What is a Chief Scrum Master and do you need one?

Have you heard of the position “Chief Scrum Master”? Most Scrum teams have a Scrum Master but when do you need to learn more about this role?

If you have mastered Scrum and are producing amazing results, your management team will likely be pleased, but their expectations will also likely increase over time. They will want you to grow your teams and take on a greater number of projects as well as deliver more complex capabilities. They will expect you to expand the use of Scrum practices to many more teams and reap even greater benefits.

This is an exciting time for you! You hire more skilled Scrum experts and begin to take on larger initiatives that require multiple teams. However, these teams don’t seem to be working together; they are still practicing Scrum efficiently, as you have taught them to do, but they don’t know how to work with other teams! What are your options now???

As it turns out, you are now faced with a challenge of scaling Agile – a problem that many organizations are trying to solve as they realize a single Scrum team is simply not enough to give them the results they need. So, if adding more Scrum teams isn’t the solution, what can we do to get them to work together in a synchronized way?

Scaling Agile is a tricky subject because there are several different models/frameworks that can solve your problem; some of the more popular frameworks include Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Choosing the right approach for your specific need generally requires consultation from experts. Regardless of which approach you select, you will need someone to facilitate activities across teams at some point in time.

This is where the Chief Scrum Master comes in.

The Chief Scrum Master is often a mysterious job that very few people understand because they have not been exposed to a scaled Agile environment. This role is very important within a multi-team project or program organization due to the need to ensure effective collaboration at the program level.

Below are a few factors to consider when determining whether you need a Chief Scrum Master. Note this is more of an art rather than science, so you may need to also consider additional organizational and project characteristics before making this decision.

Note: If you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions, you are likely in a situation where you can benefit from a dedicated Chief Scrum Master to enhance the overall performance of your project team.

1.       Do you have 3 or more Agile/Scrum teams working together on the same product or solution?

2.       Do your teams share a common Product Vision?

3.       Do your teams share a common Product Backlog?

4.       Do your teams work in siloes and struggle to identify and resolve dependencies and obstacles?

5.       Do your teams struggle to gain visibility into what the other teams are working on?

As you continue your journey in growing Agile practices, it is very probable that you will be faced with the challenge of scaling success…explore what it takes to expand the use of Agile and Scrum, get some professional help, and as always, inspect and adapt!

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai