A ScrumMaster needs a different skills and mindset than a normal developer.
I have worked in teams where I was part time scrum master & developer. In many other projects I was full time Scrum Master. Both projects were a success. Based on my experiences if I have to answer this question I will say that it depends on the project but given a choice I want my ScrumMaster to be fulltime.
Being a technical person helps the ScrumMaster to understand the language spoken by the team. But if he/she is also working as a part time developer then the Scrum Master will be more interested in finishing the bugs/Product Backlog Items. Then who will protect the team from PO & other stake holders? Who will coach them? Few months’ back one of my colleagues complained that his ScrumMaster is interested in only in finishing the work, there was no feeling of being part of a team because the ScrumMaster was busy finishing his bugs. He rarely motivated the team.
I came from a strong technical background. When I became the ScrumMaster for the first time, I had strong urges to run the technical meetings. Being a senior person in the team, when I presented the solution people readily accepted it. They very rarely challenged me. Scrum puts the onus on collective thinking but in this case I was the only person thinking. Initially many in my team asked me to use my technical skills to deliver the content but I was more interested in creating a self-sustaining team. If team needs the ScrumMaster’s technical expertise, then there is a problem & an opportunity to improve the team. Many ignore this and try to cover up this by filling that Gap.
In this situation I will ask the following question
Why do you need ScrumMaster’s technical help?
- Is there a lack of technical skills?
- Does the team lack application/domain expertize?
- Is there any attitude or team dynamics problem?
- Is the team balanced? Do they have sufficient number of people?
Such questions will help the team to think & move forward. They may not like it initially but in the long run it will be the best decision. Treat the disease, not the symptoms.
Many think that ScrumMaster job is of an administrator but that is not true. Check the following article. Doing this with one team fulltime is nearly impossible and we are talking about appointing a single ScrumMaster for multiple teams or to save cost have a part-time ScrumMaster. By doing so, we will create more problems rather than solutions.
Are you against Scrum Master actively doing coding?
No. I am not against Scrum master doing coding or actively testing or creating the documentation for the software. I believe we should do everything under our capacity to give a quality output and satisfy our clients. If the scrum master is a good developer or architect then he should use his knowledge to teach his team. I was talking to one of my scrum master last day. He is a good developer. He used to fix the critical bugs in the application. Team was so used to him fixing the issues that, later on when a bug was reported from that area they refused to look into it asked the scrum master to fix it. Rather than enabler he became a bottleneck in teams development.
Remember the principle – “ Team them fishing, don’t give them fish”. As long as the scrum master uses his skills to team the team and he doesn’t becomes a bottleneck , do the coding.
When can we have a part time ScrumMaster/ScrumMaster with multiple teams?
- When the team ( PO & Scrum team ) is very matured
- There is no change in Backlog. The team has a very steady backlog of Bugs or PBI which is written by a very good PO
- A very small team of 2-3 members which doesn’t have much work.
- R/D work which doesn’t involved outside party (this point is debatable)
I have seen many debates on this. My only suggestion is to have a full-time Scrum Master if possible
- ScrumMaster’s Checklist - roles & responsibilities -http://www.theagileschool.com/2012/03/scrummasters-checklist-roles.html
- Types of ScrumMaster - http://www.theagileschool.com/2012/02/types-of-scrum-master-do-we-need.html