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Management Interference in Scrum Team

Last post 04:29 pm January 15, 2019 by Daniel Wilhite
4 replies
08:38 pm January 14, 2019

I have a Boss who is in a senior IT management position, to whom I report to as they are my line manager.

In this organisation which has recently adopted Scrum, I work in a scrum team as a developer, which has a PO and SM, we run 2 week sprints with the standard Scrum ceremonies.

I have found this manager is constantly pursuing me and other team members for updates and explanations on why we are taking certain technical decisions and is organising ad-hoc catchups with me to question our work and monitor progress and risks to delivery.

Since this manager is not in the Scrum Team, should this manager deal with the Product Owner if they have concerns about the product technically?

Can this manager directly ask me questions about the product and query the technical decisions being taken by team members and myself, does this undermine the self organising team mindset?

My perception was that in a Scrum Team you are protected from outside influences, managerial and otherwise and the PO is responsible for communicating to the business the progress, with the SM protecting the team.

Does this manager count as an impediment or is he a genuine stakeholder, in which case should he only be updated through the scrum activities such as Demo's and silently attending stand-ups.

What is the role of the Scrum Master in protecting me and the team from this manager?

If I am approached again by this manager for direct updates or an ad-hoc catchup what should be my response, do I refer them to the PO or the SM or do I in the spirit of transparency continue to give them updates and take their steer? (I get the feeling they want to be involved and exert control over what is being worked on).

I'm very confused, I am in a Scrum Team but I have a direct manager to report to ... how does that work?



10:37 pm January 14, 2019

What is the role of the Scrum Master in protecting me and the team from this manager?

The Scrum Guide says: "The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team."

My advice would be to have a conversation with the Scrum Master about this matter in the first instance. Perhaps he or she is unaware of the significance of the issue.

10:42 pm January 14, 2019

You said that your organization recently adopted Scrum.  To get a little more context before addressing your concerns:

  • Do you know why your organization decided to implement Scrum?
  • Do you know whom within the organization is driving or championing the adoption of Scrum?
  • Do you know if your direct line manager received any Scrum or Agile training?   His behavior as described is command and control, with a certain level of mistrust.
  • What is the experience level of Scrum within your organization?   Your Development Team?   Your Product Owner?   Your Scrum Master?
  • Were any Agile coaches brought in initially to help get Scrum off the ground?   
  • Was there any Scrum training offered?   If so, who took it, and how good was the training?


11:51 am January 15, 2019

In answers to the questions.

Scrum has been implemented in the organisation as a move away from Waterfall. The senior management run a tight reporting system as a legacy from Waterfall. The development teams are a mixture of Third party companies and in-house developers.

The manager in question actually was recruited as being an ex-Scrum master with experience of coaching scrum.

The current scrum master in our team is inexperienced.

04:29 pm January 15, 2019

I agree with @Ian. If this is becoming a problem for you then yes it is an impediment.  It does endanger your ability to self-organize.  They are also not respecting the team to make the right decisions.  I would assume that since your company recently started down the Scrum path and they are in a senior management position, they were involved in the decision. At this point, the Scrum Master should be discussing with the manager how their interactions are impacting the team and help them understand how to interact without disrupting.  

I am also going to venture a guess that this same individual is doing it with other teams so they are not only impacting your team but multiple teams.  In this case, each Scrum Master should be talking to them.  Maybe if there are multiple individuals coming to him to explain how his interactions are harmful, they may actually get the whole picture.  

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