Transcript of "What Your HR Department Doesnt Know About Scrum"
The Last Word
What HR Doesn’t Know about Scrum
by Michael James
Scrum  is a framework for learning good for the boss or out- bining analysis, design, imple-
about products and the processes we use scoring teammates in 360 HR profession- mentation, and test automa-
to build them.  Courageously applied, -degree peer review con- tion activities into a seamless
Scrum’s relentless “inspect-and-adapt” tests. HR professionals als often are flow, such as test-driven devel-
cycle leads to change beyond our soft- often are unaware the opment. A collaborative team
ware development practices. assumptions behind cor- only initially requires one or
Scrum has exposed the effects of out- porate behaviorism have
unaware the assump- two people with these skills. If
dated human resources management been debunked by behav- Scrum is done properly, team
(HRM) practices at several organizations ioral economists , psy- tions behind corporate members without these skills
with which I’ve worked.  This article chologists, and other re- will be mentored in them.
advocates modernizing these practices searchers such as George behaviorism have been
and their underlying beliefs. Loewenstein, Alfie Kohn, Hiring
W. Edwards Deming, and debunked by behavioral HR departments and hiring
Employees Treated as Rats Dan Ariely. The long-term managers usually overem-
in a Box effects of performance economists, psycholo- phasize credentials and skills,
Typical HRM practices are rooted appraisals and incentives giving insufficient weight to
in popular misunderstandings of behav- undermine their intended gists, and other the chemistry of the team.
ioral psychology. Attempts to motivate aims: alignment, feedback, Rather than conducting a con-
humans extrinsically are based on B.F. motivation, fair compen- ventional job interview, let the
Skinner’s ability to elicit simple, condi- sation, retention, morale,
researchers … candidate solve complex prob-
tioned responses from animals. For com- etc. HR should collabo- lems with the team for at least
plex work, this punishment and reward rate with Scrum teams to find other ways a day. Then, let the team make the hiring
game harms performance, even from to achieve these aims. decision.
rats.  When tasked with assembling teams
Organizations also have yet to fully Filling Scrum Roles from scratch, I’ve ignored candidates’
discard the mindset of Frederick Taylor, Each Scrum team is a cross-functional résumés and collaborated with the candi-
a proponent of management practices group of about seven people (aka the dates on simple programming assignments
that fail to harness intrinsic motivation Scrum development team), plus a product to get a feel for their personalities, skills,
and team ingenuity. Studies of human owner, and a ScrumMaster.  The tips and habits. I once had to decide whether
motivation reveal typical practices such below may help HR provide advice on to include a candidate whose technical
as micromanagement [5,6] and perfor- who is suitable for these roles initially. ability in this exercise was relatively low.
mance appraisals  are counterproduc- A common pitfall is to assume a The candidate was enjoyable to work
tive in the long run. manager is the automatic choice for the with and eager to learn, so I included her
To make Scrum work, a business gives ScrumMaster role. The effective Scrum- on the team. As the project progressed,
up these illusions of control in order to Master allows leadership to emerge team members reported she was the so-
gain greater influence. naturally on the Scrum team and wields cial glue that helped the team succeed.
Scrum development team members no authority over it. Even when the tra-
collaborate intensively to build products ditional habits of managers can be over- Reassignment and Firing
according to goals they repeatedly ne- come, their former subordinates typically Experiments conducted by Will Felps
gotiate with the product owner, who is continue to regard them as managers, demonstrate that one team member can
responsible for making the team’s busi- rather than stepping up to team self-man- destroy the effectiveness of an entire
ness decisions. Results are demonstrated agement. Next, everyone reverts to prior team by “withholding effort, expressing
at the end of every fixed-length sprint habits. Managers may be better suited negative affect, or violating important
(e.g., every two weeks). During sprint for the product owner role. As product interpersonal norms.”  In my expe-
execution, team members develop in- owners, they will get better results each rience, only about three percent of the
trinsic interest in shared goals and learn sprint when someone else (i.e., a true workforce comprises slackers, downers,
to manage each other to achieve them. ScrumMaster) helps interrupt the prior and jerks. Unfortunately, the bad apple’s
Team self-organization around busi- habits. disproportionate impact is exacerbated
ness-driven goals will fall short when A Scrum development team requires a when teams cannot choose their own
individuals also have goals of looking broad range of skills and habits in com- members.
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