensuring the teams’ delivery follows the right methodology”.
In other words, the process is prescribed from the top and any deviation from it will be punished. What else will be prescribed and rigid? Tools? HW equipment? Purchase ordering? Budget for training and conferences? I would rather work in a company, where individuals and teams can decide what tools and processes are best for them and not vice versa.
What can you look for?
To end on a positive note I also noticed some good examples so let’s show them. There are three main Scrum Master responsibilities and they should appear in a job description – working with the team, working with the Product Owner, and working with the company.
You can find many examples that promote coaching the team and teaching agile practices. It includes “be a good coach in Agile practices, coach individuals and teams alike” or “motivate teams to achieve results”.
Promoting collaboration with the Product Owner is rarer but it still appears. Examples include “Coach the product owner as well as the teams in agile aspects like e.g. backlog work” or “mentor and support the Product Owner in taking his/her responsibilities”.
The least common of the three is to mention that you as a Scrum Master could also influence to change of the company. Therefore, it could be a good first filter if you want to choose which offers to focus on in detail. Good examples of company-wide responsibilities include:
- engage in joint searching for opportunities to improve the development efficiency
- design and improve company processes
- facilitates organizational learning, change management
If you see these or other similar points in the job ad, it might be a good place to start looking at because it respects agile principles.