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Why Management Needs Scrum

The question is always the same: "How do I deliver the best product for the lowest cost and the highest profit?" Scrum has repeatedly answered this question, but often management still has a hard time grasping the business case for Scrum. This hour-long online course gives a data driven explanation why management needs Scrum.

Estimated time for this course: 65 minutes
Audience: Intermediate
Suggested PrerequisitesScrum Framework, Product Owner

Upon completion you will:

  • Know how management can effectively leverage Scrum
  • Learn how to drive revenue using Scrum
  • Understand how management can support a Scrum team
  • Qualify for PMI PDUs. See FAQ for details
Scrum and Management Overview:
Scrum co-creator Jeff Sutherland and the Scrum Inc. Team delve into what management can expect from Scrum, what they can demand from their Teams, and how they can use Scrum as part of their business strategy. Jeff and Alex discuss early and incremental delivery to market, why you should only fund a project at 20% of requested budgets, and how you can deliver projects and products at least twice as fast at a fifth of the cost. This course gives you actionable ideas and ways you can implement them today. It gives managers the metrics they need to drive revenue.
View and Download Class Slides

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Read More on Management and Scrum
Because of the self-organizing, self-managing nature of Scrum, managers often have a tough time understanding where they fit in. Teams can feel insulated from management if not outright hostile toward it. However, it is precisely because of this self-organizing and self-managing nature that managers should spend their valuable time providing Vision and business leadership, rather than supervising work flow and tangling with personal issues.

A core Scrum principle is that the team should be able to determine how to work best, free from micro-management. The Team should also push back on management requests that threaten to interrupt the Sprint, since that gives leadership a better picture of how their actions impact the actual work.

However, that doesn’t mean that business leadership doesn’t have a vital role to play; it does, and it is far more active than just “staying out of the way.” Teams that exclude management miss an opportunity for productivity growth. Scrum Inc.'s research shows this quite clearly: effective collaboration with leadership accelerates Velocity more than twice as rapidly as “Guerilla Scrum” run in isolation from corporate management. Scrum Inc.'s COO Alex Brown addresses this in the video.

More importantly, conflict with or lack of support from management is the biggest challenge to implementing Scrum successfully.

The key difference is that Agile companies look to their executives for leadership not management. This is a real change in mindset, both by Team members and in how managers view themselves. A traditional management team spends much of its time focused on telling teams what to do. An Agile leadership team is a positive force that works with teams in three important ways:

  • They set meaningful and challenging, but achievable, goals to help focus the teams’ effort on activities that create the most business value.
  • They work with teams to identify and eliminate Impediments that are beyond the team’s ability to remove directly.
  • They establish and maintain a system of incentives that rewards teams not individuals. If everyone focuses on teamwork rather than personal benefit, more work gets done faster and better…and that needs to be encouraged.

The transition can be difficult. Often the Scrum terminology is new and unfamiliar, many of the traditional tools and activities no longer apply, and managers wonder how they should be spending their time if they aren’t busy telling people what to do. Not every manager can make the transition, and without a clear sense of their new role even the best-intentioned leaders will subconsciously revert to old habits and may become an Impediment.

So how can Scrum teams help their managers become better Agile leaders?

First, keep leadership “in the loop” both by educating them about Scrum and providing transparency into the team’s Velocity, Impediments and other key Metrics. Company leadership needs visibility into team progress because they have to communicate the company’s status to stakeholders. A clear sense of where the team stands also allows leaders to have productive discussions about how best to support the team.

In exchange for that visibility, Agile leaders must make three commitments to the team: 1) to use their visibility to solve problems rather than assign blame; 2) to work quickly to remove Impediments identified by the team; and 3) to minimize any additional work needed to share all metrics, metrics should be pulled and calculated from existing tools into a Scrum leader's dashboard with no manual team work to convert them back into “traditional” reports.

Also, help your managers understand the role you want them to play rather than expecting them to figure it out on their own. Even a quick candid conversation about how they can help the team will go a long way. You'll find an in-depth case study on how management buy can help raise all ships in an organization attached at the bottom of this page.

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