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[b]Questions:[/b]
1. Anyone have any experience to relate on the role of a manager in a Scrum software development environment?
2. Anyone had a pretty well functioning team that went to Scrum and had it work better?

#1 A number of teams in my company are going to the SCRUM methodology. The comment was made to me that you don't need managers because Scrum teams are "self managing". While I do see that some things are done by the team, I'm not thinking I agree with this. My thoughts are that the manager still needs to do people development - coaching, feedback, etc. You aren't assigning tasks so there is no delegation. I do see that it encourages team feedback to each other but don't see that completely replacing the feedback I give my team. But instead of guessing, I thought I'd ask.

#2 I was told that I had to come up with a plan to go to Scrum. I countered that I'd do analysis of the pros/cons of going to Scrum. My team is split across 3 geographies and after 6 months now they are really starting to work well together. We do a number of Scrum like things such as weekly demos of progress to stakeholders where we adjust work to input from them, stand-up meetings twice a week, 2 month development cycles, etc. They've been through 3 managers, a re-org, a buyout and layoffs in the last 2 years before me. So, I hesitate to change things when I'm not sure of the benefit. My initial response was "can we let some things in progress settle down and tweak as we go?" But I'm getting a lot of pressure because "everyone else is doing it". I think my team has as much anxiety as they can handle right now and don't see a benefit. Some other teams were very disfunctional due to lots of reasons. But mine has really turned themselves around. We are communicating, meeting our commitments, working together on problems, etc.

AManagerTool's picture

Sunshine,

We don't use SCRUM. Our development methodology is basically called...MESS.

We do a software project so infrequently that setting up a development methodology would be a bit of a waste and would fall into disuse quickly. We are more jacks of all trades and masters of none. We do electronics, software, mechanical, systems integration, product development and finally support all in the same department....so you can imagine how setting up a systematic approach like SCRUM would go over here.
That said, the concepts around good work flow interest me and I have studied agile development with scrum a bit and have something to offer.

Looking at it from a management point of view wouldn't the manager of the development team be the ScrumMaster? As such you would be running the daily standups, setting up and managing the sprints, tracking progress on the burnboard etc...? Aren't these just simply management tasks? Meeting management, delegation, task management and tracking? Additionally, you would have your main functions as staff development and hiring. I don't believe that it's much different from a line managers job title except that it has a bit more focus on the project.

akinsgre's picture

[quote="MsSunshine"][b]Questions:[/b]
1. Anyone have any experience to relate on the role of a manager in a Scrum software development environment?[/quote]
Yes, I have worked on Scrum teams where a Manager was responsible for the work of the department, but didn't play the role of ScrumMaster, or participate in the Scrum team (other than as a bystander during standups)
[quote="MsSunshine"]
2. Anyone had a pretty well functioning team that went to Scrum and had it work better?
[/quote]
Yes. Though none, like you describe your team, that already had been doing Scrum-like things.
[quote="MsSunshine"]
#1 A number of teams in my company are going to the SCRUM methodology. The comment was made to me that you don't need managers because Scrum teams are "self managing". While I do see that some things are done by the team, I'm not thinking I agree with this. My thoughts are that the manager still needs to do people development - coaching, feedback, etc. You aren't assigning tasks so there is no delegation. I do see that it encourages team feedback to each other but don't see that completely replacing the feedback I give my team. But instead of guessing, I thought I'd ask.
[/quote]
A well functioning Scrum team, with all the information they need to make good decisions, strong accurate feedback from stakeholders, and enough maturity to self-coach can be successful without a manager.

Here is an interesting article on self-directed teams, that doesn't rely on Scrum. http://tinyurl.com/eluo8 Pfeffer has written a fair amount of the subject as well.

I just finished reading Robert Austin's _Measuring and Managing Performance_

He talks about using no, or partial supervision models when full supervision (or exhaustive metrics) are impossible, or prohibitively expensive. Software development is an area that Austin, and many others, agree provide significant barriers to full supervision.

Scrum adds mechanisms to team behaviors to encourage developers to follow the best value path by making the value of their work, and any mistaken assumptions, very visible to the rest of the team, management and stakeholders.

[quote="MsSunshine"]
#2 I was told that I had to come up with a plan to go to Scrum. I countered that I'd do analysis of the pros/cons of going to Scrum. My team is split across 3 geographies and after 6 months now they are really starting to work well together. We do a number of Scrum like things such as weekly demos of progress to stakeholders where we adjust work to input from them, stand-up meetings twice a week, 2 month development cycles, etc. They've been through 3 managers, a re-org, a buyout and layoffs in the last 2 years before me. So, I hesitate to change things when I'm not sure of the benefit. My initial response was "can we let some things in progress settle down and tweak as we go?" But I'm getting a lot of pressure because "everyone else is doing it". I think my team has as much anxiety as they can handle right now and don't see a benefit. Some other teams were very disfunctional due to lots of reasons. But mine has really turned themselves around. We are communicating, meeting our commitments, working together on problems, etc.[/quote]

I can certainly understand your point. The things you mention are central to Scrum. You might even be doing Scrum and not realize it.

You're comment "settle down and tweak as we go?" is very Scrum-ish. You should remind those pushing Scrum at all costs, that a core principle of Scrum, and Agile in general, is the ability to do small experiments and act on the result. "Inspect and Adapt!"

So, if a "tweak" is to add one more stand-up a week, then you can measure your output and see if that yields benefits.

Scrum would suggest making a single, small change every Scrum and doing a retrospective at the end to gauge the success.

jhack's picture

Greg, great points. I'd like to expand on the first one.

MsSunshine, there are two types of management being conflated here: project management and team management.

Even if you assume that the team can "self-manage" their software development projects, there are a number of other "management" tasks that aren't related to projects or scrum: setting development goals, coaching, hiring, doing performance reviews, discussing pay and bonuses, negotiating with other managers regarding what projects the team will undertake, etc etc. How will the team self-manage THOSE activities?

If your team requires less hands-on project management, it's an opportunity for you to ask for more responsibility from your boss (so that she can have more time for higher level tasks...) That's how organizations grow.

John

MsSunshine's picture

We actually have a project manager already so I don't do any of that. I see the Scrum master doing more of that with some removing of obstacles that both of us handle.

Thanks for the ideas on what would be the role. How could I forget about performance reviews, reviews, etc! So, even when the team gets better on feedback to each other there is a lot left.

I also hadn't thought about the opportunity to do other projects for my boss too! That's an added bonus....

mikehansen's picture

I have experience with SCRUM and MSF driven projects. I am more on the page with John then Greg, but I think the nature of the company will be the deciding factor on the need for a dedicated Manager. In my experience, a company will benefit from having Management separate from project facilitation.

In addition to the development of employees, the Manager is often the one facilitating the allocation of their team members to project, the allocation of folks to non-project work, and most importantly, holding people accountable to the work they are supposed to be doing.

In non-agile projects, if someone is needed for a non-project task, the Manager would be the one to receive the request and work with the Project Manager to see if the work could be done with an acceptable impact to the project. The Project Manager should not be the one facilitating that since it puts them in a conflict of interest. The Manager will spend a lot of time in this area, which includes being a buffer against folks getting dragged into meetings/calls etc where they are not truly needed. The office culture will affect this significantly.

For SCRUM projects, the resource is supposed to be dedicated for the 30 day sprint. I suspect every organization will have a different interpretation of what this really means. Do they go to team meetings outside of the project? What about other meetings or “can you help me with this” tasks? The ScrumMaster is supposed to play the buffer role, which can overlap with the Manager role. However, for the small distractions, the ScrumMaster may not have the context to facilitate the urgency of the need. I believe the Manager should be the front line of requests outside of the project and should discuss them with the ScrumMaster if they believe the request should not wait until the 30 days is over. Thus, they treat the ScrumMaster and the ProjectManager the same.

The ScrumMaster/ProjectManager is responsible for the delivery of the project and keeping the scope on track. The Manager is responsible for the resource allocations and the accountability of the work done by the resources.

At least, that’s my .02.
-Mike

suedavis's picture

[quote="MsSunshine"][b]Questions:[/b]
1. Anyone have any experience to relate on the role of a manager in a Scrum software development environment?
2. Anyone had a pretty well functioning team that went to Scrum and had it work better?[/quote]

Yes, and yes. And sorry for the late response; I've been a little busy in recent weeks, and haven't been keeping up with the forums as much as usual.

[quote]The comment was made to me that you don't need managers because Scrum teams are "self managing".[/quote]

High-functioning agile teams are self-[i]organizing[/i], not self-[i]managing[/i]. Orthodox Scrum and orthodox XP both ignore the role of an effective manager, in part because the processes are entirely about "stuff" (as M&M put it), and leave off career development, relationships, and other aspects involved in encouraging effective behaviour. Running the Trinity, and the performance management practices that derive from it, will add at least as much value to your team as presiding over daily stand-up or removing blockers will.

[quote]#2 I was told that I had to come up with a plan to go to Scrum. I countered that I'd do analysis of the pros/cons of going to Scrum.[/quote]

Have you been to CSM training yet? If you're going to Scrum in particular, do yourself a favour and get yourself to a good CSM course, or better yet, a combined CSM/CSPO course. (Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, and Mike Cohn are all good trainers; there are many others.)

Effective agile adoption is a whole topic unto itself, and one of the keys to doing it successfully is to have a critical mass of effective agile experience and knowledge available, and management support is another. If you're going to be driving the process, a good course is a good starting point. You can also do things like engage an external agile coach, hire experienced agilists as team members, and get involved with a local agile group... but if you're running the show, I'd recommend developing yourself first.

[quote]But I'm getting a lot of pressure because "everyone else is doing it".[/quote]

Going to Scrum (or any other agile process) because you're convinced that it will help your team succeed is one thing. Trying to do it for its own sake, due to external pressure, is another -- and if you're not sold on it yourself, and able to articulate that to your team, the performance that you get from the team will reflect that. Effective agile adoption can improve your team's productivity by orders of magnitude, but ineffective agile adoption can be worse than just trying to make small improvements to the way you currently work. (Or worse than doing nothing at all, for that matter.)

Scrum is a means, not an end.

[quote]I think my team has as much anxiety as they can handle right now and don't see a benefit.[/quote]

...and ultimately, they're the ones who will have to succeed at making whatever process you settle on, not you. When you say that, I get the sense that you see a need to have change happen at a rate that everyone can take on board; if so, that's good advice.

I'd be happy to chat with you off line about our experiences; drop me a line by PM and I'll send you my contact information.