Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Managers in Scrum

Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love (Addison-Wesley Signature Series)Roman Pichler gave a talk at QCON 2008 about the role of managers in Scrum. He starts out by describing a typical organization as a hierarchical structure with a command and control management paradigm. Managers receive reports, make decisions and give orders. Subordinates comply with orders and execute and then report back. Managers are removed from the day to day work and lose touch with what is going on and makes it difficult to make decisions. Managers are accountable for decisions and results. Subordinates are doing things they might not always agree with. Authority and responsibility are separated across 2 roles. This makes it difficult to have buy-in, accountability, ownership, and to learn and improve.

Next, Roman mentions that under Scrum the outlook on management is different. It is about helping the people doing the real work in adding value to the product, and creating the right environment for them to succeed. He then covers some management practices in Scrum:

1. Servant-leadership: lead others by serving them. Serve 1st, lead 2nd. Help the team and its members grow and develop. Respect individuals, honor effort and goodwill. Help create the right work environment.

2. Empirical Management: As a manager, make decisions on the basis of facts and empirical evidence. Report and numbers are not sufficient. You need to see what is happening for yourself. Create transparency and be able to inspect and adapt. Managers engage with employees to understand what’s happening where the actual work is done. Ask questions, share observations, make helpful suggestions to assist and guide but do not micro manage.

3. Empowerment: Delegate decision making authority to the lowest possible level. Collaboration instead of command and control. Authority and responsibility are united.

4. Quality first: Quality is built into the product from the start. Encourage and empower the team to identify and rectify problems together with their root causes.

5. Continuous improvement: Challenge the status quo on an ongoing basis. Identify and remove wasteful activities. It is about continuous innovation and change. It is a learning non-judgmental, non blaming approach.

6. Standarization: Standards developed by the team and then communicated to the rest of the organization

Next Roman goes over some transition techniques:

1. Focus everyone on the customer needs. Consider the entire value stream and a void sub optimization.

2. Systematically remove overburden: Overburden decreases morale and robs people of creativity. Give people slack so they have time to reflect and continuously improve. Avoid overburden by limiting demand on capacity and capability.

3. Promote team work: help create effective teams and foster creativity and collaboration

4. Clear the way: remove impediments promptly and anticipate new impediments.

5. Be a Scrum champion: teach, encourage and guide. Be a role model and walk the talk.

Finally, Roman summarizes by mentioning that the good news is that there is plenty left for managers to do in Scrum. The Management culture must change profoundly from telling people what to do to supporting and guiding them.

This presentation is available on InfoQ at