Recently Rachel Davis, a very good and successful agile coach in the UK, wrote a short article about the difference between an agile coach and a ScrumMaster. She puts some very interesting questions in her post: “Yet what’s puzzling is that Scrum Alliance’s certification program includes Certified Scrum Coach, as an advanced level qualification on your “journey to mastery”. To qualify, you have to demonstrate significant coaching experience with client references. But how is a Scrum Coach different from a ScrumMaster?” [1] This is the 1.000.000 Dollar question if you start to reformulate the question.

Why do you need a Scrum Coach to help companies to do Scrum if the ScrumMaster has the job to run Scrum in companies? I do not have a simple answer to this question (that is the reason why it is the 1000000 Dollar question). One answer I do have, is that an experienced Scrum coach, like the consultants of the bor!sgloger team, are able to help companies and teams change the organization much faster than an inexperienced ScrumMaster. But this does not mean that a ScrumMaster who understands his job on all levels will not be able to do the same job if he has the right skills.

What distinguishes a ScrumMaster from an agile coach includes the points that Rachel puts online, as defined in her open space session:

Agile CoachScrumMaster
Agile is broaderExpert in Scrum
Is being a transientProtection the team
Coach could guard the team, but not necessaryTeam sees SM as part of the team
Much time is coachingTeam contact point
More likely to support the organizational changesSolves project impediments

But according to my experience about what a ScrumMaster is that list from Rachels’ open space session is far from being complete.

My list would look like this:

Agile coach / Scrum CoachScrumMaster
Expert in agile = ScrumExpert in Scrum
Is not part of the teamProtects the Scrum-Team
Does not work directly on organizational issues, but helps people and companies to see things different.ScrumMaster is NOT part of the Team
Has a lot of experience in organizational developmentScrumMaster is NOT the contact point for the team
Is trained in coachingScrumMaster solves impediments
Knows how to coach people.ScrumMaster leads the team on operational level, day to day boss. (E.g. makes sure that people have a vacation plan.)
Helps people to see their possibilities to improve.ScrumMaster works on changing the organization.
ScrumMaster coaches the team members to improve their skill operational. He does not act as a people manager. He has not the right to promote people.
Leads people through change
Creates orientation for people
Creates security for people
Develops a sense for urgency so that  people act

Besides this I have a complete different opinion about what Scrum Coaches should do than most other people I have seen in the industry. A Scrum Coach should not pretend to coach, because they actually never coach. Most Scrum Coaches I have seen so far, especially in Germany do not have attended any certified Coaching training nor possess comparable knowledge. Scrum Coaches most of the time are also not doing what they should do, which is implementing Scrum the right way. That is, because they often do not take responsibility for the success of their recommendations.

In one of my next postings I will show you what I believe a Scrum consultant (not coach) needs to be able to do in an Enterprise Environment.


Avatar of Boris Gloger
„Mut“ ist jener Wert von Scrum, mit dem sich Boris Gloger am stärksten identifiziert. Er hat in seinem eigenen Leben keine Angst vor radikalen Entscheidungen und vor dem Glauben an eine Idee. Für kein Geld der Welt würde er sich Regeln unterwerfen, die keinen Sinn machen. Er glaubt an Scrum, weil es nicht nur bessere Produkte, sondern auch eine bessere und menschlichere Arbeitswelt schaffen kann.
  • Robert Dempesy

    Thank you for this post Boris. I’ll look for your Scrum consultant post next. Personally I feel that a good Scrum coach (or consultant) should be taking on responsibility for team success, past what a ScrumMaster would. The problem is that most consultants only go in for one to five days to work with teams and a company. This is not even close to the amount of time it takes to create true change and a move toward the Agile principles.

  • Alan Dayley

    Thanks for this post. A great deal of food for thought here. I do have a pressing quesiton. You state:

    “ScrumMaster is NOT part of the team”

    This statement is contrary to every published work on Scrum that I have read. Can you please elaborate on this point from your perspective?

    • Boris Gloger

      Hi, the ScrumMaster was never part of the team. Already in Kens Book: Agile Software Development with Scrum, it was stated: “The ScrumMaster is a new management role introduced by Scrum. [...] The ScrumMaster represents management and the team to each other.” {Schwaber, 2002 #2, p. 31} Since his first training Ken always explained that the ScrumMaster is not part of the team. And that is what I teach since my first days as CST in 2004. The ScrumMaster might come from the development team, but he should understand that it is a major impediment if the SM works on the product.
      I do not know what books you have read, but the authors of these books tell you something that is wrong. Most Scrum implementations suffer from the fact that a company is not willing to accept that the SM is not part of the team.

      {Schwaber, 2002 #2} Agile Software Development with Scrum, Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle. 2002

      • Tobias Mayer

        Thanks for pointing out the absence of real coaching in the role many people call Scrum Coach, or Agile Coach. I agree. It is more often simple consultancy — mentoring and guiding perhaps, but not coaching, which is a specific skill requiring intensive training. Calling ourselves coaches doesn’t make it so. If I listen to someone and nod my head it doesn’t make me a therapist.

        To Alan Dayley: there are two levels of “team” in Scrum (it is an overloaded word). There is the development team “The Team”, consisting of those who do the actual work of creation, and then there is the Scrum Team, which includes the ScrumMaster and the Product Owner. Boris is correct, the ScrumMaster was never part of the team, and still should not be. It causes a conflict of interest.

      • Alan Dayley

        Thank you both, Boris and Tobias, for the replies.

        I agree, the ScrumMaster should not be a developer. In other words, the ScrumMaster should not be working on completing team stories but should be creating the environment for stories to be completed.

        I first see the word “team” to mean what everyone seems now to be calling “Scrum team.” I failed to think of the developers as the “team.”

        I think I am agreement with you both. Violently, in fact! ;^)

  • Olivia Jennifer

    The first
    thing we have to be sure when dealing with SCRUM master
    is whether they have a full
    time Scrum masters, and the second question we have to ask is if what do they
    do?We usually don’t find a full time scrum master. Scrum master is described by
    scrum guide as one who teaches, facilitates and removes impediments. When the team
    is relatively new it takes time and the team follows scrum religiously. This is
    when the team needs a scrum master who can teach scrum full time.