Scrum Master is a Marketing and Sales Role, Not a Managerial One

I recently saw this tweet:

and it spurred me to write this post. Note the word “forced” used multiple times here. This Scrum master likely believes they need to control and manage their team. However, I believe an effective Scrum master (or product manager) role is a marketing and sales role.

Even after shown to be false, the myth pervades that creative workers need to be managed and made to follow certain orders. It honestly surprises me  that we still need to write on this topic.

In order to explore this idea more deeply, let’s define what marketing and sales int the team space are:

  • Marketing – Making known to others that you have something potentially valuable.
  • Sales – Knowing what someone values and explaining how what you have is either valuable to them or not.

Note that this may not seem like a typical definition of sales. Sales gets a bad rap from all those used cars salesmen tropes and the like. Ethical sales requires very little convincing, instead requiring a deep understanding of what your potential users value.  Ethically selling sometimes leads us to choose against selling to a user, a negative sell. We must be alright with this happening.

Let’s look at the exciting world of Scrum mastering to the development team from the site, scrum.org:

  • Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality.
  • Helping the Development Team to create high-value products.
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress.
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
  • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.

I see coaching in here twice. Coaching is often focused around introducing new patterns and solutions to the team that may solve their current problems. This falls in line with our definition of marketing. One key to successful coaches is that they can explain how a potential solution is valuable to the team members at their level of competence. That matches our definition of sales.

Helping the Development Team to create high-value products is so generic that we could shoehorn in how marketing and sales fits into this, but I don’t believe it is valuable.

There are other things listed above that the scrum master should do, that do not fit the marketing/sales mode. That is alright, a Scrum master or product manager is not only a marketing and sales role, but it is much more so these things than a managerial role. The only thing that could possibly be seen as managerial is facilitation of Scrum events, but that would be a warped definition of facilitation. I find the best facilitation is one where the facilitator is as objective as possible, not displaying opinions or taking sides in discussions during these events.

To force the team is to lose their trust and a loss in trust loses performance. If you put on a marketing and sales hat during many of your activities as a Scrum master or product manager, you will see significant gains in team ownership and performance. As we described above, marketing and sales can allow us to be fully authentic, honest and transparent. We need not apply them as they are traditionally viewed.