Traditionally the Scrum Master has been described as an impediment remover but this can be exhausting, frustrating and not really something the exploits hers/his full potential. Furthermore, depending on a Scrum Master to remove impediments doesn’t create a culture of self organization inside a team, quite the opposite creates dependency from a critical resource.
Interesting case studies about self organized teams came from unexpected sources like the crew of a nuclear submarine. David Marquet [Marquet13] tells the story of how empowering the crew of a submarine that he was expected to command unlocked submariners true potential and take them to unheard levels of excellence.
In his story Marquet came to the realization that he was not qualified to give orders because he didn’t have enough knowledge about his command, for that reason he had to take the leap of faith and give decision power to his crew. This case study documents the potential of self organization and empowered teams in a completely new domain.
Inspiring stories like that might inspire Scrum Masters and leaders so they can start thinking in reinventing themselves as influencers and educators for upper management; like in Marquet’s story upper management involvement is key for changing an organization to Agile.
Organizational Change is Possible
It is possible to change towards flat hierarchy organizations, where also exist empowerment and self organization, without sacrificing profits. As Laloux [Laoux14] documented on his book such organizations exist and they’ve been in business for decades and are still profitable.
In his classical management book Hamel [Hamel07] visionary identified several characteristics that management will need to have in the future if it want to stay relevant, for starters management will have to abandon all dogmas inspired in industrial revolution practices and gravitate towards people oriented paradigms.
Hamel presents postulates like: “without managers, but with many leaders” that might sound revolutionary and anarchic but in reality promotes the culture of cultivating leaders that like to stay close to the gemba, so they can better understand the work and consequently better support continuous improvement efforts.
The Scrum Master role is not just be one of those leaders but also be the champion and upper management coach that explore how to change management.
It is important to mention that the sponsor or detractor of organizational change is always the head of an organization, and that is way we should start trying to influence upper management [Ballé14].
There are several approaches for scaling Scrum, among others: Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), Scrum at Scale and Enterprise Scrum.
My personal preference is for LeSS because of two reasons: one, LeSS was developed by its creators working in real life products with large teams in different countries, and two, LeSS maintains the simplicity of Scrum.
LeSS is Scrum plus a few additions, but at the same time incorporates influences from ally disciplines, lessons experimentally learn and solid engineering practices [Larman08].
The following represent LeSS in a nutshell:
LeSS principles are summarized in the following illustration:
Finally this other illustration describes the Sprint cycle in LeSS:
It’s Important to mention that LeSS doesn’t promotes scaling without control, instead it proposes de-scale Scrum based on the proven fact that a lot of great commercial software has been build by small teams of highly motivated individuals. Having those small teams effectively cooperating in the simplest way possible is the key theme in LeSS.
It’s totally possible to have Scrum working not just for one team but for many, for this to happen a deepen organizational redesign will need to occur and that will require complete buy in from executive level leadership.
Without support from executives change can occur but it will be limited to a team or maybe a few teams, in any case the results will be suboptimal and the risk is that eventually people get disenchanted with Scrum and think that it can not be done at a larger scale.
Scrum hast the potential to be the catalyst that triggers the transformation of the whole organization. The Scrum Master can ignites the transformation but then the executives of the organization need to be the driving force.
Marquet13 Marquet D., 2013. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, Portfolio
Laloux14 Laloux F., 2014. Reinventing Organizations, Nelson Parker
Hamel07 Hamel G., 2007. The Future of Management, Harvard Business Review Press
Ballé14 Ballé M., Ballé F., 2014. Lead With Respect A Novel of Lean Practice, Lean Enterprise Institute
Larman08 Larman C., Vodde B., 2008. Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum, Addison-Wesley Professional