Scrum method: roles are changing!

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To celebrate 25 years of the Scrum framework, its co-founders Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber updated the Scrum guide last year. The new version, released in 2020, is intended to be shorter and more streamlined. One of the major changes in the new Scrum Guide is that roles are changing! Let’s take a closer look at this modification.

What has changed when it comes to the roles of the Scrum method?

Let’s go over the roles one-by-one.

The development team no longer exists

The Product Owner is still responsible for the Product Backlog – that remains unchanged.

The Scrum Master also remains responsible for the effectiveness of the Scrum team. We’ll take a look at how this role has been consolidated later on.

The first big change is this: there is no longer a development team. The developer team no longer exists. Indeed, the objective of this update has been to remove any hierarchy in the Scrum team, where there was previously a developer team that was accountable to the Product Owner. This modification has simplified the Scrum method.

Finally, another of the motivations for updating this Scrum guide was to take the Scrum method out of a strictly IT-based framework. Indeed, when we think of Scrum we tend to immediately associate it with the IT field, while Scrum is in fact applicable to any other sector of activity. For greater clarity, the term “developer” can be replaced with “realizer” or “executor“. Doing so allows us to consider these terms and their related roles in a much broader sense, that doesn’t just relate to IT.

The developers (or realizers), the Scrum Master and the Product Owner therefore form the Scrum Team, which is self-managing and multidisciplinary.

Scrum = A Scrum Team and a Product

As explained above, the Scrum Guide 2020 outlines that there is no longer a single Scrum team known as the development team.

The new version of the Scrum Guide puts all team members on equal footing
The new version of the Scrum Guide puts all team members on equal footing

This update has been implemented in order to avoid the formation of cliques within teams. Indeed, before we had on the one hand the team of developers and on the other the Product Owner and the Scrum Master, who gravitated around the team. In many software projects, cliques are formed quite quickly: the developers versus the product owner. This new conceptualization of the “Scrum Team” will mitigate the effect of clique creation within the team.

The Scrum Team is thus placed in the same boat and the whole crew is focused on the same goal.

The self-management of the developer team becomes the self-organization of the Scrum Team

Another novelty, published to celebrate the 25 years of the Scrum method and to extend its popularity and relevance to more sectors of activity, is the implementation of self-management. This impacts the entire Scrum Team, compared to how self-organization was previously only applied to the developer team.

Prior to this important update of the Scrum Guide:

  • In 2017 the Scrum team was considered self-organized and multidisciplinary.
  • Since 2020, the Scrum Team is characterized as self-managed and multidisciplinary.

This means that the team is more cohesive and manages all project issues together.

The type of self-organization applied previously was intended to allow the developer team to organize their work as they wanted. They were autonomous within the Scrum team and decided among themselves how their work would and should be carried out. As the concept of a developer team has now been removed from the Scrum method, it is the overall Scrum Team that decides how it will be organized and what it needs to work on. This organization is realized more comprehensively and globally, involving all team members – and no longer just the developers

The Scrum Master takes on the role of Project Manager

This change is quite surprising, given that the Scrum Master was far from being considered a project manager previously.

The Scrum Master is now responsible for the effectiveness of the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master will allow the Scrum Team to improve its Scrum-related practices.*

Phrase taken from the Scrum Guide 2020.
The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum Team is effective
The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum Team is effective

This novelty therefore implies that the Scrum Master has the task and responsibility of reframing the Scrum team when the latter starts losing efficiency, or not applying the framework defined by the Scrum in as optimum way as possible. The Scrum Master is therefore now the person who “reports”. This is quite a sudden turnaround, because previously, the Scrum Master was seen more as a facilitator rather than as a person who reframes activity.

The Scrum Master has therefore transformed into a real project manager because they now need to ensure that “all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive and well-timed”. This may mean that the Scrum Master will need to create the Scrum Team production monitoring reports. However – it’s up to everyone to interpret this update as they see fit.

What are the consequences of these role changes in a Scrum project?

Developers are the Scrum team members who will need to be committed to addressing any aspect of a usable increment for each sprint *

Phrase taken from the Scrum Guide 2020.

In other words, this means that the developers are responsible for execution or even processing, with the main difference now being that the Scrum Team bears the responsibility for the quality of the product – and not just the developers. The burden of the product quality therefore no longer weighs solely on the developers – but on the entire Scrum Team.

The Product Owner therefore becomes one of those responsible for the quality of the developments delivered – on an equal footing with the developers other team members.

This also means that the responsibility weighing on developers is also greater than it was previously, because they are both the makers of the product and are also responsible for its quality.

Finally, the definition of “Done” is the responsibility of the Scrum Team as a whole. Prior to the update, determining “Done” was the responsibility of the developer team.

In a future article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the other updates and changes in the new version of the Scrum Guide.

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