SCRUM and Management – helping or disturbing?

The role of management in SCRUM

At a time the product development chain went to an entire stop. At this point we decided to introduce a new method – SCRUM. We all recognized that the project-waterfallish style of delivering our daily work didn’t work out that well. So, the demand for a radical change was recognized at all levels in the company.

We decided to move away from the old style (it was not even project-style work – it was … hmmmh hard to find a word for it) towards a new way of working – agile & SCRUM. The C-level took a decision to invest in consulting to help us implementing the fundament of our today’s daily work. So, management had quite a stake in the agile process.

When the product owners started to discover their freedom to take decisions on the priorities of stories something really strange happened. We started to have some really bad situations where a whole process came to a halt due to non-informed executives. Who decided to take this story before the other story? Why wasn’t management involved in this decision? Well, some of these decisions had real impact on our business (the product owners couldn’t oversee at this time). Other decisions turned out to have almost no impact no our business. But where is the borderline? How to handle these situations in an agile organization? What’s the role of SCRUM?

Strange days, these days

We took the situation to one extreme: we introduced the – I call it – “Everybody-into-one-room-prioritization”-meeting. We got all stakeholders from our departements into one room and did the prioritization of stories. At this stage, the one who was able to out-shout the others had the prioritiy secured for their stories. We haven’t had an objective way to do business value determination and hence persons being able to express themselves in a convincing way were always higher prioritized.

We weren’t overly successful with this method and decided to empower our product owners. They met in a “backlog meeting” and got the prioritization of the story items right. At this time we still believed in the one-and-only instance of a company backlog.

Nowaydays, we moved away from the single-instance company backlog and have topic-bound teams and team-bound backlogs. Paired with empowered and more confident product owners – it seems to work.

Lessons learned?

  • Management, empower your people!
  • Trust them and don’t start micro-management. That’s simply said: frustrating for everybody!

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