Friday, 11 June 2010

Scrum: Pain Points & Resolution – Management

After the issue of time you frequently encounter objections relating to the management of scrum teams.
One of the tenets of scrum is the self managing team but this frequently concerns management as they want to know:
  • Who controls the what work is done?
  • Who takes responsibility for delivery of the work?
  • If things are not working out who steps in to sort it out?
These sort of things are normally done by a team manager (not to be confused with a team leader - whole different role) or in a bigger organisation may be shared between a manager and a project manager.

The simple answer to all of the above is - the team. 

The team being self managing means that they decide what work is done but don't forget that a scrum team includes the product owner that represents the business and as such they decide what provides the most business value.  Since the team decides what work they do they have to be the ones responsible for delivery of it and need to understand that it is up to them this understanding ideally comes from the Scrum Master but can come from a manager as I'll explain shortly.

If a sprint is not going well and not working then again the team need to resolve the matter, they must resolve the situation to allow the work to be delivered and again a good Scrum Master should guide the team through this, it is only if the team is unable to resolve the situation that the manager need to be involved.

So after all that you frequently get asked - so what is a managers role in scrum?

Within scrum a manager needs to move away from a command and control (C2) type management and instead work to turn themselves into a facilitator, another servant leader type role, who is there to help:
  • To help the team improve their processes
  • Solve high level impediments that the Scrum Master is unable to resolve
  • Technical & Product evangelist to other managers & members of staff in the organisation
  • Handle resourcing issues
  • Synchronise backlogs across teams
  • buy snacks for the team
  • even clean the office if it will help
In reality the list goes on and on, the bottom line is that a manager needs to do whatever is necessary to support the team to deliver business value.


So you have a self managing team but what if:
  • the team simply aren't self managing?
  • the team are just going through the process but aren't really committed to it?
  • the team simply are not delivering work?
If the scrum master/manager recognises that things aren't working then they will try resolve the situation with the rest of the team by attempting to coach them to get them back on track.  If this isn't successful it will fall to the manager resolve the situation.

At this point the likelihood is that manager is likely to revert to behaviours exhibited by C2 managers and tell the team what they have to do to get the scrum process working, it should be the last thing the manager wants to do but may be the only course of action available.  What is crucial is that the manager is looking to fix the process rather than simply reverting back to 'the old ways'.

The article 'Agile - A Way of Life and Pragmatic Use of Authority' on InfoQ gives a very good overview of this situation and what can/could be done.

Final thoughts on managers

Paraphrasing from a presentation by Henrik Kniberg on the managers role in scrum:
The manager can be the best catalyst or the worst impediment
What this says to me is that managers are vitally important in the process and need to engaged with it otherwise you may find your attempt to adopt scrum could be in trouble

Next Pain Point

Next I'll cover support and how that can be handled within scrum.

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