Marketing is a lean machine and might benefit more from an Agile Champion than from a traditional Scrum Master.
Today we’ll dive into the role of Agile Champion. This role is similar to a Scrum Master in Scrum, but with a greater emphasis on the part about “championing agile.”
In the early days of my agile career (and even once recently) I worked as a Scrum Master, so I can speak from a lot of personal experience about this role. This is the most confusing role for hiring managers because it’s so unlike any other typical job description at a company. Because of the lack of understanding of this role, we’ve seen a lot of bad Scrum Mastering. This has led to some misunderstandings around the value of this role, and in marketing it’s a tough sell.
What is a Scrum Master?
Before we dive into the Agile Champion role, I want to ground you in what a Scrum Master role is (and was meant to be).
A Scrum Master owns the agile process on a team. According to Scrum, this is a fully dedicated role that doesn’t perform any work on the team, but helps to unblock the team, teach Scrum to the team and the organization, facilitate meetings and help to make organizational change happen.
Why is the Scrum Master role a tough sell?
I think the meaning of Scrum Master was well intended, but over the years companies have watered down this role. In many large companies, project managers aren’t needed as much, so they get converted to the role of Scrum Master. While this works for some people, many people are great project managers, but terrible Scrum Masters.
Over the years, I’ve seen a number of problems with the execution of this role including:
- Leading the team by command and control methods.
- Becoming the team’s admin, facilitating meetings and taking notes, but otherwise adding little value.
- Being too much of a doer, and trying to do the team’s work instead of being neutral.
From those three anti-patterns alone, you can see why this role is a tough sell. However, in software development, it’s so common that hiring for this role is pretty standard. Meanwhile, marketing runs like a lean machine, and asking for a full time dedicated role that doesn’t deliver — well, you can see where that’s going.
How is the Agile Champion different from a Scrum Master?
Because of all the baggage around the role of Scrum Master, even though I think it’s a valuable role if done well, it’s not one that marketers are buying into very often. So, how do we deliver the good parts of that role and get rid of the baggage? That’s where the Agile Champion comes in.
First of all, we chose the name carefully. When working with clients, we heard a lot of push back about being called a Scrum Master. We also wanted to really emphasize that this role is about championing agile ways of working, and not about project management.
In the Agile Marketing Navigator framework, the Agile Champion doesn’t have to be a full time dedicated role. It can be, but it’s not a requirement. Why? Because we’d rather see someone who’s excited about agile marketing lead this, even if they have another role on the team, than to try and force a full time position for someone who doesn’t fit the bill.
The Agile Champion helps the agile marketing team:
- Break through legacy ways of working.
- Get excited about agile marketing.
- Coach and mentor others about agile marketing.
- Helps the team become more accountable and self-organizing.
- Listens to the team’s concerns and help solve their problems.
I’ve seen a lot of success in this role with people that you wouldn’t expect to take it on. I had a team graphic designer that volunteered for this position and loved it so much that her company did make it a full time role.
A great Agile Champion is someone who wants to learn about agile marketing and can build excitement around it for the organization.
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