1, 2 ,3 or 4….What’s the right number of teams for a Scrum Master?
“How much scrum would a Scrum Master master,
If a Scrum Master could master scrum?
He would master, he would, as much as he could,
And master as much as a Scrum Master would.
If a Scrum Master could master scrum.” —-Cindy Bloomer
When recently meeting with a client a very interesting question came up: How many teams should a Scrum Master Scrum? They had been hearing that a Scrum Master’s role is just a facilitator role and all the Scrum Master has to do is run the ceremonies, so a person in the role should be able to run 2-3 teams without any issue. Therefore a novice Scrum Master should just be Scrumming one team, an experienced Scrum Master can safely handle up to 2-3 teams and a very experienced Scrum Master can handle more than 3 teams.
In my opinion, the experience of the Scrum Master does not translate well into the number of teams they can handle. Although it is a factor, in all honesty, there are a number of factors that influence the decision, such as organizational maturity, team maturity, project type, the value of the project, and the effectiveness of the Scrum Master role.
Is the Scrum Master just a facilitator? If so, then yes, the Scrum Master can be over 2-3 teams.
Because then the expectations are just to run the ceremonies and make sure teams are running well, are working towards the objectives set in PIs, and are meeting the sprint objectives. And even for this scenario, the team needs to be a mature team. A team that has been together for at least 6-8 months has worked through the forming, norming, storming, and are now in the performing phase and no one on the team is very role specified. They believe that they have to accomplish stuff as a team.
It also depends on the Organization’s Agile Maturity. If the organization has just started the Agile Transformation journey and has yet to establish Scrum Practices, then the Scrum Master should just be dedicated to one team. This is because they will have many impediments to resolve, and they will need to help team members understand and see the value in Agile practices. Helping a newly formed team adopt Agile practices will be a full-time job for the Scrum Master.
With all that said, I believe there are many factors that help determine the “best” number of teams for a Scrum Master to handle; the experience of the Scrum Master is just one of these factors. I have seen many experienced Scrum masters running just one team and declining to work on multiple teams at a time. Although I agree in some organizations Scrum Masters don’t have a choice – the number of teams a Scrum Master handles is a key differentiator in performance, both team performance and Scrum Master Performance.
I want to hear about your thoughts and experiences with the effectiveness and the Scrum Master role when it comes to scrumming multiple teams…