Scrum and Agile Leadership

Scrum und Agile Leadership

Leading in an agile environment is more demanding than it is in the old hierarchic system: new rituals with teams or the whole department have to found and trained.

How does Scrum work?

Scrum is an analogy from Rugby and stands for a formation that clings together. Today, Scrum is a standard for agile software development. Scrum was at first applied for project teams. In the past years, the methodology was successfully transferred to the management of bigger organisational units. SCRUM is therefore a management method. In Scrum, the product respectively customer's order is divided in four-week sprints. In the beginning there is no detailed specific requirements list, only the most important functions are fixed. The team works from sprint to sprint, decisions are made together, customers' feedback is implied right away, reflections and reviews take place continually. So, Scrum can be referred to as frame method and as a core, it has the same principles like e.g. the Toyota production system:
Small autonomous teams, the Deming-Cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), One Piece Flow (it is only worked on one part at a time), Waste is identified (in Scrum “Impediments“), the team controls the work (Pull Principle). Scrum can be the ideal frame for the Design Thinking (LINK) Process.
The Scrum Team mostly consists of 7 persons (Scrum Master, Product Owner and five members of the development team who complete and can replace). It organises itself completely on tis own. The Scrum Master is NO PART of the development team. He organises the frame conditions. The Product Owner regulates the team from a specialist point of view (e.g. sequence of functions), he is the controller, strategist and visionary. Originally, SCRUM was reduced to these three roles. Ideally, the environment of the team with the further three roles of Manager, Customer and User are included. Thus, the Manager creates the overall frame (e.g. guidelines, acknowledgement system) in which the Scrum Master and the team move, often he solves problems identified by the Scum Master. Meetings take place on the strategic and the operational level.
Strategic: e.g. prioritising product backlogs, introducing functionality, Scrum Masters Weekly.
Operational: e.g. Sprint Planning Meeting 1 & 2, Daily Scrum, Scum of Scrums, Sprint Review,Sprint Retrospective Meeting

What does this transfer finally mean for an organisation?
Scrum breaks with traditional project management. The simple course and the few rules quickly let show dysfunctional structures. It is the Scrum Master's task to create the necessary frame conditions, he acts like a Change Agent when the environment of the Scrum Team is confronted with innovative suggestions.
The customers' benefit is always in the focus. If this principle is transferred to the entire organisation, this means:

  • 'glancing' outside instead of on internal process optimisation
  • constant contact with customers and suppliers
  • continually improving the own solution competency
  • increasing innovation ability
  • products are solutions for the customer's problems
  • the work is creative, stimulating, social, humane
  • the organisation is prepared for unexpected events
  • decisions can be more effective and quicker than by the concurrence
  • forces that come from the outside are more important than those that come from the inside

What does leadership mean?

Agile organisation forms assume that employees want to make decisions and are motivated to get involved. Agile companies do without classical structures of hierarchy and matrix structures. All EMPLOYEES are involved in teams, there are no team leaders, often the teams manage themselves, earlier support processes can be dropped.
Agile approaches like Scrum require that the employees make decisions autonomously and that they have all the information. In organisations, often this decision-making competence as well as explicit and non-explicit respective experience-based knowledge are held by the high and middle management. So, agile management methods undermine this centre of power for example by means of modern moderation methods such as Design Thinking (Link), make it accessible to everyone.
Therefore, agile forms of enterprise face the challenge to put their management in the right place.

So, what remains especially for the middle management?
Especially the middle management is predestined to anticipate the future, think forward , support employees.
Leadership in the agile environment is more demanding then in the hierarchical system:
new rituals with teams or entire departments have to be found and trained. Executives have to learn to stand MISTAKES and total transparency. The executives' core business is therefore the further development of the organisation. Therefore, experience and maturity is needed.
Agile leadership principles according to Foergen & Kaczmarek:

  • developing itself> e.g. 360-degree Feedback, considerate and friendly advise, being a role-model
  • coaching and developing others> creating frame conditions for motivation, empowering teams to develop competence
  • SUPPORT constant improvement> creating structures, improving constantly
  • create a common orientation> giving a strong vision, giving a direction, setting frame conditions

Wirtschaft und Management, Band 19, Oktober 2013 (Boris Gloger), Organisation in einer Digitalen Zeit, Wibas 2015, Foergen & Kaczmarek

 Scrum & Agile Leadership (PDF)