What is a deal breaker as a Scrum Master? What shouldn’t you do?

Scrum Master – What Not to Do: What to Avoid at All Costs

As a Scrum Master, you play a crucial role and are the backbone of effective collaboration and the driving force behind successful projects, so you’ll want to know what to avoid at all costs. In other words, what are the ‘deal breakers’ for Scrum Masters?

Scrum Masters are the linchpin of Agile teams. However, there are certain traps even the most well-intentioned Scrum Masters can potentially fall into. 🚫

These traps could undermine the project and potentially spell disaster for both the team‘s productivity and the Scrum Master’s effectiveness.

Let’s dive into some of these deal breakers I find to be the most important and explore how you can sidestep and avoid them altogether. 💥

1. The Overenthusiastic Meeting Planner

One of the main pitfalls to sidestep is to avoid becoming the sole scheduler of all team meetings. I always say, “You shouldn’t book all the meetings.”

You might think you’re helping the team by taking on this role, but it can quite quickly become a deal breaker. If you start booking meetings with the best of intentions, congratulations, that is now your job forever.


Because nobody else wants to do it either, and now they don’t have to. And as I’ve often found, who’s making the changes when things change?

You are, again, I ask, why? Well, it’s simply because you set everything up.

While this might seem harmless to help your team, it can cement your role as the de facto ‘Meeting Planner.’ You don’t want to find yourself in a position where booking meetings becomes your job. 🗒️

Trust me, it might feel straightforward with recurring meetings, but when holidays, company retreats, or other changes arise, guess who will be left to reschedule everything?

Again, the answer is simple. It’s you! 📆

Instead, encourage team members to share the responsibility. Remember, it only takes a few minutes to set up a meeting – they can probably handle it while sipping their morning coffee!

If they find the task tedious, software developers are particularly adept at finding ways to automate or simplify such processes.

Always remember to avoid overstepping the boundaries when it comes to meeting planning.

2. The ‘World’s Most Expensive Secretary’

Here’s another thing you definitely shouldn’t be doing as a Scrum Master transforming into the team’s secretary. Sure, there might be times when you’ll need to take notes or handle some administrative tasks as a team member, but remember this does not fall in a Scrum Master’s job description. 📑

As I’ve often found, you’re not there to take notes for the team. You’re not there to fetch and carry after them. Sure, you might end up doing some of these things as a team member, but they should also be falling to other people. Remember, you are not the team’s secretary. Otherwise, you’d be the world’s most expensive secretary ever!

However, this should be shared across the team and not fall solely on your shoulders. Never lose sight of your true value as a Scrum Master by getting bogged down with trivial tasks. The focus should always be on the unique skills you bring to the table. 🖊️

3. Avoiding the Dogmatic Trap

Scrum is a guide, not a strict rulebook.

Scrum Masters who insist on sticking rigidly to every detail of the Scrum guide are likely to encounter resistance from the team. I cannot overemphasise the importance of avoiding dogmatism.

This practice from the Scrum Master is a major deal breaker.

I don’t want Scrum Masters to fall into that dogmatic trap of saying, “You have to do it because this document on the internet says so.”

Instead, it’s about understanding the purpose of practices like the daily Scrum and working with the team to bring that purpose to life.

Instead, I always encourage Scrum Masters to ‘explain the rules, invite people to play this game with them, help them understand how it’ll help them do their job better.’

Final Scrum Master Deal Breaker Thoughts

Remember, your job isn’t to make people do things; it’s to help them understand how Scrum can improve their workflow and, hopefully, make their jobs more enjoyable.

To sum it up in my own words, you have to strike the right balance as a Scrum Master.

Don’t fall into any of the traps I’ve mentioned and avoid becoming the team’s admin or accepting dogmatism either. Instead, encourage shared responsibility and facilitate a positive dialogue around Scrum practices, emphasising their benefits and the rationale behind them.

Want to dodge these deal breakers and elevate your skills as a Scrum Master? ➡️

Join my Agile and Scrum courses, where we can delve deeper into avoiding these deal breakers and much more, empowering you to lead your team to new heights of Agile efficiency and success. 🚀

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Agile Coaches page.

If you are inspired by the idea of an online apprenticeship for a scrum master, visit https://www.agilesuccess.academy/courses/growing-scrum-masters-advanced

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.johnmcfadyen.com or connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.

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John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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