Junior Scrum Master is not a Scrum Master

agile, blog

A few years ago, it popped up for the first time. But I see it more and more nowadays: “Wanted Junior Scrum Master” or “Looking for Senior Scrum Master.”

Take a few seconds to think about what you just read… junior scrum master… senior scrum master.

A junior Scrum Master is not a Scrum Master. Period.

Let’s take a look at the Scrum guide. In the section Scrum Master:

“The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.
Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.”

Scrum Guide 2020

How do you make a difference between junior and senior in this description? Is a junior Scrum Master someone who is not accountable for what she does as Scrum Master? Someone is accountable or not; you can’t be partially accountable. It does not matter if you are junior or senior; in my opinion, you are, as Scrum Master, accountable for establishing Scrum.

A Scrum Master is helping everyone to understand the Scrum theory and practice. Explaining just 50% of the Scrum Guide does not make any sense. As Scrum Master, you explain the Scrum theory or not. Where not is not an option. Understanding the theory is important, but how to practice Scrum? Also, as Scrum Master, you need to help everyone understand how to practice Scrum. You can’t explain half of Scrum or not to explain to everyone. You can’t skip the people who are not in favor of using Scrum for whatever reason. As Scrum Master, you help everyone to understand the theory and practice. 

Using the Scrum framework in one team and not explaining the Scrum framework to the rest of the organization does not make any sense. This will definitely get you into problems. Maybe a junior Scrum Master only helps the team and not the organization? Then you are not a Scrum Master, in my opinion. Therefore, also not a junior Scrum Master. 

The Scrum Master is accountable for the team’s effectiveness. Again, you are accountable for something or not accountable, and you can’t be partly accountable. Therefore, a Scrum Master is fully accountable for the team’s effectiveness. 

Scrum Masters support the team’s effectiveness by enabling the team to improve their practices. I understand that some people are more experienced than others and have more tools in their toolbox to support teams. However, I expect this support from any Scrum Master. If she can’t do this, she is not a Scrum Master.

A Scrum Master is a true leader. In my opinion, you are a leader or not. I have never heard of a junior leader. As a Scrum Master, you lead by example and serve the team where possible. This is something that you do or you don’t do. If you aren’t a servant leader, you are not a Scrum Master.

I asked someone to describe the difference between a junior Scrum Master and a senior Scrum Master. This person explained that a senior Scrum Master can help a team currently not agile, using a waterfall approach, transform into a high-performing agile team. Cool, I like that; support the team. But is that not the role of every Scrum Master? What do you expect of a junior Scrum Master in that scenario? Does a Junior Scrum Master only do the first steps? Or that she takes over the role when the senior Scrum Master is done and the team is a high-performing agile team? Not sure what there is to take over. Would that be taking notes and facilitating different Scrum events? I would call that being a team assistant. It could be beneficial for the team but don’t call the person who has that role a Scrum Master. 

Okay, said someone else, but it is needed for the salary scales in an organization… I agree and understand some people should make more money, and I understand organizations have salary scales. However, does that require introducing job titles like junior Scrum Master, medior Scrum Master, senior Scrum Master, and executive Scrum Master? I think that “problem” can be solved in many ways but does not require a junior or senior classification. Solutions could be salary formulas, salaries based on years of experience, salaries decided by people themselves, etc. All options where you don’t need to introduce junior Scrum Master or Senior Scrum Masters.

Another person said that some Scrum Masters have a lot of experience, whereas some Scrum Masters are at the start of their career. Fair enough, that is indeed a difference. Some actors do great acting in their first movies, and there are actors who, despite their experience, never will win an Oscar. However, both should have the same acting skills—the same for gardeners. If you hire a gardener, you expect both new and experienced gardeners to take good care of your garden. The more experienced gardener probably has more knowledge and experience, but both should take good care of your garden. I don’t hire a junior or senior gardener; I hire a gardener.

A junior Scrum Master who is coaching a team is a Scrum Master. Period. If a junior Scrum Master is only facilitating the daily Scrum, facilitating Scrum events, like the retrospective, and making sure Jira is up to date, it is not a Scrum Master. It is a team assistant.

We should just talk about Scrum Master, people who are dedicated to implementing the  Scrum framework successfully in an organization. It is okay to look for a Scrum Master with ten years of experience, but just call it a Scrum Master. Maybe the Scrum Master with just a few years of experience will win the Scrum Master Oscar!

I am curious to hear your opinion about junior Scrum Master versus senior Scrum Master; please let me know what you think.

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2 thoughts on "Junior Scrum Master is not a Scrum Master"

  • Abdulrahman Olayinka says:

    Insightful article. Such categorization can be likened to introducing hierarchies to scrum teams.

  • Angelina Araujo says:

    Boa tarde!
    Pelo meu entendimento , mesmo que ainda pouco, em scrum máster , ser aquele responsável em passar pra equipe sobre a pratica do scrum e seus benefícios, não faz sentido fazer essa divisão.
    É mais fácil você ter pessoas como assistentes ou ate mesmo pessoas em formação em Scrum do que essa classificação em scrum master ou junior.
    Dentro do Scrum master não tem essa divisão, então nem tem o porque ser feita.

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