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Scrum: Leading a Self-Organizing Team


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This presentation by certified Scrum trainer Mike Cohn addresses a common challenge in agile development: the new role of leaders and managers in self-organizing teams.

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Scrum: Leading a Self-Organizing Team

  1. 1. © 2009 Mountain Goat Software© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Leading aSelf-OrganizingTeamMike CohnScrum Gathering - SeattleMay 16, 2011© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolvesSituational agile leadership12
  2. 2. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®What is a self-organizing team?Self-organizing does not meanthe team gets to decide what goal they pursueor even necessarily who is on the team(some self-organizing teams are given this responsibility)Self-organizing is about the team determininghow they will respond to their environmentenvironment)© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Complex adaptive systemsA CAS is characterized by:A dynamic network of many agentsacting in parallelacting and reacting to what other agents are doingControl is highly dispersed and decentralizedOverall system behavior is the result of a hugenumber of decisions made constantly by manyagentsJohn Holland in Complexity:The Emerging Science at the Edge ofOrder and Chaos by Mitchell Waldrop34
  3. 3. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Some examplesAnt colony or beehiveFlock of geeseheading southUs right nowA family preparing,eating, and cleaningup after a mealA crowd batchedup to get into aconcert or sportingeventCars and drivers onthe highwayA software team© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Control is not evilSimple rules or incentives are used to guideor direct behavior“Drive this direction and on this side on thehighway.”For bioteams, these are provided by nature“Produce honey”For our teams,Rules and incentives can be added by managersor leaders...or in some cases by team members56
  4. 4. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®~Philip Anderson, The Biology of BusinessSelf-organization does not mean that workersinstead of managers engineer an organizationdesign. It does not mean letting people dowhatever they want to do. It means thatmanagement commits to guiding theevolution of behaviors that emerge from theinteraction of independent agents instead ofspecifying in advance what effective behavioris.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®~Takeuchi & NonakaAlthough project teams are largely on theirown, they are not uncontrolled. Managementestablishes enough checkpoints to preventinstability, ambiguity, and tension from turninginto chaos.At the same time, managementavoids the kind of rigid control that impairscreativity and spontaneity.“The New New Product Development Game,”Harvard Business Review, January 1986.78
  5. 5. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®~Peter DeGrace & Leslie StahlWicked Problems, Righteous SolutionsTo be sure,control is still exercised;but, it is subtleand much of it is indirect.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®What this is notWe’re not talking aboutBeing deceptive or sneakyManipulating peopleNothing I’m going to advocate needs to besecretBut there may be reasons why you don’tbroadcast your reasons910
  6. 6. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolvesSituational agile leadership© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®ContainerA boundary within which self-organization occursCompany, project, team, city, role, nationalityGlenda Eoyang: Conditions for Self-Organizing in Human SystemsDifferencesThere must be differences among the agents acting in oursystemTechnical knowledge, domain knowledge, education,experience, power, genderTransforming ExchangesAgents in the system interact and exchange resourcesInformation, money, energy (vision)1112
  7. 7. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Using the CDE modelby altering the:Containersformal teams, informal teams, clarify (or not) expectationsDifferencesDampen or amplify them within or between containersExchangesInsert new exchanges, new people, new techniques ortools© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®ContainersEnlarge or shrink teamsEnlarge or shrink the responsibilityboundary of teamsChange team membershipCreate new teams or groups1314
  8. 8. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®DifferencesDon’t require consensusCreativity comes from tensiondebate that leads to behavior changeAsk hard questions© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Transforming exchangesEncourage communication between teamsand groupsWho isn’t talking who should?Add or remove people from exchangesChange reporting relationshipsRelocate peopleCompliance with external groupsEncourage learning1516
  9. 9. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®You are the ScrumMaster or coach...The next slides describes some teams with sometrouble spots.Think about how you might help them bychanging their Containers, amplifying or dampeningDifferences, or changing their Exchanges.For each case, identify at least one thing you’d do.Note whether you are tweaking their Container,Differences, or Exchanges. (You might be affecting morethan one.)© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®The team consists of four developers, two testers, adatabase engineer and you.The developers andtesters are not working well together. Developerswork in isolation until two days are left in theiteration.They then throw code “over the wall” tothe testers.12The team is failing to deliver potentially shippablesoftware at the end of each iteration. None of thework is always left to be done in the next iteration.1718
  10. 10. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®The team seems to be consistently undercommittingcommit but it doesn’t seem like much.The productowner hasn’t complained yet but you’re worried shewill soon.34Your organization has 20 different agile teams. Eachteam has its own testers who are starting to go indifferent directions in terms of preferred tools andapproaches.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Jeff, a senior developer, is very domineering. Duringiteration planning the team defers to him on everydecision even though he is a horrible estimator.Younotice glances that other team members exchangewhen he suggest very low estimates on some tasks.56You are responsible for two teams.Team members onone discuss all sides of various issues before making adecision.This has been working well. On the otherteam, discussions drag on endlessly because theypursue absolute consensus in all cases.1920
  11. 11. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolvesSituational agile leadership© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®The self-organizing pathSelf-organization is not something thathappens one timeA team is never done doing itThe team continually re-organizes in a sense-and-respond manner to its environmentdirect--this path2122
  12. 12. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®~Philip AndersonSelf-organization proceeds from the premise thateffective organization is evolved, not designed. It aimsto create an environment in which successfuldivisions of labor and routines not only emerge butalso self-adjust in response to environmentalchanges.This happens because management sets upan environment and encourages rapid evolutionmastered the art of planning and monitoring†Anderson, P. “Seven Layers for Guiding theEvolving Enterprise” in The Biology of Business.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Variation, selection & retentionEvolution is the result of three elements:Variation, selection and retentionConsider a giraffe:Variation: A random mutation that leads to a longer neckSelection: The long neck helps it reach food others can’t; so it is more likely to survive and breedRetention: The mutation is passed to its descendants2324
  13. 13. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®1.2. Manage meaning3. Evolve vicarious selection systems4. Add energy5. Reduce or absorb complexity6. Create vacuumsPhilip Anderson,“Seven Levers for Guiding the Evolving Enterprise.”Gita Surie and James K. Hazy,“Generative Leadership: Nurturing Innovation in Complex Systems.”James Kelly and Scott Nadler ,“Leading From Below” in MIT Sloan Management Review.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®The principle of selection tells us that the traits that helpus survive will be the ones retainedManagers and leaders send messages about which traitsshould surviveWhat message is your organization sending about therelative importance of short vs. long-term performance?What messages are sent if the organization:Provides trainingSupports working at a sustainable paceAllows employees time to explore wild ideasDoesn’t exchange meeting a deadline for unmaintainable code2526
  14. 14. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®2) Manage meaningIndividuals in a CAS respond to the messages they receive;e.g.,bees responding to a “danger” messageants responding to a “food found over here” messageLeaders can push messages into the systeme.g., putting the the team in touch with customersOr keep messages outMeaning often comes from the stories, myths and rituals thatare repeated“Our GM counts the cars in the lot every day at 5 PM”© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Think of at least one story that is part ofyour corporate folkloreWhat meaning does that story have aboutcompany principles, values, attitudes, orbehaviors?Managing meaning2728
  15. 15. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®3) Evolve vicarious selection systemsVariation—Selection—RetentionSelection was determining which variations will be retainedCan take a long timeSo we often use vicarious selection systemsThis is an animal that can smell that a food is poisonous,rather than eating itUsing only the marketplace as our selection mechanismtakes too longOrganizations also evolve vicarious selection systemsRetrospectives, Google’s 20% policy, compensation© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®4) Add energyUnless energy is pumped into the system, entropy will setinMake sure the group has a “clear, elevating goal”† or an“igniting purpose”‡MotivationProject chartering:Vision box, press release, magazine review,elevator statementOpportunityTo learn, a bigger role, to go onto even better projects, and soonInformationCustomer visits, training, conferences, brown-bags†Larson and LaFasto: Teamwork‡Lynda Gratton: Hot Spots2930
  16. 16. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®To:All Microsoft EmployeesSubject: Internet Tidal WaveThe Internet is a tidal wave. It changes therules. It is an incredible opportunity aswell as an incredible challenge. I amlooking forward to your input on how wecan improve our strategy to continue ourtrack record of incredible success.May 25, 1995Bill G.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®5) Reduce or absorb complexityReduce complexityStandardize work throughroutines, standards, policies, and proceduresAbsorb complexityCreate relationships among people /departments to provide better access toinformation3132
  17. 17. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®6) Create vacuumsPoint out issues but don’t point out answersor expected solutionsLet others step into this leadership vacuum“What keeps me up at night is this, that, andsuch-and-such.”“Leading From Below” by James Kelly and Scott Nadler,MIT Sloan Management Review.© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolvesSituational agile leadership3334
  18. 18. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Team readinessThe coach or ScrumMaster is responsiblefor knowing the readiness of the teamThink about each team in terms ofWillingness to changeAbilityDifferent teams need different styles ofleadership© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Assessing readiness levelAbility WillingnessReadinessLevelUnable Unwilling or insecure R1Unable R2Able Unwilling or insecure R3Able R43536
  19. 19. © 2009 Mountain Goat Software© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Different leadership for different teamsParticipating(R3)Selling(R2)Delegating(R4)Telling(R1)Task BehaviorRelationshipBehavior(low) (high)R1Team is unable andunwilling or insecureR2Team is unable butR3Team is able andunwilling or insecureR4Team is able and willing© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Readiness level 1 teamsUnable & unwilling or insecureNeed a telling leadership styleFocus more on telling them what to do than onestablishing relationshipsCannot become immediately agileThis isn’t command-and-controlIt’s getting a low morale team ready to change3738
  20. 20. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®This team cannot hit a “home run project”Provide day-to-day task guidanceUse short (1–2 week) iterations so they (and you)can see how they’re doingPoint out the improvementsBuild up foundational agile skills such as unit testingGet a nightly build running that emails nightly testresults© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Readiness level 2 teamsNeed a selling leadership styleNeed to exhibit high task direction and highlysupportive relationship behaviorMain goal is increasing team’s skillsCan become agileGood coach / ScrumMaster shifts decision-makingstyleStarts to rely on the team to make its owndecisions3940
  21. 21. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Improving skills of R2 teamsHave the team start making more of theirown decisionsBe a safety net if the decision is criticalGood time to introduce retrospectivesStress that it’s OK to focus on quality ofcode over rapid typingPair programmingTest-driven development© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Readiness level 3 teamsAble but unwilling or insecureNeed a participating leadership styleGive less task directionHave team make more of their own decisionsTeam will make some mistakesSo what?Team is probably truly in the agile space4142
  22. 22. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Helping the R3 teamTeam is manically focused on the treesSo ScrumMaster / coach keeps an eye on theforestWatching the forestLookahead planningWhat will the team need in 2 weeks? A month?Make sure sprints continue to build toward therelease planIdentify high-value workPut a project prioritization process in place© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Readiness level 4 teamsNeed a delegating leadership styleLow amount of task directionLow reliance on relationships to manage theteamTeam is undoubtedly agileHighly skilledSelf organizing4344
  23. 23. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Unleashing the R4 teamNo longer helping team make decisionsNow helping them learn how to defer decisionsScrumMaster focuses on maximizing throughputRather than meeting deadlinesTraditional Project Manager thinks of a project likea 10k raceScrumMaster thinks of it as a 1-hour racestop© Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Date What WhereJul 11–12Jul 13–14Santa ClaraAug 15–16Aug 17–18La JollaAug 22Aug 23–24Aug 25Effective User StoriesAgile Estimating & PlanningDallasOct 10–11Oct 12–13 Succeeding with AgileSanta ClaraMore info atwww.mountaingoatsoftware.comMy upcoming classesClasses also inLondon, Oslo, &Copenhagen4546
  24. 24. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®®Mike Cohnmike@mountaingoatsoftware.comwww.mountaingoatsoftware.comtwitter: mikewcohn(888) 61−AGILE47