23 Jan
2012

Job Titles and Scrum

Category:General PostTag: :

I hear a lot of questions about “proper” Scrum. I feel compelled to answer one such question here, given how often I hear the topic discussed.

Does Scrum prohibit job titles?

No.

Although Scrum does not recognize any titles defined outside the Scrum Framework, titles are almost always present in the organization. While Scrum doesn’t recognize titles other than “team member”, making changes to pay and rank structures within your company is a cultural norm set outside Scrum in most cases. For example, my title at Scrum.org is Chief Craftsman. That doesn’t mean I will never test something my team is working on, or work outside the context of my business card. Of course I will, but it would be somewhat awkward for me to hand a business card to someone if it read “David Starr – Development Team Member”.

Practical application of Scrum means we must be aware there are specialties present on any given team. Might one Development Team member have deeper skills in test, or UI design than another? Of course! To deny this would be foolish, but Scrum doesn’t dictate the titles these people put on their business cards.

Scrum’s reputation for eschewing job titles evolved because Scrum focuses on building cross-functional and self-organizing teams. When these teams are successful, titles just don’t matter and team members teach each other about the specialty jobs over time. The Development Team is held to account as a group and therefore titles are irrelevant within the context of Scrum. Good Scrum Teams will naturally care less about titles and more about results.

Some companies have experimented with a general lack of job titles and found that to be a good thing for their culture. Scrum is 100% compatible and encouraging of this, but the implications of such a system go far beyond the borders of the Scrum Team. If you truly want a company with no job titles, applying Scrum will be one of the less challenging things you’ll learn to do.

Traditional management practices, such as having a clear career path, are still used extensively in companies very successful with the Scrum Framework.

Scrum doesn’t hate titles. It just ignores them.

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Disclaimer

The opinions and content expressed here are my own and not those of my employer.