Managers, Are You Applying the Five Scrum Values?
If you want to succeed with Scrum, adopt its values across the entire organization.
Let’s be blunt. Managers ask a lot of their Scrum teams. They are expected to respond to scope changes. They need to be predictable in their estimations. Most of all, Scrum teams need to deliver results quickly. (After all, it’s called Agile.)
Don’t get me wrong. These are all valid expectations. They’re in alignment with the five Scrum Values:
Scrum teams are supposed to commit to their Sprint Goal and focus on completing their Sprint Backlog Items. They’re supposed to be open about discussing their roadblocks and to have the courage to speak up whenever they need help. They need to treat everyone on the team with respect, and they need to respect the business.
Horizontal Vs. Vertical Management
According to a poll conducted by Forbes, 88% of Agile/Scrum teams reported tensions between themselves and the rest of the organization.
This is because Agile/Scrum teams are organized horizontally, while most corporations are organized vertically. Agile promotes self-organization. Teams are empowered to make all the decisions regarding how their work is done. Meanwhile, traditional corporations have a top-down structure. Most of the decision-making is relegated to the top. Tasks are assigned from one level to the next. These two organizational styles appear to be in direct contradiction to each other.
How Managers Can Help
Let’s be clear. Agile is not an indictment against top-down corporations. Scrum is a framework for product management; it doesn’t have much to say when running a business. Scrum teams still need good managers for vision and guidance.
Moreover, successful Scrum teams need middle and upper management to create a safe and empowering culture for them to do their work. To achieve this, management can look to the five Agile principles:
Managers will need to have the courage to delegate decision-making to their Scrum teams. This is particularly important when things are falling behind. Management would always be tempted to revert to a “command and control” strategy to correct the problems. Instead, try to influence the team by offering suggestions or hints.
Beyond simply respecting their team members as individuals, management should also respect that its developers are highly skilled specialists who are the best suited at making decisions for their work. Respect the best practices of Scrum and give the team space to work.
Managers still play a key role in the career development of their team members. As such, they need to be transparent when setting expectations. This improves company morale. They should also be open when discussing challenges with the team. No one should ever feel like they’re kept in the dark.
Just as Scrum teams need to focus on the Sprint Goal and the Definition of Done, managers should focus on its's organizational goals and vision. The organizational goals should translate into concrete Product Goals on the Product Backlog. By doing this, the team will always know the value of their work. This keeps everyone motivated.
If an organization chooses to adopt Scrum, it ought to commit to it. Management should always endeavor to provide a safe space for Scrum teams to work and grow. Understand that an Agile transformation needs time to bear fruit. Stay positive through the rough patches and influence the team when necessary.
Top-down management structures work best when dealing with simple repetitive tasks. But the world has become more complex. Agile’s wide adoption reflects the need for adaptive, customer-centric solutions provided by specialized workers. As such, the most successful companies today adopt Agile practices that empower their teams to self-organize. For the best results with Scrum, the entire organization needs to adopt the Five Scrum Values.