Monday, May 20, 2024

The Scrum Master as a Trash Collector

In economics, "waste" can be broadly defined as "anything you must pay money for in order to not have." This expansive definition gives us a fresh lens through which to view the role of the Scrum Master: the trash collector.

With this new stance, we offer a unique perspective for Scrum Masters struggling to articulate their value when asked what they bring to the organization. Take a minute and reflect: when was the last time you asked a trash collector what they brought to your house? If you did that, what would they answer? "I'm getting rid of the trash so your place is clean" - that's what you'd expect! And you're happy with their service when there's no smelly pile of trash piling up.

Organizational trash

What is the "trash" that Scrum Masters should be collecting and disposing of? Here are a few examples:

  • Meetings: Reducing unnecessary meetings that waste time, drain energy and break concentration.
  • Overhead: Cutting down on administrative tasks that don't contribute to the team's goals.
  • Processes: Streamlining or eliminating processes that hinder productivity.
  • Effort: Removing redundant work to keep the team focused on what truly matters.
  • Delays: Identifying and addressing bottlenecks to ensure smooth project flow.
  • Stress: Easing team stress to promote a healthy and productive work environment.

This list is incomplete - ponder by yourself which other forms of trash that might pile up in your organization.

Where does this trash come from?

Just as when you buy a new product, you get the value you were looking for plus some packaging. This packaging is necessary to ensure the product's quality upon arrival. However, once you use the product, the package turns into waste. Most organizations fail to dispose of this waste — they keep it around because they don't even realize it's there and it's waste. Eventually, most dealing with the waste becomes a full-time job, and teams can no longer focus on creating value.

The Scrum Master as a Trash Collector

The more effectively a Scrum Master can take out this "trash," the more valuable they become. A good Scrum Master is identified not by what they add, but by what they remove — making the team's path to success clearer and more efficient.

This perspective also helps clarify the often-asked question of whether the Scrum Master role is temporary. Much like trash disposal, the need to remove waste is ongoing. Believing that "We already had the trash picked up last week, we don't need trash disposal anymore" is shortsighted. Initially, you may not see a problem with a bit of dust and litter scattered about - it's just a matter of time until you're knee deep in the trash and can no longer move!


The stance of the trash collector underscores the Scrum Master’s commitment to fostering an environment where teams can thrive and focus on delivering value, free from the burdens of organizational trash.

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