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Should we assume the role of acting scrum master?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Investment Bank10 months ago

Hello.

I'm in a pickle. The senior engineer managing the scrum board has been on leave for quite some time, so no one currently maintains the board. Also, before his leave, we were informed that the company was looking to hire a dedicated scrum master.

Someone from upper management recently attended one of our standups and asked us to rotate the role during their absence.

This didn't sit well with me since:

  • The company was looking to pay someone a full salary, but now, they want to offload the responsibility to everyone without additional pay.
  • There's a chance that the scrum master workload will interfere with our development workload.
  • We're early-career engineers and should focus on development, not "glue" work.

However, there are some benefits (e.g., helping out our team/management, resume bullet point), but the cons outweigh the pros.

I've told upper management that I couldn't imagine anyone on our team handling both workloads, but they're still pushing to have one of us rotate the scrum master role.

I'm trying to figure out what to do. What do you all think?

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    Head of Engineering at Capgemini
    10 months ago

    I see where you are coming from in terms of this being additional workload that goes beyond your baseline responsibilities. However, I suggest approaching it in a slightly different way.

    You're currently at an impasse with management and unfortunately doubling down on your current position won't result in a productive outcome. Instead, suggest a path forward rather than outright rejecting their suggestion to share the workload.

    • Most straightforward way is to suggest reducing the development velocity by a reasonable amount for whoever is taking on scrum for that week or sprint.
    • I didn't get the sense that they are not going to ever replace the position with a scrum master. If the role is still open, offer to help them speed up the process. I've done all of the following: 1) refer someone 2) refer good recruiters 3) lead or contribute in the interview process
    • Ask to "borrow" some capacity from another team / project. This is pretty tricky, but my sense is that your project is quite important if upper management is dropping in to check on things. If it's top priority, they will prioritize it!

    Feel free to run with the suggestions above if you really don't want to take on more, but I would take a pause and see if this is actually an opportunity to accelerate your career. A quick personal story to contextualize it.

    Earlier on in my career, I had a project lead / engagement manager drop his resignation on day 1 of a "rescue project" (i.e. something that was already in the red). Senior management was extremely concerned since the person who left was well-regarded and there was a lot riding on him to make it successful. Long story short, I backfilled the role while still doing my original one until the project was successfully delivered. I immediately got another engagement manager role after that one and was promoted shortly after. The senior leader whose project I helped deliver is still one of my big advocates to this day and was instrumental in helping me land my first Director role when I decided to switch companies.

    Leadership will remember instances like this when people step up (as long as there's some baseline level of trust). There's probably a reason why the original responsibility was with the senior level engineer. Don't wait until you are senior to take on "glue work", as taking it on earlier will position you as "already operating at the next level" and pave the way for a promotion.