Thursday, March 01, 2012

It's Not Scrum, It's You

I was recently teaching a Certified Scrum Master class and was told by a student that Scrum didn't work because management still comes and demands additional features or projects and sets or keeps the deadlines and not asking for estimates of how long it will take. 

That is not a Scrum problem. That's a business environment problem. And the solution is often the person lamenting it the most. Perhaps it's like the guy that complains about women because he is married to someone who makes demands and doesn't respect him. It's not women that's the problem, it's his allowing his wife to control him. 

These are the type of complex organizational development problems that are difficult to solve. They take more than a two day class on Scrum fundamentals to solve. They may be very difficult and take a long time, but they are possible. Don't think that they are not. There is a world of difference in the mindsets behind possible and impossible.

If you fall into the trap that they are impossible, you give up trying - looking for possibilities, options, trying out new ideas. You lose hope. Certainly if you are a leader, it is incumbent upon you for the sake of the people who follow you. The book Strengths Based Leadership lists the four needs workers have of their leaders: hope, stability, compassion and trust. If you are an agilist, you are acting as a servant leader, and therefore need to maintain hope. 

I couldn't tell this student how to solve his problem - that's contextual and that's why there are coaches helping organizations with these types of cultural and management changes. Even without a coach helping, there's a lot of places to look for good information on this.

But you won't take that first step if you are stuck thinking it's impossible. 


Charles Bradley said...

Scott, couldn't agree more. I have a similar post on my web site that talks about this -- I call them "Organizational Constraints" and "Mitigating Practices."

Anonymous said...

Aside from the mildly offensive metaphor of the husband and wife : I agree :-)

Also don't you think that having Senior management trained and committed to an Agile transformation is a necessary step before training rank and file CSMs?

Scott Dunn said...

Charles, thanks for the link. I love the phrase "art of the possible," and will borrow your phrasing around "mitigating practices." Thank you for sharing.

And for the anonymous poster - I apologize for even the mild offense. I knew I took a risk in using that metaphor, but it is a real life example that I have seen a few times that jumped to mind. If I had taken more time (and not assumed that nobody would actually _read_ the post ;-) I would have been more considerate.

As far as Sr. Management trained and committed, my experience is that roughly 75% of the time Sr. Management is only giving checkbook committment (and that sometimes with tight purse strings and a short rope of expectations). They generally don't make time for training outside a few instances of 1 or 2 hour overviews, and rarely committed enough to weather organizational tempests "caused" by agile adoptions.

This, to me, is the main case for getting expertise and long term commitment to outside agile coaching at not just the execution and delivery level, but at the product, organization and leadership levels.

Chris Chan said...

Agile doesn't fail, its the agile adoption mode that fails.