There are two ships travelling a busy shipping route, each ship has a complex engine and the engineering team has a chief engineer. Both ships are a similar age and size.
The first ship has a very busy chief engineer running this way and that, fixing any and every problem that comes up, he knows every inch of the engine and many parts of it are custom made by him. He is dirty and oily and hard working, whenever there is a problem – and there are many problems – he is on hand to fix it. He is dedicated and hard working, he works long hours and is always ready and willing to get his hands dirty. Without him the ship couldn’t function.
The second chief engineer has spent his time not fixing things, if a part is unreliable he has replaced it, if a component is troublesome it is gone. If there is a problem he ensures one of his team fixes it and will encourage them to spread the knowledge so that he rarely if ever gets his hands dirty. He is rarely dirty or oily and it is a very rare situation to see him fixing anything. On many voyages he can seemingly sit there with his feet up doing very little. Frankly if he missed a voyage the ship would run just fine without him.
Now which in your opinion is the better chief engineer? I know which one I would rather have on my team.
It is often said that the goal of a good Scrum Master is to make themselves redundant, I take exception to this a little I think as in the tale above it is possible to create a situation where you are not necessarily needed all the time. But I wonder how long a team would last as a top-performing team if the Scrum Master was taken away, perhaps in the short term no one would notice, but growing and shaping and coaching a team takes time and effort, but slipping back into bad habits can happen quickly. Creating a situation where the Scrum Master has time to do other things is a good thing and a reflection of success not a sign he is not needed.
How many top athletes would say “I’ve reached me peak I no longer need my coach” ? My guess is that if they feel they have reached their peak they will seek out a new coach that can push those limits further.