What is the career path for a Scrum Master?
That question was raised recently when I was asking people in the Development department if they thought they'd like to be a Scrum Master and whether they would apply for a Scrum Master role. Of course the question and answer related to their specific company but I've heard the same question asked at Agile meetups and Agile conferences. The short answer [to me] is: there's a clear career path for Scrum Masters. The key to this career path is growth. Let me explain.
Those of you that work in Development are sometimes isolated from the business. This is not an insurmountable problem but let's be honest, work on products occurs in Development and the business of the company occurs in the sales/marketing offices of the various regions. You could think of Development having the intellectual property of the product, the brain, whereas the regional sales/marketing teams (Americas, Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa) form the heart. Neither can survive without the other and both are necessary for growth and vitality. The best scenario is that the brain (Development) and the heart (sales/marketing teams with their customer insights) work together in a seamless, symbiotic relationship. Establishing and maintaining a great communications link, having everyone working from the same page, and working toward a shared product vision are essential ingredients for growth. From a Scrum prospective, the Scrum Masters are the people whose role it is to find a way to make this happen.
In the Scrum Guide, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland imagine a world where the Scrum Masters, get the organization to understand and work with the Scrum Teams by:
- Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption,
- Planning Scrum implementations within the organization,
- Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development, and
- Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team.
A Scrum Master will hasten the adoption of Scrum Values (from the Scrum Alliance)
- Focus - Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.
- Courage - Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
- Openness - As we work together, we express how we're doing, what's in our way, and our concerns so they can be addressed.
- Commitment - Because we have great control over our own destiny, we are more committed to success.
- Respect - As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.
But how does this lead to a career path?
By improving lines of communications, by getting those in direct contact with customers communicating the pain customers feel, by getting the product development teams to have empathy with the customer, by understanding the impact of technical solutions on the customers, by keeping all aspects of the business informed of customer problems and potential solutions, by being transparent, by continually striving to improve, by creating a culture where learning trumps blame, by creating a culture where the question is not, "what have you done?" but instead, "how can I help you?", by doing all these and more, the Scrum Master will create the opportunity for the company to experience unprecedented growth. And when you have growth, you create more jobs and a larger product base and with that comes the need for more sales people, more marketers, more product managers, more products, more projects, and more Scrum Teams. I should say that Scrum Masters are almost never ever directly responsible for a company's growth. However, through the actions of the Scrum Master and many of the communication improvements and process streamlining, the inevitable result will most likely be growth.
Scrum Masters typically move into roles like product owner, product manager, head product owner, head of product management, program manager, project director, program director, agile coaching, development manager, technology manager, and others. Most of these roles may not exist today but with growth and expansion, some of these roles will come into being.
Whether your company or business has a global footprint or is a young Start-up, Agile and Scrum can be tools for growth and the Scrum Master role is positioned so that the results of good Scrum Mastery is company growth. Once there's growth, there almost always follows more and greater opportunities. Who is better positioned to move up and forward than the Scrum Master?