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The Last Word

What HR Doesn’t Know about Scrum
by Michael James

Scrum [1] is a framework for learning        good for ...
The Last Word

       An example: Andy has a tendency to             Job Titles and Forced                            Gor...
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What Your HR Department Doesnt Know About Scrum


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Scrum teams have discovered traditional HRM practices are bad for business. This article discusses why, and how to change them.

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What Your HR Department Doesnt Know About Scrum

  1. 1. The Last Word What HR Doesn’t Know about Scrum by Michael James Scrum [1] 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. [2] 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 [8], psy- tions behind corporate members without these skills with which I’ve worked. [3] 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. [4] 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. [9] 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 [7] 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.” [10] 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. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 BETTER SOFTWARE 91
  2. 2. The Last Word An example: Andy has a tendency to Job Titles and Forced Gore-Tex jacket, you’ve already experi- mistreat Bob, modeling behavior that Hierarchies enced the benefits of innovative HRM. causes Charlie to mistreat Dan. Aaron Job titles and hierarchies codified into Beyond its relationship to the product habitually slacks off, demoralizing con- HR policy aren’t ideal for Scrum team owner, a Scrum team does not require scientious team members. In a misguided self-organization. Control should flow management-imposed hierarchy or attempt to be “fair,” some HR depart- naturally from individual to individual formal job titles. Consider dismantling ments make it difficult for teams to re- as situations require. Titles suggest rank, explicit hierarchies and reducing job title move Andy and Aaron. hampering this fluid process. Complex distinctions. In another example, a team tolerated work requires collaborative learning. a negative team member for months. The Specialized titles such as “systems ana- HR as Part of the Solution team avoided notifying the hiring man- lyst” and “quality assurance specialist” The practices this article criticizes ager of the problem until after the bad imply limited responsibilities and skills. are so pervasive that it’s difficult to ap- apple had been let go for other reasons. Ladders of job titles connecting types of preciate their harm until one has ex- The hiring manager reported feeling dis- work to career progression discourage perienced life without them. Without appointed the team didn’t feel it was al- ambitious people from mastering the fundamental transformation, ordinary lowed to influence its own membership. skills the team needs most. For example, organizations will get limited benefits Scrum may reveal that your bad ap- our entire industry suffers a shortage of from “doing Scrum.” To be an extraor- ples are not who you thought they were. people with excellent skills in testing. dinary organization, foster collaboration Employees who appear negative under If life without forced hierarchy strikes between HR and Scrum teams, making the restrictions of traditional manage- you as wacky, consider the General HR part of the solution. {end} ment are often suppressed leaders who Electric plant in Durham, NC. There, will excel when set free in the right Scrum 170 employees (reporting to one plant Sticky team. manager) use self-managing teams to Notes Effective Scrum requires long-lived, build the world’s largest jet engines. An For more on the following topic go to cross-functional teams. Enlightened HRM example of a company without distinct policy allows Scrum teams to select their job titles is W. L. Gore & Associates. If n References own members within these constraints. you’ve flown on a Boeing 777 or worn a Display Advertising Index to Advertisers All Other Inquiries Better Software Conference & EXPO 2010 15 Better Software (USPS: 019-578, ISSN: Better Software Magazine Digital Edition 19 1553-1929) is published six times per year BugHost 2 January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, November/ Hewlett-Packard 20 December. Subscription rate is US $40.00 per year. A US $35 shipping charge is incurred Hewlett-Packard Back Cover for all non-US addresses. Payments to Soft- Net Objectives 17 ware Quality Engineering must be made in US funds drawn from a US bank. For more Pragmatic Software 101 information, contact info@bettersoftware. New Ad Index Here PureCM 9 com or call 800.450.7854. Back issues may be purchased for $15 per issue (plus shipping). Questcon 88 Volume discounts available. Entire contents Railsware 104 © 2010 by Software Quality Engineering (330 Corporate Way, Suite 300, Orange Park, FL Rally Software Inside Back Cover 32073), unless otherwise noted on specific Ranorex 27 articles. The opinions expressed within the articles and contents herein do not necessar- Seapine 1 ily express those of the publisher (Software SQE Spring Training 97-100 Quality Engineering). All rights reserved. No material in this publication may be reproduced STAREAST 2010 10 in any form without permission. Reprints of individual articles available. Call for details. 89 Periodicals Postage paid in Orange Park, FL, Podcasts 28 and other mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Better Software, 330 Cor- TargetProcess 5 porate Way, Suite 300, Orange Park, FL 32073, TechExcel Inside Front Cover 92 BETTER SOFTWARE JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010