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 and most difficult difference 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 kept things harmonious in the previous project. 

But let's leave "strictly" for a moment. 

Managers tend to be stewards of the 5Ts (Time, Talent, Target, Treasury, and Trust). 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. They extend or withhold trust & permission, which greatly influences team behaviors.

These 5Ts 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 an extra superpower: Perspective. People need to know how an organization is navigated and how to serve it (yes, in addition to serving the customer). 

Trust might be the most powerful of the 5. 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 trust you have been granted, to "stay in your lane." 

The ugly fact about larger companies is that the delivery of valuable software is a secondary concern. The primary concern on most people's 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 from a job you want to keep. Being conservative and not making waves, we can stay in our position even if we have late deliveries, bugs, and problems provided we work within the system.

Being mediocre and avoiding attention feels safer. 

It is not something we are comfortable talking 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 are welcome in the comments section. 

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