It’s never easy to tell someone that he/she is not the right fit for a job, but sometimes you have to look out for the greater good of the team. The Scrum Master role is a critical role for any Agile team, especially if it’s an inexperienced team that is trying to find its way. If you have a situation where the whole team is new to Agile/Scrum, and you have a new Scrum Master who is learning the role for the first time, you have your work cut out for you. How much latitude should you give a brand new Scrum Master to demonstrate that he/she can do the job? That’s a really hard question to answer. You might want to consider the following three factors before making that decision.
Factor #1 – How much passion do you see?
If you have experience managing people or leading teams, you should be able to tell fairly quickly whether someone is truly passionate about what they do. From their level of energy, their engagement, how they respond to difficult situations, you can usually determine if this person likes their job and really wants to do well. A Scrum Master is no different in this regard. Sometimes a Scrum Master agrees to take on the role because he/she does so for the perceived prestige, or to avoid losing employment; it’s possible that this person has no desire to truly be a servant leader for the team.
If you observe that your Scrum Master is missing that drive or motivation, you owe it to yourself to explore what is happening, because an uninspired Scrum Master can very quickly send your entire team down the wrong path if the negative energy spreads. The performance of your team could degrade rapidly if the Scrum Master isn’t fulfilling the role effectively.
Factor #2 – Is the Scrum Master well-liked?
This may seem like an odd thing to consider, but sometimes being well-liked or respected is an important foundation that will make or break your adoption of Scrum. Even if this person is still learning how to serve the team, being respected goes a long way towards building that critical component of trust. I would usually prefer someone with a positive attitude and sound people-skills over someone with strong Scrum knowledge but inadequate diplomatic skills.
Factor #3 – Is the Scrum Master open to feedback?
Receiving feedback can create a lot of stress for people who are not used to constructive criticism. If your Scrum Master is routinely defensive and does not embrace feedback as opportunities to improve, he/she may not be the best person to serve the team as the Scrum Master.
In closing, the decision to replace your struggling Scrum Master will not be an easy one, but sometimes it’s better to make a change and not wait too long to realize that you should have done it earlier. Give your Scrum Master open and honest feedback, give him/her ample opportunity to inspect and adapt, then decide whether your team can benefit from a different servant leader.