TL; DR: The Dogmatic Scrum Master Anti-Pattern
There are plenty of failure possibilities with Scrum. Since Scrum is an intentionally incomplete framework with a reasonable yet short “manual,” this effect should not surprise anyone. For example, how do we communicate with members of the Scrum team that take the Scrum Guide literally? What about a dogmatic Scrum Master?
Join me and delve into the effects of Scrum dogmatism in less than 120 seconds.
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The Scrum Master and Dogmatism
The Scrum Master According to the Scrum Guide
Scrum Guide 2020 reserves a lot of attention to the role of the Scrum Master, for example, addressing the following tasks:
- Page 3: Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where […] a Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.
- Page 3: Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where […] the Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.
- Page 3: Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where […] the Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.
- Page 5: The Scrum Team consists of one Scrum Master, one Product Owner, and Developers.
- Page 5: Scrum defines three specific accountabilities within the Scrum Team: the Developers, the Product Owner, and the Scrum Master.
- Page 6: The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide.
- Page 6: [Scrum Master] do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
- Page 6: The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness.
- Page 6: [Scrum Masters] do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.
- Page 6: Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.
Dogmatism According to Merriam-Webster
The dictionary provides two definitions of dogmatism; both are relevant in practice:
- No. 1: the expression of an opinion or belief as if it were a fact: positiveness in assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant.
- No. 2: a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises.
Summary: If you fully embrace Scrum’s first principles as outlined in the Scrum Guide 2020, for example, use Scrum only to solve complex-adaptive problems, encourage and foster self-management, live Scrum values 24/7, it is evident that being dogmatic about Scrum’s application is a sure path to failure. In a complex environment, there are no experts. Also, no methodology covers every eventuality.
Manifestations of the Dogmatic Scrum Master
Although everything points to the incompatibility of the Scrum framework and dogmatism, some Scrum Masters still believe in applying the Scrum Guide literally. Unavoidably, this approach will cause friction in the team and the organization as Scrum is a framework, not a methodology. However, the problem is that teaching as well as “being right” feels good:
- Team members come and ask for help; now, the Scrum Master has a purpose.
- When Scrum team members follow the rules, the Scrum Master has influence or authority.
- Being among the chosen few who interpret the Scrum Guide “correctly” secures status and respect among teammates and the broader organization.
- The Scrum Master may easily attribute the Scrum team’s progress or success to their teaching; now, they also have proof regarding their mastery of Scrum.
- Finally, their mastering of Scrum is a convincing argument for the organization to keep the dogmatic Scrum Master on the pay-role; apparently, the Scrum teams need an interpreter of the Scrum Guide to reap the framework’s benefits.
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The Dogmatic Scrum Master Anti-Pattern — Conclusion
In a complex world, dogmatism is a sure-fire road to failure. In an environment that makes the empirical approach of Scrum so valuable for customers, organizations, and all other stakeholders, the dogmatic Scrum Master can only prevail by applying the same techniques that Scrum set out to overcome. Dogmatism is the anti-thesis to Scrum.
Have you worked with a dogmatic Scrum Master? How did you manage to collaborate with them? Please share your learnings with us in the comments.
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