How important is the TSM when scaling Agile

3-minute masterclass

By now, many know (and have probably experienced) that scaling Agile is not a simple organisational move. To realise this transformation’s ambitious objectives, companies need to be flexible, adapt their delivery engine with a collective people effort and being guided by a clear vision. All of this combined with the delivery of the business as usual. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how we have experienced the key role of Tribe Scrum Master (TSM) in an organisation delivery while scaling up Agile.

The Tribe Scrum master

The TSM supports the organisation’s delivery during the Agile journey, especially when scaling up Agile. This role has been defined in the context of a transformation, targeting a delivery model inspired by the Scaled Agile Framework (SaFe) and Spotify Model.

What makes a good TSM

Whilst there are different areas of focus for a TSM, in this article we’ll only focus on the delivery aspect as this is the area where we support our clients most.

TSM position within the organisation

TSMs are typically positioned between the tribe management and the squads. They’re the linchpin within the tribe and the other tribes. Additionally, TSMs are often senior profiles that could coach the squad scrum masters within the tribe.  

Each TSM also covers different subjects with the tribe so by definition, different squads. They are often fewer in comparison to the squad scrum masters.

Furthermore, they are the privileged contact point for the epic owners (EO). The EO wants to know how the work is progressing, what the risks, issues and impediments are and which dependencies exists towards other EOs and teams.

But what does the TSM really do?

Resolve impediments

The first and most obvious activity is resolving impediments that have escalated from the squads. Impediments that are raised at the level of the tribe or involving other tribes.

Maintaining delivery coherence

Another task of the TSM is maintaining coherence in the delivery by managing dependencies inter-tribes. We have perceived many times that dependency management is a major challenge in Agile transformation. This is mainly when the organisation’s architecture is not able to keep up with the transformation rhythm.

Stakeholders Management

Another activity is being the go-to person for stakeholders. That is why mastering stakeholder management tools and techniques is important. Consequently, a TSM must be able to keep a good understanding of the overall and high-level vision and progress, but also be able to deep dive on specific and detailed topics. Those skills will make sure that the correct level of detail is visible to the management. And that that vision and strategy is properly translated during delivery.

Unfortunately, we also realised that silos could still be formed in Agile. Even though the TSM is helping to keep the communication open and transversal, keep all stakeholders aware of the progress and be an active tribe representation in planning sessions.

Coordination to achieve business value

The TSM role description states “coordination to enable the tribe to achieve business value”. this is a referring to the given support in the end-to-end- testing and being the guardian of a coherent functional delivery between different squads.

Furthermore, TSMs are in a good position to tackle transversal initiatives such as regulatory change. This is because they have an overall view which helps them support, coordinate and define what impacts the squads, what could be critical, do the follow-up and ensure the delivery whilst minimizing the impact on the tribe.

Main ceremony

Last but not least, the TSM uses Scrum of Scrums ceremonies to tackle the different activities described above.

But what is your opinion? Is a TSM a must-have role during your organisation’s scale-up? Is it sustainable for the organisation?

Evolution of this role within the Agile constellation (based on our experience on the field) will be shared in a next edition. So, keep an eye out for our following 3-minute masterclasses and don’t hesitate to check out our other master classes or service offerings.