Is "Team lead" role sign of a bad Scrum?

Last post 05:41 pm June 3, 2022
by Daniel Wilhite
19 replies
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04:55 am February 15, 2017

Many companies have roles like Team lead or Technical lead. The definition is: "A team leader is someone who provides direction, instructions and guidance to a group of individuals, who can also be known as a team, for the purpose of achieving a certain goal".

I don't see a rule against this in the Scrum guide, but I think this leads to one more hierarchy inside the development team.

Do you think that someone that is doing "leading" work inside the scrum team disrupts the Scrum process?

 

 

06:49 pm February 15, 2017

From your reading of the Scrum Guide, do you think that having one person "leading" the team's work would be good Scrum? Also, what sort of leadership ought to be provided by the Scrum Master so the team can achieve "a certain goal"?

09:59 am February 16, 2017

Scrum Master is a servant leader. I understand that the development team is responsible for developing the increment. I think this common responsibility and common ownership of the scrum backlog contradicts the idea of Team leader. However, this is not explicit in the scrum guide. Moreover we have different roles in the Scrum Team to ensure the team is self sufficient to deliver the increment. Like the UI expert can contribute for better delivery of the UI aspects, team leader could use his leadership skills to lead the team to make the right decisions.

02:41 pm February 16, 2017

@Ian,

do you think that having one person "leading" the team's work would be good Scrum?

=> Why not... It may depend on the frequency, 'density' and type of leading.

06:19 pm February 16, 2017

In Scrum, no one Development Team member would be responsible for leading the entire teams work, even in one area. The team are self-organizing without sub-roles such as team lead, technical lead, or UI expert. Responsibility is not inferred by any specialisms a team member may have...the Scrum Guide makes it clear that there are no exceptions to this rule.

06:50 am February 20, 2017

Aleksandar, typically, a Team Lead (TL) is not a Scrum role but a management role.  In my experience, TLs oversee a portfolio of projects which may include Scrum, Waterfall, etc projects but they should not influence or interfere with the Scrum project.  They may need to step in if any issues arise, at the Scrum Masters' discretion, for removing blockers.  Of course, some organizations may dictate differently, but in the purist sense, I agree with Ian in his response. 

02:37 pm February 23, 2017

What about the scaled scrum, according to nexus guide representatives from different scrum teams will collaborate to discuss the sprint planning, I think the member who is more proactive and have decision making skill (cross-functional) will be sent to the meeting. It seems to me TL have a role in this type of setups.

06:36 pm February 23, 2017

A team representative should take care that they do actually represent the team, and don't exert a greater influence on decisions than their peers.

03:30 am August 5, 2018

I would like to add my thoughts about WHY we should not have a team leader in the team.

First of all, having a person with leadership skills in the team is not the same as having a team leader. Having a person with leadership skills is good, just like you need people with technical skills and skills for quality assurance.

However, dedicating the responsibility for leading, testing or coding to individual people will equally much remove this responsibility from other people. We need everyone to take part in, and have an interest for, everything that needs to be done.

  • If quality is bad, its the team's responsibility - Not the tester or QA.
  • If coding is not finished, its the team's responsibility - Not the developer.
  • If the team is not working well together, its the team's responsibility - Not the team leader.

In my opinion, having separate roles in the team is completely unnecessary as experts in various areas will provide their value without being dedicated to a role. Instead, allow (and encourage) members to learn from each other and take part in areas they are not experts yet.

Furthermore, being a leader (or having a leader) have very different meaning based on culture. Having a leader could mean (based on your culture)  that you don't have to do anything the leader is not telling you (or forcing you) to do. It also means that you are expected to follow, NOT to take initiative and make suggestions.

In this case, having a leader kills all possibility for self management.

Again, this is only my opinion and I would like to get your feedback and ideas.

02:25 pm August 1, 2019

It seems to me the Scrum Guide is explicit in this, the Scrum team is made up of the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development team. The Development Team is made up of Development Team members who have specialisms but no other role than that of a team member. There is no place for team leadership in Scrum.

06:54 am August 2, 2019

No.

Now you're done being surprised; I once wrote a blog comparing a self organising team to a self steering car. Someone has written the code, assembled the car and instructed it what to do in which situation. In a similar fashion, creating a self organising team requires setting clear boundaries and protecting the team of the outside influences for which the team is not yet ready. I have learned this requires a very specific skillset: someone who is able to look at the team and see what they are capable of, what the next step is and how their development can be helped. Someone who is a good leader in the beginning, and a good coach when the team is more mature, but more importantly, someone who knows when to lead and when to coach. Why wouldn't, especially in the beginning, a team lead be able to fulfill such a role?

07:10 am August 2, 2019

There is no place for team leadership in Scrum.

Might it be the case that every team member has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership in Scrum?

10:30 pm August 6, 2019

Good point Ian! It's all about joint responsibilities to get the job done for clients and stakeholders!

05:41 am May 20, 2020

There are some responsibilities in corporations like in ours, which are/were somewhat bound to the team-lead role. Like releasing logged working hours or approval of vacations or annual appraisals or leadership meetings with other team-leads.

As a former Scrum Master and now Team-Lead I am currently trying to remove this role and its tasks to the benefit of the team. These actions have to be taken but you need special permissions (you see private data, like logged working hours) so not all people of the scrum team are able to do it. How would a scrum team without a team lead approach these tasks.

Any ideas?

Context: Our company switched most teams to the Scrum process but still has the team lead role in all teams, mostly because we were not able to transfer the mentioned tasks to the teams.

08:13 am May 23, 2020

That is interesting when you described the team leader's role. In Scrum we want the whole development team members to have a leader mentality, we want them to be self-directed, self-motivated and inspired. The Scrum Master him/herself as you can read in Scrum Guide is a servant leader, a leader who leads by serving rather than with authority who gives instruction or tell the team what to do. Hopefully the Scrum Master can inspire the team to be self-directed and self-motivated hence we do not need a team leader. If the organisation think they still need a team leader whose role to provide direction, instructions and guidance to a group of individuals, maybe it's a good conversation to have in the company and ask what pre-conceived ideas do they bring to come up with such conclusion.

03:58 pm August 8, 2020

I totally agree with all who said there shouldn't be team lead role where other team members report to team lead. This is against the concept of Self-organizing teams. If we need a technical expert it should be a role but other team members shouldn't report to that person. 

I want to know from others if they have team leads in their organisation.

10:24 am November 2, 2020

Self-motivated happy teams can produce maximum results. Having a traditional team/tech lead would kill this motivation. Nowadays It is very rare that scrum teams are having formally appointed leaders. However, I have seen some people assume certain level of leadership authority and responsibilities and hence try to manipulate other team members. Result is inevitably counterproductive. In certain situations, product/project sponsors might empower certain individuals of the team. They will have justifiable reasons. However, the cost could be more than the return.

To move to scrum team culture from a traditional hierarchical team, team members need to have total mindset change. As someone in this forum has mentioned in a previous post, everyone are leaders in the team; however, the leadership style needs to have certain characteristics such as respecting and collaborating each other and helpful attitude where everyone is working towards a common objective. We need to be ready for taking responsibility of failures, no matter who has done the mistake and at what degree. But make sure to share the credit of success among all team members.

Existence of a scrum team only with formal scrum team roles with many junior team members would have some challenges. However, it can work well with people with different skills, such as architecture, development, UI, business analysis, domain knowledge and also at different experience levels. Someone with more knowledge and experience in the team does not qualify to entertain specific rights and authority in the team. If someone does, it could prevent nurturing the team, will not yield best results from the team. When tasks are on the board, team members will pick them if they are capable of achieving them. For example, if the task is related to architecture and design, it would be picked up by someone with architecture experience. Even a recently graduated individual can work with other experienced teammates without anyone assumed to be a leader. Then better innovation and productivity would come out.

07:52 am August 4, 2021

I have inherited teams with one, two and three levels of management in the same team (developers). 

In my opinion it's counterproductive :-

  1. introduces bottlenecks,
  2. overloads senior developers with line management Admin 
  3. introduces a culture of competitiveness rather than collaboration
  4. decreases productivity reducing story points & velovity
  5. reduces quality of deliverables due to reduced time available from experienced devs

Do you agree?

Once someone has been a team leader & we need to change to flat structure how does one resolve potential 'demotion impacts' from team lead to developer?

10:24 am June 3, 2022

I have questions. Typical tasks of a "tech lead" or "engineering manager" are ...

hire people, plan and monitor budget, discuss and define salaries, also fire people if they are not performing

In the thread above all this tasks are just not discussed. How do you get people in your teams? Who/How can be decided if someone must leave? How is setting the salary of the team members? And who sets it for the scrum master?

05:41 pm June 3, 2022

TL;DR  The Scrum framework doesn't need managers.  Worldwide organizations do. 

All of those questions are outside the boundaries of the Scrum framework.  Scrum has no processes or people management included.  It provides a framework which is team centric that promotes empirical decision making. It assumes that the team will be empowered and trusted to make the right decisions that are related to the value a product can deliver to stakeholders.  There are 3 roles, not job descriptions or job titles, described that give specific individuals the ability to focus on different aspects needed for a team to be successful. 

If all teams in an organization that uses the Scrum framework are truly empowered to be self-managing and self-organizing, they would be able to do all the things that you referenced as Manager duties.  However, reality is that very seldom happens.  The world's corporations are still based upon the military models of yore that require a rank system.  The definition and maintenance of that system are up to each organization.