Team without a Scrum Master- Self-Serving team!

If you are a team who would like to take the challenge of working without a Scrum Master, then this post may be of interest to you-

I often see people challenging whether a Scrum Master is needed for a team to do their work?  Before discussing this, a prereading of my previous article-Art of Scrum Mastership! might help in recapping the various stances of a Scrum Master. From this post, it is evident that Scrum Master progresses through various stances that include a team coach, mentor, teacher, change catalyst and an agile leader.

Team formation typically follows Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing stages based on Bruce Tuckman Model. I noticed that the five dysfunctions of team as mentioned by “Patrick Lencioni “ viz Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability and Inattention to Results are seen during the team development and they in turn manifest in the form of many team challenges. The team need someone to coach them as they go through all the churn of moving from forming to performing.  In Scrum, Scrum Master usually takes up the role of  helping the team transition through these stages as quickly as possible. Personally I have not seen any team so far that on it’s own could reach the Performing stage without any guidance.

When the team starts as a new team i.e. forming state, the Scrum Master may spend time educating the team about Scrum, the basic framework rules and coaches them on how they can deliver potentially shippable product increment every sprint. Also Scrum Master works with the new Product Owner on product management in Agile. When the team is in the forming state, it takes a lot of effort from the Scrum Master to coach the team and bring them up to speed. Scrum Master mentors team w.r.t Agile and coaches them when it comes to meeting the team goals.

As the team moves from Storming to norming and performing, the team matures and they get going well with the basic execution stuff. Teams learn from their practices and start getting into the reflection mode where they learn to peek into their current and start evaluating what works and what does not given their context ad nature of the work. Once they start seeing benefits of Scrum they learn to inspect and adapt and the basic norms become a regular routine rather than an exception. So as the team matures the intensity of association of Scrum Master’s role might decrease and the Scrum Master can start focusing on optimizing the whole by working on organization specific challenges that ease the agile adoption.

The perception of teams transitioning to a Self-Serving team also depends on how much time the Scrum Master spends in working with the team on various stances. If Scrum Master is primarily involved in facilitation, i,e especially the ceremonies then there are more chances of teams perceiving that they can function without a Scrum Master.  Since ceremonies is something matured teams can easily master and can also become innovative at times, there is a possibility that teams start feeling  they don’t need a Scrum Master since they have tasted only the facilitator stance.

I think the “Self- Serving” teams concept might work provided every member in the team enacts the Scrum master behavior and challenges each one of them to instill the thinking and reflection behavior.

Personally I have not seen a Self-Serving team, but I have worked with teams who are very close to this self-serving point but occasionally they may need someone to take the neutral stance in case of any issue that needs an outsider perspective!

What has been your experience while working with Scrum Masters? Have you ever seen a team working without Scrum Master? Do share it!