Dead Sheepdog: Ethical Dilemmas in Software Development

Software developers ought to be concerned with people and the world around them. As human beings, they should be determined to do more good in their lives than harm. Software developers need to consider the potential consequences of day to day decisions. This consideration is the domain of software ethics.

A metaphor for the Scrum Master is a vigilant sheepdog protecting their flock.

At times, any scrum master will face profound impediments that their organizations were unable or unwilling to address. The effect on the project and team was dire and the Scrum Master had exhausted all avenues to raise alarm.

It’s human nature, unfortunately, to associate an unpleasant message with the messenger. A vocal Scrum Master can be seen as the problem.

In those fraught circumstances a Scrum Master has to balance the interests of the team, the company and themselves. Can the project deliver in spite of the obstacles? Should the Scrum Master accept the dysfunction or not? At what cost?

As Ken Schwaber says in Agile Project Management with Scrum, “A dead sheepdog is a useless sheepdog.” Still, a useless sheepdog is also a useless sheepdog.

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