Agile without Scrum Master

How to be agile without a Scrum Master in 2024?

The world is changing faster than ever before and therefore it is more important than ever to be able to react to these rapid changes. This is exactly why project management methods, which can generally be summarized as "Agile working", emerged from the ranks of big tech companies. At the beginning of the 2000s, the "Agile Manifesto" appeared and today "Scrum" has become the absolute standard of agile work.

This gave rise to the role of the Scrum Master, who supports agile teams in being able to work in a self-organized and agile manner. But with this evolution, more and more software solutions came onto the market that facilitate the self-organization of teams. And from this, the question slowly arises whether Agile teams can be successful without a Scrum Master and whether the role of the Scrum Master is doomed?

Scrum Team

Agile Without Scrum Master

A world without Scrum Master

Now let's imagine for a moment that we no longer have a Scrum Master. What problems would arise as a result?

  • Lack of reflection and adaptation: A Scrum Master also makes sure to allow time and space for reflection on work and processes. If retrospectives are neglected, for example, this can lead to stagnation and declining performance of the team.
  • Lack of self-organization: Without a Scrum Master, it will be more difficult to organize oneself and work independently. This leads to problems such as lack of agreement on goals and ways of working, or difficulties in identifying obstacles and giving appropriate feedback. This can directly reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of the team.
  • Unclear distribution of roles: If roles on the team are not clearly defined or understood, it can lead to awkwardness. For example, the product owner may try to manage or control the team instead of communicating the vision and priorities to them. Or developers may focus on their individual tasks instead of working as a self-organized team. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and conflict within the team.
  • Less transparency and feedback: Especially in software development, one often encounters introverted personalities. Agile working methods, including the Scrum Master, have ensured that more transparency is created in the team. If this is missing, it can lead to lower quality and customer satisfaction.

I think it's clear that a good Scrum Master brings a lot of added value to teamwork – and is actually irreplaceable. However, some companies cannot or do not want to afford full-time Scrum Masters anymore. So what to do?

Agile Without Scrum Master

Alternatives to the Scrum Master

If omitting a Scrum Master obviously causes problems, is it possible to create alternative solutions that make it possible to ensure all functionalities of an agile team even without a Scrum Master? – In a nutshell: Yes, at least partially!

Just because the Scrum Master has an important role does not mean that it cannot be partially compensated. For example, you can use a Product Owner or Team Lead who has Scrum skills as an alternative to Scrum Master. Maybe a team member may even volunteer. Such combinations of personnel are rightly criticized, see for example discussions about this on Quora (Product Owner vs. Scrum Master). But for some teams, it's simply better than not having a corresponding role at all.

The idea of a self-learning team is not completely wrong either, assuming that it has a high degree of maturity.

Combine this with tools such as Echometer, which remind you of regular retrospectives and make organizing and leading retrospectives child's play, and the implementation of an agile team without a Scrum Master is not only conceivable, but already common practice in many teams.

Nevertheless, I would like to draw attention to possible problems here: When a team is new to Scrum or when working in a complex or dysfunctional organization, teams can quickly become overloaded, have conflicts of interest, or lack objectivity.

Or in short: Working without a Scrum Master does not make sense for every team.

Agile Without Scrum Master

Software solutions instead of Scrum Master

First of all, it is important to note that current software solutions (including our own) are not able to completely replace a Scrum Master. But if e.g. the product owner or team lead is equipped with appropriate Scrum skills, it is possible to lead the team without a dedicated Scrum Master without much effort.

Some benefits that a tool like Echometer offers are:

  • It allows you to conduct interactive, psychology-based retrospectives based on various templates or that can be customized.
  • It automatically captures the long-term development of the team using agile Health Checks that measure various aspects of team satisfaction and performance.
  • It supports action tracking by ensuring that the effectiveness of each task is reflected and promotes continuous learning by the team.
  • It stimulates team engagement and reflection by giving them food for thought on each topic during the retrospective.
  • It enables asynchronous feedback gathering before the meeting to save time and enable better preparation.

If you want to set up your own retro with this tool in just two minutes, you can try it for free:

Open Feedback Questions

Keep: What should we keep?

Stop: What should we stop doing?

Start: What should we start doing?

Agile Without Scrum Master

Conclusion – Agile without Scrum Master?

A team can be agile without having a Scrum Master, but it needs strong motivation and discipline to achieve this. However, a Scrum Master can help the team to increase its agility and improve its performance.

Start your first retro now in under two minutes and choose from over 50 retrospective templates:

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Echometer is the easiest way to improve the team's delivery - for busy team leads

The tool combines agile health checks, action item tracking and interactive, psychology-based retrospectives on autopilot.

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