Manager Facilitation in Scrum

One of the principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development is that you should “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” Mickey Mantle and Ron Lichty give some advice in their book on how to facilitate when you are the manager of a self-organized Scrum team.

An important part of any manager’s job is to facilitate making the right things happen. This often means simply making sure the right communication is taking place among team members or teams. It also means identifying roadblocks and finding ways to remove them, usually by getting a programmer to start or finish a task.

Manager Facilitation in Scrum

Facilitation is more about getting something done than about how such a thing might be done. Some managers try to dictate decisions and activities. That may be appropriate on occasion. However, a manager is maximizing his time and skills when he facilitates getting the right decision, rather than dictating it. In doing this he builds the skills, experience, and confidence of his staff as well as ensuring buy-in from those who must implement the decisions.

If you find yourself giving specific directions often, you are not leveraging your skills well enough or empowering your staff. As a manager, you must communicate broad direction, and then check in sufficiently to ensure that the right decisions are being made and actualized. Make sure you check in on important decisions made by your staff early enough so that if you choose to step in and make any midcourse corrections, your staff will not have done needless work

Reference: “Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams”, Mickey W. Mantle, Ron Lichty, Addison-Wesley

The manager should act as a “super ScrumMaster” that has however the power to make decisions for the team. As for the ScrumMaster this role can be difficult, moreover if the manager has been promoted from the technical ranks and thinks that he knows how to do things. It will be however always difficult to step back and let the team works its way to a better process. Few organizations will agree to define their manager has “somebody who let their employees make mistakes so that they can learn from them.”

Another important advice given in this book is that the manager should acts as a shield between the development and the administrative requests, whether they are internal or external. He has to understand, evaluate, discuss, negotiate, defer and finally agreeing to or refusing to deal with the issues faced by the Scrum team. This type of request has often a negative impact on the team productivity.

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