Agile dystopia: escaping the grip of the Scrum Police

Reading time: 3 minutes

The Scrum Master has an pivotal role in the Scrum framework, but their role is frequently misunderstood. Let me be clear: Scrum Masters are no ‘rule enforcers’. They are facilitators and coaches who guide their teams through project complexities with finesse and understanding. The stance of the “Scrum Police” highlights a misunderstanding of the Scrum Master’s role, fulfilling it as a figure of authority focused on rule compliance – rather than encouraging innovation and adaptability. Let’s debunk this misunderstanding, and send it back to 1984!

Agile dystopia: escaping the grip of the Scrum Police

The conformist’s yoke

The conformist ‘Scrum Police’ mentality, with its strict rule adherence, unintentionally stifles the spirit of innovation that Scrum values. Such a rigid approach ignores the unique contexts of teams, relying on a one-size-fits-all framework that restricts new ideas and approaches. This policing behaviour can have a negative impact on morale and engagement because team members feel constantly monitored, which can lead to decreased motivation and efficiency. Furthermore, an overly prescriptive approach stifles adaptability and growth, preventing Scrum Teams from experimenting and learning from mistakes – both of which are essential components in Scrum! .

Positive Scrum Master stances, such as servant leadership, coaching, mentoring, facilitating, and teaching, prioritize team needs and eliminate barriers to success. These roles foster a positive culture by ensuring smooth team dynamics, effective decision-making, and a thorough understanding of Scrum’s core values.


The stance of the ‘Scrum Police’ is one many novice Scrum Masters take on. Including myself! At the start of my career as a Scrum Master, I tried to follow the framework’s rules too strictly. This realization marked the start of my journey toward a supportive leadership approach. I found that this progression is consistent with Shu-Ha-Ri theory, which states that strict adherence to practices (Shu) eventually gives way to experimentation (Ha) and, ultimately, a one-of-a-kind, integrated approach (Ri). This progression highlights a journey that includes learning the mechanics of Scrum as well as mastering its values and principles. This progression represents a shift from operational execution to organization-wide empowerment.

When I look back on my development, I see it not only as a reflection of my own personal growth, but also as an example of the Scrum Master’s ability to shift from enforcing rules to inspiring and facilitating a culture of innovation, responsibility, and shared success throughout the organization.

In my view, it’s okay to ‘break the rules’. As long as you know what the implication of breaking said rules are… Ask yourself: what does deviating from the framework mean in terms of transparancy, inspection, and adaptation?

Reflection and knowledge

To avoid the “Scrum Police” trap, Scrum Masters should take a proactive approach focused on self-improvement and engagement with the Agile community.

First, take a good look at yourself, constantly. Regularly reflect on your methods and their effects on the team. Seek candid feedback from team members and stakeholders to better understand areas for development and improvement.

Secondly, keep on expanding your knowledge and skills, explore new educational resources, attend workshops, trainings, and keep on reading.

And lastly, seek out your peers. Actively engage in Scrum meetups and discussions. These platforms provide invaluable opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking, and discovering mentorship opportunities.


The essence of Scrum and the Scrum Master role go beyond rule enforcement. To embrace a holistic leadership approach that fosters an environment conducive to creativity and innovation. Scrum Masters can help unleash their teams’ full potential by focusing on serving rather than policing and cultivating an open and adaptable culture.