Management's interaction with a Scrum Team

Last post 10:20 am August 18, 2019
by Thomas Owens
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11:42 pm August 13, 2019

How should a people manager interact with a Scrum team? If the presence of management is likely to cause team members from speaking or discussing freely, in reality, how are managers able to check the performance of their reportees or do performance appraisals? Does the Scrum Master have any ability to protect his team members from a manager who may affect the appraisal of one of the Scrum Team members negatively? (assume any hypothetical reason)

What is management by exception? Is this something that a Scrum Master can use? If so, under what circumstances?

Is this what people managers need to use when having to take any action that is affecting the performance of the team, for disciplinary actions and something that is beyond what the Scrum Master can do?

 

11:42 pm August 16, 2019

Any opinions guys?

10:20 am August 17, 2019

How should a people manager interact with a Scrum team?

Why would a people manager interact with a Scrum Team as a whole? In my view, the people manager should only only be interacting with individuals. Perhaps if there's conflict, the people manager could interact with the people having the conflict as part of the resolution process. Generally speaking, though, I struggle to see a valid way for a people manager of one or more people on a Scrum Team interacting with the Scrum Team as a whole.

If the presence of management is likely to cause team members from speaking or discussing freely, in reality, how are managers able to check the performance of their reportees or do performance appraisals?

The only Scrum event with stakeholder participation is the Sprint Review. One aspect is the Development Team discussing successes, problems, and problem solutions that happened over the course of the Sprint. This is one way for a people manager, or any manager above the Scrum Team, to get some insights into how the team is working.

The Daily Scrum does allow for non-participants and observers to be present. If anyone from outside wishes to attend, I've encouraged the team to make a decision on allowing them to attend and even a frequency of attendance. The final decision to allow someone is solely on the team.

From a people management perspective, the people manager could take advantage of 360-degree feedback. The Scrum Team members would be able to provide input into performance appraisals of each of the other Scrum Team members. One-on-ones can also help the people manager stay in touch with the needs and desires of the reports. Both of these exist outside the Scrum framework, but scheduling them should consider the Scrum cadences to be least disruptive and allow the team to plan on accounting for them during Sprint Planning.

Does the Scrum Master have any ability to protect his team members from a manager who may affect the appraisal of one of the Scrum Team members negatively? (assume any hypothetical reason)

The Scrum Master needs to coach and help the team on ways to create high-value products, remove impediments, support the organization in becoming agile, and cause changes that improve the productivity of the Scrum Team. What the Scrum Master can do highly depends on the organizational structure, but if the actions of someone outside the Scrum Team are introducing impediments or reducing productivity, the Scrum Master should be involved in some way to ensure that the impact is understood and what other options exist that may be better for the team and organization.

What is management by exception? Is this something that a Scrum Master can use? If so, under what circumstances?

I'm not that familiar with management by exception, but the overviews that I've read seem to indicate that it's not appropriate for Scrum. It seems to be based on predictability rather than adapting to change. Perhaps there are techniques within management by exception that are relevant, but I think someone who is much more familiar will have to weigh in on this one.

Is this what people managers need to use when having to take any action that is affecting the performance of the team, for disciplinary actions and something that is beyond what the Scrum Master can do?

I'm not sure what "this" refers to. Management by exception? If so, no. But in my experiences, yes, people managers are the ones who handle performance evaluations, promotions, career development as well as disciplinary action. These are things that a Scrum Master shouldn't have over a team - the Scrum Master is a servant-leader and a coach and a facilitator, not a manager.

12:19 pm August 17, 2019

Let’s focus on this: 

how are managers able to check the performance of their reportees or do performance appraisals?

Is a performance manager checking reportees the kind of relationship you would wish to promote in Scrum?

01:57 am August 18, 2019

Is a performance manager checking reportees the kind of relationship you would wish to promote in Scrum?

@Ian Mitchell, No, the above situation is not something one would wish to promote in Scrum, however, realistically speaking are you suggesting that there won't be any people managers as a result of using Scrum?

Even in an ideal situation, how does Scrum say we should involve management is what I am trying to get clarification on. I am sure compensation, promotion and other things would need to be addressed by someone and traditionally this is the manager. So, when do managers get a chance to observe those reporting to them, and if their interactions are supposed to be minimal, then how would they make decisions on these aspects? Similarly who gets to put into motion and take disciplinary action?

One more angle to this same question is how does HR play a role in the context of Scrum within a team and in an organization?

07:22 am August 18, 2019

realistically speaking are you suggesting that there won't be any people managers as a result of using Scrum?

Yep. When Scrum is used people manage themselves, at a team level, both in terms of performance and productivity.

Developing team accountability is hard. There are all sorts of things for managers to take care of, strategically and operationally, so agile teamwork and focus can become normalized.

There is ample opportunity for managers to demonstrate the requisite servant leadership within their organizations and within their current roles.

10:20 am August 18, 2019

Even in an ideal situation, how does Scrum say we should involve management is what I am trying to get clarification on. I am sure compensation, promotion and other things would need to be addressed by someone and traditionally this is the manager. So, when do managers get a chance to observe those reporting to them, and if their interactions are supposed to be minimal, then how would they make decisions on these aspects? Similarly who gets to put into motion and take disciplinary action?

Scrum doesn't address these things.

Scrum is a framework for the delivery of products and services. You could, in theory, apply Scrum to the delivery of your organization's HR-related services by reforming your HR team into one or more Scrum teams (and applying a scaled Scrum framework, if necessary). However, a software development team using Scrum to deliver a software product and the services associated with building software products can exist in an organization that isn't using Scrum for other products and services such as HR, IT, Legal, Finance, and so on.

If you are applying Scrum for one or more teams, they still live in the context of a company. You can look to Scrum along with the experiences of others to understand how a Scrum Team can best define the interactions between the Scrum Team and these non-Scrum (and potentially even non-Agile) stakeholders.