How to Best Sabotage Your Scrum Master —

TL; DR: How to sabotage Scrum Master – 44 anti-patterns from the trenches that should be avoided

One of my favorite exercises from my Professional Scrum Master classes is how to best sabotage Scrum Master as a member of the Interim Board. Exercise rules are simple: You may not use any form of illegal activity. Therefore, outsourcing the task to a bunch of outlaws is out of the question. Instead, you may only use culturally acceptable methods in your organization.

Continue reading and learn more about how to best sabotage Scrum Master from the training results of more than ten PSM I and PSM II classes. (I slightly edited the suggestions for better readings.)

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Exercise: Consider how to best sabotage Scrum Master

The exercise is based on a liberating micro-structure called TRIZ.

Here is the guide for the participants; Typically, they have a five-minute time box to offer suggestions and observations in a workgroup of three to five people.

  • You are an interim manager in the IT organization, and you believe that this matter of Scrum is fashion and will disappear – with a little help from your side.
  • Your mission: As a team, come up with ideas on how to best sabotage the new Scrum Master of the first Scrum team in your organization.

Note that only legal and cultural practices are acceptable as a good result.

Once we have achieved the first part of the exercise – accumulation of sabotage methods – the workgroup identifies these methods to sabotage the Scrum Masters they have already witnessed, and then identifies possible ways to deal with these methods.

You can classify the results from the lessons mentioned above into six groups:

1. Dealing with the Scrum framework in general

The first category of how to best sabotage Scrum Master usually deals with disqualifying Scrum itself as a helpful framework or making changes to conflict with Scrum’s first principles:

  • Blame Scrum whenever you can, even if it’s not technically related.
  • If Scrum finds an obstacle in the organization, blame it on Scrum.
  • Find examples of places where Scrum has failed in other companies to spread.
  • Talk disrespectfully during coffee breaks with developers and other middle managers about Scrum and the role of the Scrum Master.
  • Challenge anything the Scrum Masters try to say or do.
  • Ignore Scrum Master’s offer to learn about Scrum.
  • Create an ego-focused incentive system.
  • Install multiple product owners on the Scrum team.
  • Put a proxy product on the Scrum team and undo all decisions.

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2. Indices and reporting

The next bucket of useful sabotage methods are metrics, OKRs, KPIs – you name it. Just turn your Scrum Master into a celebrated data entry clerk with a challenging reporting load:

  • Ask the Scrum Master to prove their value using metrics.
  • Create performance metrics for each team member.
  • Ask the Scrum Master to collect all of the team members’ work hours.
  • Request individual performance metrics for each sprint.
  • Link team members’ performance reviews with their average story points per sprint using the bell curve.
  • Calculate the Scrum team budget and insist that the utilization rate of team members should be higher.
  • Demand assessments and treat them as commitments.

Scrum Team building and management

If a challenging reporting load does not help, sabotage your Scrum Master by actively challenging their activities to turn a group of people into a cross-role Scrum team:

  • Only add members to the Scrum team who do not live up to any Scrum values.
  • Recommend the most stamped senior developer as head of the engineering team.
  • Move developers constantly from one project to another, claiming emergencies that require quick action.
  • Ask Scrum team members to work regularly in a number of different Scrum teams.
  • Add new people to the Scrum team without prior consultation.
  • Alternatively, slow down the recruitment or exchange processes.
  • Promote a member of the Scrum team to act as a proxy manager.

4. Organization of work

If you’re already in the process of building a Scrum Team, why not put some obstacles in the way Scrum Teams work? To sabotage your Scrum Master by creating unattainable goals while interfering with the basics of Scrum:

  • Set unattainable goals for the Scrum team.
  • Load the Scrum team with requests, then complain to others that you are not getting results on time.
  • Transfer only fixed price, time and scope projects to the Scrum Team.
  • Change requirements during the sprint.
  • Insist on hard times.
  • Ask the Scrum Master to provide a roadmap for the product with deadlines.
  • Make the Scrum Master responsible for meeting deadlines.
  • Outsourcing some of the product roadmap creation to an off-site team in a completely different time zone.
  • Request a job that will shift the focus from the sprint goal directly to the developers.
  • Assign tasks directly to Scrum team members.
  • Do not allow Scrum team members to talk to the customer; Act as the only point of contact.
  • Create unnecessary enterprise bottlenecks outside of Scrum, for example, certification rates, etc.
  • Provide only equipment and tools that are not suitable for the Scrum team.

5. Flow of information

Does your Scrum Master have an insatiable appetite for data, information and knowledge? Well, keep them out of the circle then. What could be an easier way to sabotage Scrum:

  • Claimed that everyone already knows what to do. Hence alignment or Scrum Master is needed.
  • Avoid sharing vital or valuable information with the Scrum team.
  • Encourage silo thinking by promoting a strict “need to know” basis for sharing information and knowledge.

6. Scrum events and other meetings

Finally, make sure everyone on the Scrum team understands that your events are more important than their own:

  • As a manager, he argued that there are too many Scrum events that require too much time. Instead, suggest skipping some of them.
  • Require to be present at every Scrum event.
  • Exclude Scrum Master from important meetings outside of Scrum Team events.
  • Constantly attract Scrum team members to long unnecessary meetings during their Scrum team events.
  • Understand well the needs of the Scrum team; For example, that stakeholders participate in the sprint review. However, never join a Scrum event yourself.
  • How to sabotage Scrum Master – Conclusion

    Every middle manager has ample opportunity to sabotage the Scrum Masters. Moreover, in most cases, it will not be likely that others will recognize these methods as intentional obstruction. Giving the supplier an advantage and assuming a positive intention, they probably get out of it. Therefore, reading these signals early in the process is essential for us, the agile practitioners.

    What methods of sabotaging Scrum Masters did you watch? Please share with us your learning in the comments.

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