Monday, March 30, 2015

Can Scrum Teams Have Managers.

"Is it safe to say PM has to acquire new skills to make himself fit in the scrum process? " 
This question was asked in a scrum forum on Linked In, and many interesting and valuable answers were given.

It is pasted here verbatim because I want my answers to this question to come home with me, and to be available to my clients, peers, and colleagues.

The fear of "working without management" or "losing my management job" is pretty fierce in larger organizations, and I think it can be a misplaced or imaginary fear.

This answer was specifically pointed to people in a Scrum-specific forum, but information here applies generally in any number of organizational change contexts. Even in our migration to Anzeneering, we have seen/felt the powers permission and support.

On to my answers:

Strictly, yes. The biggest is not telling individuals what to do. It's hard for the individuals at first too. It's easier, once accustomed to command-n-control ("masters n minions") to continue the habits that keep things harmonious in the previous project. 

But let's leave strictly for a moment. Managers tend to be stewards of the 4 Ts (Time, Talent, Target, Treasury). They have influence on budget, can hire/rent/fire/shuffle people, can help communicate or coordinate scope changes across organizations (not just scrum teams), and have a certain budget to manage. These are not "part of" the scrum framework, but with these a manager of an organization composed of scrum teams can have a great deal of impact and influence -- hopefully for the better. 

In addition, someone who was a manager has two extra super-powers: Perspective and Permission. Sometimes these are as effective as the 4 Ts. People need to know how an organization is navigated and how to serve it (yes, in addition to serving the customer). 

And people tend to not do things that they do not feel the permission to do. Lacking a sense of permission, people keep their tools, practices, and quality exactly as they have always been. It is safer, organizationally, to work within the permission you have. 

The ugly fact of larger companies is that delivery of valuable software is a secondary concern. The primary concern on most peoples minds, most of the time, is their position and longevity in the organization. Becoming brave and blazing a path is fine for contractors, but it can get you fired out of a job you want to keep. Likewise, we can stay in the job even if we have late deliveries, bugs, and problems provided we work within the system. 

It is not something we are comfortable to talk about publicly, but it's true nonetheless.  Managers control empowerment.

In a larger org, the manager has a very important transitionary role and a very important supportive role, even if he does not have an official place INSIDE the scrum framework.

Your agreements, disagreements, amplifications, and puns welcome in the comments section.