The Agile Apprentice
"There is no knowledge without theory"
It's well documented that the Scrum Master role is widely misunderstood; it's hard to match the high level description of the role found in the Scrum Guide or a job spec, to day to day tasks.
Misunderstandings are inevitable considering the human factors at play. The following are all forms of cognitive bias, where our own subjective mental constructs feel perfectly intuitive despite not being logical or rational.
System 1 Thinking as described by Daniel Kahnaman, the Nobel prize winning research psychologist. This results in fast, automatic thought processes trying to match the Scrum Master to roles we already understand and are comfortable with, such as a Project or Development Manager. We therefore stop short of understanding that the role is radically different from any traditional job.
The Dunning Kruger Effect, as described by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the department of psychology at Cornell University. This is where people underestimate complexity and difficulty due to their own limited understanding. How often have you heard someone say "How hard can it be?". People assume that the Scrum Master role is just about facilitating a few meetings, not exactly a full time job, because they lack a deep enough understanding.
And finally, Confirmation Bias, where we subconsciously place more emphasis on information which supports what we already believe. The outside observer only sees the most visible parts of the Scrum Master role, which mistakenly confirms their preconceptions.
As the Scrum Master role is still relatively new, many new or inexperienced Scrum Masters find themselves in organisations where the above has formed a limited and confused understanding of their role. Lacking the knowledge, skill, confidence and opportunity to push back against the system, Scrum Masters can find themselves trapped in limited roles, doing only what they feel they have permission to do; Booking rooms, facilitating meetings, keeping the work tracking system up to date, etc.
Its not hard to see why organisations believe such a role can be done part time and added on to someone else's daily responsibilities. They are locked into a cycle of misconception which limits the value gained from Scrum Masters.
Only through exploring a deeper understanding of the Scrum Master role can we unlock it's enormous potential and the potential of those trying hard to succeed in doing it, breaking this vicious circle.
We have to know what a great Scrum Master looks like. I intend to use this blog to explore this.