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An Argument for a People Hierarchy

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  • activescott
    One of the executives of my company takes issue with the idea of not having a hierarchy of people on a team anointed by company management. I am lucky enough
    Message 1 of 71 , Feb 22, 2007
      One of the executives of my company takes issue with the idea of not having a hierarchy of people on a team anointed by company management. I am lucky enough to have the authority to make the call in this case, but I'm bothered that this executive, which I respect very much, is adamantly opposed to this idea. I'd appreciate any of your thoughts on if I'm going about this the right way or not...

      We've always had a "team lead" or "project manager" (or whatever the catch title was of the day) on our teams and after recently attending a CSM training I've made the call to remove such a hierarchy on one of our teams and give full scrum a go (we've been following many scrum and agile practices for some time now with great success). I removed myself from the "project manager" role and got the team to choose their own ScrumMaster with the stipulation that it is anyone but myself. I'm "just" a team member now.

      Below is an excerpt from a recent email thread we exchanged. It began with me sending him the article Should a ScrumMaster Give Performance Appraisals? To which he replied the following;

      As you know, I totally support continuous communication with an employee to ensure that they are achieving what is needed.  So, in principle, I agree with that portion of the article.
       
      I think there are a few things that are ignored, either out of convenience in order to promote scrumism, or this person has not had sufficient experience to know better.  To indicate that hierarchy is negative is wrong.  To ignore the fact that people who have great experience need to be recognized and compensated accordingly would diminish anyone's desire to achieve.  How could everyone in an organization be at the same level when there are tremendous differences in experience and knowledge?
       
      How does her logic work to say that the ScrumMaster does not hold a hierarchical position?  Seems to me that by calling one a ScrumMaster, the others must be ScrumSlaves.

      My response:

      A ScrumMaster is trained (and certified) as a master of the scrum process and framework, not a master of people. The reason they chose the quirky term ScrumMaster instead of Project Manager is that generally a Project Manager has authority over the people of the team. The ScrumMaster has little authority over the individual team members.

      The goal of the scrum framework is to empower the individual team members equally to do everything within the boundaries of the project to accomplish the collective commitment of the team. With this in mind, an authoritarian hierarchy (i.e. master) of people within the team is discouraged. It is recognized that there is usually a hierarchy within the larger organization, just not the team itself.

      As a practical example, a functional manager is discouraged from acting as a ScrumMaster on a team among his subordinates. Scrum does not preach that a functional manager is negative, just that it is not as productive to have an authoritarian member controlling the team's day-to-day work.


      Finally, he responds with the below:

      Please assure me that this is not the same logic by which you program.  What does it matter the subject one is trained in, experienced in, or other wise has become knowledgeable in.  When one has achieved, others so recognize the achievement and therefore they understand that they are entitled to look to that person for direction.  For anyone to not recognize this basic fact is naive.

      My feeling is that we'll allow the team to acheive and the team members to recognize the acheivement of any "star performers" on their own, but we (as managment) will not anoint leaders for them. Hopefully, this will produce an acheivement that will be recognized by the executive I'm debating the issue with. I'd appreciate a head check to see if I'm going about this the right way or you have other suggestions.

    • Matthews, Michele
      Thanks all for the lively discussion and the great ideas to help people see the differences between the roles and why they might fall into each one. My problem
      Message 71 of 71 , Mar 19, 2007
        Thanks all for the lively discussion and the great ideas to help people see the differences between the roles and why they might fall into each one.
         
        My problem was actually a little bit different than that -- the person I was asking about was highly angered and offended by being referred to as a farm animal.
         
        Aside from the steps I took immediately
            - providing the background to this person and assuring him that noone was intending to offend
            - taking down the pig and chicken cartoons
            - asking the most prevalent users of the analogies to please be sensitive to these feelings from a team member
         
        I was wondering if anyone else has seen this reaction and had any success with resolving the situation.  Most team members like the analogy and would like to continue to use it.
         
        Thanks again for all the great discussion.
        Michele Matthews
         
        
        
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