Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

From the blog: Making up combined roles - it is rarely a good idea

Jimi Wikman

Recommended Posts

  • Owner

Scrum Manager. Developing Architect. Fullstack Developer/Designer. The new roles are popping up left and right these days. Some are clearly just another way to say "generalist", but others are roles that have a very high chance of making people sick. Why do we see these ads? I think it is because the people writing them do not know the craft.

For me, who actually is a generalist with pretty decent competence in multiple fields, I find these ads very amusing. Rather than writing that they need multiple roles filled, but only have budget for one, they make up new roles. Presumably in the hopes of getting someone who can do most of what they think they need.

Because this is the thing, most people that write these ads don't really know what they need. I have seen ads that sound like someone making a frankensteins monster out of the roles. Clearly with little to no understanding of what the different roles actually mean. Some ads just try to mix the best of two worlds, like the Scrum Manager that combines the caring/facilitating aspect of the Scrum Master with the managing/controling role of the Project Manager.

From the person who write the ad it probably makes sense and that is because they do not understand the work involved. From their perspective they probably see a scrum master and a project manager as both having management descriptions, so it should be ok to mix. The fact that they work in different directions where the scrum master work down towards the team and the project manager work up towards the steering group does not seem to occur to them.

In most cases this is not so much of an issue because what you will get in most cases is a generalist. A Scrum Manager for example will be a general manager with some understanding of the scrum process and some understanding of the financial side of project management. The person will not be optimized for any of the roles, but will get things done. Sometimes at the expense of either the project or the team. Or both.

The biggest risk with making these combined roles is that unless you really know that you are compromising the roles you can cause serious damage. Not just to the deliveries and the teams as they do not get the attention they need, but also to the individual you are trying to hire. It is very easy to burn someone out with a combined role, especially if the expectations if that you should do both roles at 100%. The very least you must always do when defining combined roles is to define the ratio. How much time should be spent where and why.

For anyone looking to fill a combined role, here are some examples and some sugegstions on how to approach them:

  1. Scrum Manager - Focus on the Scrum Master part. By making the team working well you will get most of the work as a project manager for free. Deliver reports to the steering with focus on risk mitigation and finance. Progress will come of itself if you focus on the Scrum Master part correctly. If put in a compromised position, always protect the team. It will serve you best in the long run. This is a sure way to burn yourself out if you try to do both at 100%, so be weary of the signs and make sure you get plenty of time to actually work and not just sit in meetings.
  2. Full stack x - Most designers or developers are full stack, kind of. We do take an interest in what is around us and we dabble in the surrounding fields naturally. So just make sure you are not expected to actually be responsible for anything you are not comfortable with and you will be fine.
  3. Developing Architect/Scrum Master - This is one of the most devestating roles you can have. As an architect or Scrum Master you will be in meetings constantly, whch means that any attempts to actually develop anything will be a massive source of frustration. If you will attempt this, dedicate blocks of time to development that can not be disturbed. Preferably you work from home or in a separate room with phone, mail and other distractions turned off. Minimum of 4 hours blocks, but I suggest full days for focused work. Avoid this if possible or accept that the amount of developing you will do is most likely next to nothing or will happen during weekends and night time.
  4. Scrum Master and QA - While most Scrum Master will assist in QA by doing tests or gathering requirements, that is not their actual job. Being a tester or a reuirements analyst is a full time job, just like being a scrum master. If you are going to split your attention between the two, make sure you understand the cost both to you and your team. You will not be doing any 40 hour weeks, but rather do 60 hour weeks to make this work and the stress will be intense.

Be mindful of combined roles as they can spiral and become very stressful. What may look like an opportunity to show your skills, especially if you are new in the role(s) can put you on the bech for years if you are unlucky.

If you are looking for people to join your team, always look towards who need that role. Is it for management taking care of the need of the people above, then hire a manager. If the person is taking care of the team, then hire a scrum master. If you need someone to do focused develop, hire a developer. If you need someone to take responsibility for the code structure, hire an architect, or elevate a development lead. And so on...

Combined roles have always been a part of working in IT. As long as you know what you are expected to do and know you can handle it even when things get rough, then ignore the title and do the job. Also be careful about dividing your work because that also can cause serious health issues.


Above I have some of the combined roles I see a lot.
What roles do you see and how do you handle them?

View full blog article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 0
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Days

Top Posters In This Topic

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Create New...