Is it micromanagement or service to the team?

Last post 03:07 am January 14, 2015
by Ludwig Harsch
10 replies
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01:54 am December 8, 2014

Hi all,

is it healthy for the Scrum process that the Scrum Master attends and chairs all Scrum Events?

Context:
In my company, there are several business units using Scrum independently from each other. As my team is introducing Scrum as the first team in my business unit, I try to understand the implementation of Scrum in the other teams. Doing this, I discovered that in most other teams the Scrum Master is organizer, participant, secretary and moderator in all Scrum Events. My first impression was that the Scrum Masters were exploited and that Development Team and Product Owner shifted all of their annoying tasks to them.
When I asked the Scrum Masters, they said it was their wish to fullfill all these tasks in order to close up to the Development Team (participation) and to make sure that the meetings were conducted in a Scrum-conform way (organizer, secretary, moderator), quote "who writes, controls".
When I asked if they didn't try to empower e.g. the Development Team to organize and conduct the Daily Scrums on their own they said, they wouldn't be accepted as part of the team if they stayed out and that the developers weren't mature enough to preserve the Scrum Process without the Scrum Masters attending and steering the meetings ("we are the process police").

Though I don't want to object the arguments, my intuition tells me that they are precariously close to command-and-control/micromanagement if they don't take actions to improve the team's ability to stay within the Scrum Process.

Any thoughts?

07:59 am December 8, 2014

Hi Anke,

How many Sprints (or projects) have those Scrum Masters been ensuring their roles? Sure it's ok for them to attend and chair the first events, but then, for a healthier and performing team, more room must be progressively let to its members so they take the initiatives and the Scrum Master will support as a facilitator, serving those.

It sounds like the teams are still in the first phase of the Form/Storm/Norm/Perform stages. Maybe the SM are stuck to improve the team's confidence to Scrum, thus to empower itself and to self-organize. Is the context favorable so the SM intentions are made transparent and can be nurtured? Do they have support and sponsors, instead of directives and redevabilities? Do the SM even raise impediments and to whom/what are they addressed? And so, why?

Hope it helps :)

10:37 am December 8, 2014

Hi Romain,

thank you for the reply - of course it helped! :-)

The Scrum Master roles were re-staffed this year, but the teams use Scrum within this structure since 2-3 years, having Sprints of two weeks.
The Scrum Masters told me there were still some developers who didn't like Scrum (as they were used to develop on their own for decades) and that it wasn't possible to really convince them ("they say yes to anything but you never know if they comply"). I think both are doing their best, they try to detect impediments in the Daily Scrums and they raise them to whoever is responsible for it.

I don't know more details about their situation, I just wondered if my intuition was right and how the other forum participants would see the situation - especially because the Scrum Masters were really sure of themselves.

05:31 am December 9, 2014

If the Development Team aren't "mature enough to preserve the Scrum Process without the Scrum Masters attending and steering" then that is an impediment, as the teams do not own their process.

What do the Scrum Masters think they should do to remove this impediment? How do they currently interpret their duty of coaching?

08:14 am December 9, 2014

If trust and transparency are not at their best within the teams, leading to more command and control or that feeling, I would so recommend facilitating a Delegation Poker workshop at their next retrospective.

11:13 am December 9, 2014

Hi Ian and Romain,

thank you so much for your replies.

@Ian:
I don't think, the Scrum Masters see this as an impediment, not even when I asked them if their concept wasn't against the spirit of Scrum. They interpret their duty of coaching in motivating the development teams to actively participate in the Scrum Events and in telling them which of their actions are and which are not helpful for the Scrum process. Some months ago they made the experience that the developers didn't respect the process when the Scrum Masters didn't attend the meetings. That's why they don't want to change the practice.

@Romain: I like the idea, but how does Delegation Poker help building trust? As I understand, the Development Team doesn't really want more process ownership, they rather want to focus on the pure development tasks...

11:32 am December 9, 2014

OK, in answer to your initial question I would therefore state:

No, it is not healthy for Scrum Masters to attend and chair all Scrum Events.

It's unhealthy because it is being done to the detriment of the teams' ownership of process, and there is insufficient appreciation by the respective Scrum Masters of their coaching responsibilities.

02:02 pm December 9, 2014

What about a "give & take matrix" instead of a Delegation Poker ?
http://www.gamestorming.com/games-for-design/give-and-take-matrix/

The Scrum Master has nothing to "delegate" because he is not the manager of the team.

03:14 am December 10, 2014

The Scrum Master has nothing to "delegate" because he is not the manager of the team.

Indeed and as the Give & Take matrix, it's not as black and white as the titles say. What matter, help to build trust and lead to intiatives, are discussions on the expressed motivations and clarifications that follow.

07:33 am January 2, 2015

Hi,

sorry for my late reply. Thank you, Ian, Olivier and Romain for your advice. All was very helpful for finding my own point of view. I'm really curious, how we'll be able to implement Scrum in my business unit.

A good new year to you!
Anke.

03:07 am January 14, 2015

Anke,
I have nothing to add to the answers above, just some books that I would highly recommend in your situation:

https://www.scrum.org/Courses/Professional-Scrum-Master/PSM-Subject-Are…

"Coaching agile teams" helped me a lot in understanding the different teaching / coaching styles and which to use in which context.

"The five dysfunctions of a team" gave me important hints how to build trust in a team.

Best,
Ludwig