I have joined a very large well respected organisation as a Scrum Master. I have been here for nearly 2 years.

During the interview process, the organisation were selling themselves as a highly agile organisation, upon accepting the role, I saw very quickly that the agile maturity of the teams I was working with was not quite there.

And so, for nearly two years, been trying to improve that.

This has lead to lots of conflict, and resistance with different individuals when trying to introduce agile best practice, where the biggest challenge I have recently had is over the nature of my own role as a Scrum Master.

The role hasn't been properly defined, and to date I have been trying to perform it as an agile expert in Scrum, and not as a delivery or Project manager. This has lead to conflict with an influential individual over expectations of how I should be performing my role, who felt that I should be more hand's on project managing and supporting the team that way, whereas my view was to coach the team agile best practices and let them deliver work without micromanaging in a self organised way. Anyway, I was replaced as the Scrum Master for that team by a peer who is acting more as a Project manager than Scrum Master. I am now without a team to be a Scrum Master of, although there may be opportunities to join another, and feel that my reputation has been damaged given the way the sudden change was made.

I am now very disillusioned about my role, and have thought about looking elseware since my role is not how I expected it to be. It feels as though I have been hired to do a different role to the one sold to me, and getting a lot of unfair criticism for trying to perform my role as it was intended to be perform - since the criticism is coming from individuals higher up, seems like there is not much I can do but to either adapt or leave.

I am however wondering if I should stay longer given it is not the best time to move given we are in a Pandemic.

Good idea to start looking to move on, or stick it out?

  • 5
    I don't think is something we can answer. Whether or not you want to stay at your company seems like a personal consideration.
    – Erik
    Jan 15 '21 at 13:26
  • 1
    @SebastienDErrico Agile transformation is hard, and more in line with Change management, if I did not challenge the status quo - I will never change it. One of the key responsibilities is to guard to Scrum process. But as you have rightly said, maybe it is time for me to accept the status quo, if I am to stay working at this organisation. This is exactly why I am disillusioned, I did not sign up to be a Project Manager, but do strategic transformation work.
    – bobo2000
    Jan 15 '21 at 14:26
  • Do you see any downsides to looking for a new job?
    – nvoigt
    Jan 15 '21 at 14:43
  • 1
    @nvoigt no, think I will do that.
    – bobo2000
    Jan 15 '21 at 14:49

This really depends on what exactly is going wrong here. Could be

  1. Your organization is bad at Scrum
  2. You are bad at what your organization actually needs
  3. Combination of both

Scrum is first and foremost a tool. It's good for some things: tactical management, smallish teams with incremental deliveries, teams that work on only one or two things, etc. It's bad for other things: strategic planning, large projects with external deadlines and lots of dependencies, cross functional teams with conflicting priorities, long wait cycles (certification, tooling, etc).

In my experience "pure" Scrum is very rare in practice. I got Scrum certified by Jeff Sutherland himself (many years ago) and that's probably the number #1 argument we discussed.

This creates tension. Given the real world constraints and requirements: what's the right amount and flavor of Agile to use? What might be happening in your case, that either your company only does lip service to Scrum (since it's still a good buzz word) OR that you are too rigid about applying Scrum to things where it may not be a good fit and you are not comfortable with alternative or modified approaches.

In practice I have seen both things happen (often) and it's frequently a combination of both. The key too your next step is analyzing the situation OBJECTIVELY. Maybe you can work with your manager or a trusted mentor to help you with this. Ask yourself

  1. How would doing more Scrum benefit the company? What key problems are they currently working and how would Scrum help?
  2. If there are obvious, quantitative, and demonstrable benefits to more Scrum: why are they not adopting it and what can you do to move the needle?
  3. What other project management techniques can you apply in situations where Scrum is not a good fit? How can yo build your own tool chest and skill set to provide what the company actually wants?

Then analyze the answers, it's very possible that by changing your attitude and/or working on the company's attitude towards Scrum you can find a happy compromise. It's also possible that there is an unbridgeable gap between what the company wants and what you want. In this case it's time to move on.

  • The problem is mindset, people think they can pick and choose how to adopt agile, where usually it does not work - instead Waterfall/agile implementation, not agile. If I accept my role is a Project Manager and forget about doing agile properly then yes I think I will be fine. But then we shouldn't be calling ourselves an agile organisation, if we have adopted the Scrum framework and not implementing it as intended. Also the team will not be given the opportunity to operate in a self organised way, a key principle of agile teams. I'm just more disillusioned about the role than anything.
    – bobo2000
    Jan 15 '21 at 14:53
  • 3
    Sorry for asking but: whose mindset? Theirs or yours? In all cases that I have seen Agile HAS do be adapted to the specific needs of the companies and projects. "implementing it as intended" often doesn't work since Agile is based on a certain set of business assumptions that are often not true. I don't view this is black and white: it's a continuum between "pure Agile" and "pure Waterfall".
    – Hilmar
    Jan 15 '21 at 17:22
  • I have seen that too. Only because companies are implementing some Agile practices and not others does not make them Agile and leads to a lot of dysfunction and anti patterns being introduced. It’s a different way of operating. Getting an org to properly embrace Agile properly is just hard, I’ve seen it done and it requires top - bottom change in mindset to be in line with Agile first principles as opposed to picking and choosing what aspects of the Agile to do. Hence my current predicament where my role is a Project Manager as opposed to Scrum Master as defined in the Scrum guide.
    – bobo2000
    Jan 16 '21 at 19:18

It feels as though I have been hired to do a different role to the one sold to me, and getting a lot of unfair criticism for trying to perform my role as it was intended to be perform - since the criticism is coming from individuals higher up, seems like there is not much I can do but to either adapt or leave.

Do you feel that this could put you at increased risk of termination? If so then, speaking for myself, I'd probably want to leave on my own terms instead of being blind sided with termination.

I am however wondering if I should stay longer given it is not the best time to move given we are in a Pandemic.

You don't have to quit your current job to look for another job. If you don't find anything that meets your requirements then don't leave. If you do find something that you think you'd be satisfied, do leave. Maybe the odds of success are lower but, worst case, if you don't succeed, you still remain employed in your current job.

Seems to me that you have nothing to lose by looking...

  • No, it shouldn't affect my job security, just reputation damage; since there are very few of us employed plus my track record was pretty solid before this latest problem. Was Scrum Master of teams that delivered complex pieces of work successfully. I am known to be a purest though when it comes to agile, politically some people hate that. So you never know...
    – bobo2000
    Jan 15 '21 at 13:47

I think that are 2 questions, correlated. Should you move on? Yes, Should you move on NOW - HELL NO. Unless you have a job offered (definitely look for one), chances are you will find the market very hard during the pandemic and maybe the next year afterwards.

Definitely start looking, but the current environment is not nice, depending on where you are, geographically AND in area. General advice and general scarcity of good people - well, the pandemic made a lot of companies quite careful about hiring. Look, but do not jump before you have something. Unless your bank account has a couple of years expenses on it, or you are a high net worth individual that does not need the income stream.


Be proactive. Swallow your pride. Apologize. Send an email first. Then talk to the person directly. Tell them you'll do the work they want you to do if they assign you to another team.

In the meantime, look for another employer. But definitely do not quit without another employer lined up first.

In the future, you'll know to screen your employer a little more carefully. And hindsight being 20/20, now you'll know that very large well-respected organizations do not necessarily have the reputation they deserve.

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