How many Scrum Teams should a Scrum Master handle?

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How many Scrum Teams does it take to overwork a Scrum Master? It sounds like the beginning of a joke. What is the ideal number of Scrum Teams for a Scrum Master?

The benefit of attending trainings is that you can discuss everyday problems with peers – in this case, other Scrum Masters. One topic discussed during lunch at a recent training was the number of Scrum Teams that a Scrum Master should ideally assist. The responses varied, with me calling a rather large number, much to the surprise of my classmates. So it made me think, research, and reflect: how many Scrum Teams can a Scrum Master handle in terms of workload?

Two’s company, three’s a crowd

As a general rule, a Scrum Master should ideally manage no more than one or two Scrum Teams. The Scrum Master is in charge of facilitating Scrum for the team and ensuring that the Scrum framework is followed, which can be a demanding and full-time role. With more than two teams, a Scrum Master may struggle to effectively support each team and may become overburdened.

The Scrum Master may struggle to give each team the attention they require, resulting in suboptimal team outcomes. As a result, the Scrum Master may become less effective in facilitating Scrum for each team, which may result in Scrum being compromised or not being followed. The Scrum Master may become overwhelmed and unable to effectively support each team over time.

Because each team may not receive adequate support from the Scrum Master, they may become dissatisfied with the support they receive, resulting in morale issues and decreased productivity. The most serious consequence may be that the Scrum Master burns out as a result of the demands of supporting multiple teams.

A number of variables

The “rule of two” should be viewed as a guideline rather than a hard rule. The number of teams that a Scrum Master can manage is determined by several factors, including:

  • Size of the teams
    • Larger teams typically require more support and facilitation;
  • Complexity of the teams
    • Scrum Master support and guidance may be required by teams working on complex projects with multiple dependencies and challenges;
  • Experience of the Scrum Master
    • A more experienced Scrum Master may be better suited to managing multiple teams, whereas a less experienced Scrum Master may struggle to meet the demands of supporting multiple teams;
  • Maturity of the teams
    • Teams that are new to Scrum or are unfamiliar with the Scrum process may require additional assistance and guidance from the Scrum Master;
  • Frequency of Scrum events (and team self-management)
    • The frequency of Scrum events can also have an effect on the Scrum Master’s workload. Teams that have a lot of events may need more help and facilitation from the Scrum Master;
  • Location of the teams
    • If the teams are dispersed across multiple locations or time zones, the Scrum Master may need to devote more time to coordinating with each team.

As a Scrum Master, be mindful of and honest with your management about your workload. Team size, team maturity, work complexity, experience and working distance all have an impact on the complexity of a Scrum Master’s work, and thus the number of teams they can ultimately assist.

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