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My team has been trying to transition to Scrum for some time now, but it seems like the preexisting culture is preventing the team from switching to a new mindset or even causing it to move in the opposite direction.

For reference, the team has two line managers, a project manager, a product owner, and five developers.

  • Developers never have direct contact with the product owner. Although it could be argued the line managers fill that role since they define the work for the team, that is denied by PM.
  • The project manager insists she is the 'Scrum leader'.
  • PM also insists line managers are part of the Dev Team since all Agile teams have a "Team Lead" role, and direct supervision of the work by LMs is fine since they are the technical leads after all, which is a valid Scrum role.
  • PM also insists daily standups serve as a reporting tool.
  • Daily stand-ups are run by LMs who use it to track daily progress, supervise each individual developer, comment on their approach, and assign new tasks.
  • 1-3 days per user story is taken as a hard limit per user story by LMs instead of a breakdown guideline. If a developer exceeds 2 days on a user story he receives an email about how a developer is responsible for delivering on a deadline.
  • LMs insist collective ownership means there should be an individual per feature responsible for its development.

Is there anything I can do in this situation to help the team as a developer transition to a Scrum mindset and avoid breaking the morale of the team due daily monitoring and supervision resulting from this that takes as much as 10-15% of the work week?

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    @bharal PM and Scrum Master are entirely separate roles with different needs. Think Software Engineer vs System Admin. Scrum also does not have a team lead role, period. A dev team is not self organizing as Scrum calls for if a tech lead is calling the shots on the very basics of implementation. So the problem is team is not implementing Scrum while wasting time implementing it. – Victor S Oct 7 '18 at 13:41
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    @bharal Basically everything he has listed is contrary to Scrum. That might in itself not be a problem, Scrum is not the silver bullet, some companies might be better of with traditional command & control. But if they are "trying" to do Scrum, then they are way off course. – nvoigt Oct 7 '18 at 13:56
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    The purpose of scrum isn't to inform management of anything - the purpose of scrum is to have the actual team itself do these things. – Erik Oct 7 '18 at 18:45
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    @bharal No. The scrum master is not the manager of the team. If you want to operate the way you are describing, that's fine. It's just not Scrum. – DaveG Oct 8 '18 at 13:45
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    @bharal I used to work at a company where the execs heavily bought into scrum. We had a massive class taught by Ken Schwaber, we spend endless hours debating the roles. I'm not saying Scrum is the One True Way, I'm just saying that I know pretty well how it's supposed to operate. The Scrum Master doesn't just do 10 minutes of work a day. They also try to clear away the obstacles, make sure the that Product Manager is actually doing his part, make sure managers aren't hassling the team mid-sprint, etc. Probably doing other work as well, but not "managing" the team. – DaveG Oct 8 '18 at 13:51
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Let's see what's wrong here:

  1. The Project Manager is absolutely not supposed to be the scrum leader. Absolutely not. This person doesn't have the slightest clue what "scrum" means.

  2. Line managers are absolutely not supposed to be team leaders and absolutely not supposed to be part of the development team.

  3. Daily standup is run be the scrum leader. Not by the line manager. Not by the project manager. Daily standup is NOT for reporting.

  4. The project manager doesn't understand the meaning of the word "deadline".

Adding your other comments, this seems to be an absolutely toxic and soul destroying environment. Are you happy working there? Do you like going to work, or are you dreading it?

Don't even bother trying to help. Make sure your CV is good, and look for a better job in a better environment.

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    Daily standup is run by the team, for the team. The scrum master doesn't even need to be there. – Erik Oct 7 '18 at 18:47
  • It turned out you were absolutely, a hundred percent right about the environment after I went ahead and raised those concerns anyway. At least dodged the constructive dismissal that came after it – Victor S Nov 22 '18 at 7:18
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    A toxic and soul-destroying environment...that is implementing Scrum. Sounds like all the places I've worked that have used Scrum. Must be just a crazy coincidence that all such places love Scrum. – user1602 Nov 27 '18 at 7:47
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My team has been trying to transition to Scrum for some time now,

I would say it hasn't. Scrum terms have been flung around and misused, but that's it. There is no transition visible.

A transition would need Scrum Masters leading it. A plan how to transition (maybe as it's own Scrum project). And support from upper management. I can see neither in your description.

In my experience there is nothing you can do really. The people in power will not just step off and give it up. The existence of 4(!) people titled "manager" or "owner" and only five developers in comparison means there is too much to lose for them. Implementing Scrum would mean at least two of them will lose their jobs and one might be trained to another position that is totally unlike their previous job description. They will not play any constructive role in their own obsolescence.

If upper management does not enforce this transition, and I mean enforce, not "wish for", this will not happen. They will cling to their jobs. It's not about culture, it's about the fact that with Scrum, they see that what they offer is not needed. They are running out of time in that business and any delay, any problem in the process of transitioning will grant them another fat paycheck.

Sorry to be so negative. The best options you have, apart from looking for a job that actually offers Scrum, is to keep your head down and hope upper management does it's job to enforce this transition. A first glimpse of this would be mandatory training, outside coaches on premise and filling the role of Scrum Master.

Until then, good luck and keep your CV updated.

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    implemented properly some people are not going to be necessary, they're jostling for position. This will take it's own course. Devs are best keeping their heads down and watching the show. – Kilisi Oct 7 '18 at 13:44
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    It's not too bad. I once saw a company with 18 managers and 3 developers. – gnasher729 Oct 7 '18 at 15:58
  • @gnasher729 Actually, it's still bad. Your situation is just much, much worse in comparison... One manager should be there for multiple SCRUM teams. The OP have 5 managers for a single incomplete SCRUM team right now. – Nelson Oct 11 '18 at 0:54
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    @gnasher729 what the heck did all those managers do? How did they even make themselves look busy? Or were they all in day-long meetings with each other every day? – DaveG Nov 26 '18 at 19:04
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Is there anything I can do in this situation to help the team?

Your company appears to be going through a common phase where everyone has their own interpretation of what Scrum should be, and is acting on their own vision. That's bound to fail.

Every company implements Scrum in their own unique way. Though there may be commonalities across companies, in my experience it's most important for everyone to be on the same page.

If you are in a position to provide or suggest training, that could be the key to success.

Get the leaders together, hash out how Scrum is expected to work in your company, then train everyone on your company's Scrum process.

You need to be open to the fact that your particular ideas for Scrum may not be the ones that will be designated for your company. You and everyone else needs to get on the same page.

  • The company is providing training which also goes along the lines of what I have been suggesting. To me it seems like a team management issue – Victor S Oct 7 '18 at 12:36
  • @VictorS that implies that a programme of change is only failing because managers are either ignorant or incompetent. Is it not more likely that different people in the business have different problems, and therefore different visions of what Scrum is supposed to achieve? I think that’s what Joe’s getting at. Instead of framing the issue as “how do I get this team to Scrum (TM)”, it might be more helpful to tease out the problems the business has and find common ground on a solution, inspired by Scrum but ultimately directed by these teams themselves. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 7 '18 at 17:43
  • @JimmyBreck-McKye It seems to me the answer from bharal fits their perspective. Not sure if there can be any common ground on that haha – Victor S Oct 9 '18 at 19:57
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    It might be helpful if the OP's company simply abandons the term "Scrum". You don't have to be a Scrum guru to see that everything the OP lists is diametrically opposed to Scrum. If the company just called it "Management Procedures" the OP still might not like it, but the whole "this is / isn't Scrum" argument would vaporize, letting everyone focus on the issues. – DaveG Nov 26 '18 at 20:49
  • @JoeStrazzere Exactly, arguing about the definition of Scrum is a time-waster. But what happens when a new dev joins the team? Or management updates procedures? Or devs have a beer together? Simply saying "Hey, our new process is Agile, here's the rules" eliminates the problem completely. Telling the team "don't talk about that" will keep the talk hidden, but it won't disappear. Unless management has some serious control issues (sounds like they do) removing the word "Scrum" should be a no-brainer. – DaveG Nov 27 '18 at 0:11
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Your company hasn't transitioned to Scrum, it has transitioned to Scrum vocabulary. It's an extremely common situation.

While the top answer suggests leaving, which is indeed the more convenient option, there are 2 paths you can take if you want to stay and help the transition:

  1. Forget about Scrum as a whole. Look into Agile in general, and try to introduce some of the concepts to your team. Examples are User Stories (Who is the user of that feature and what do they want to do with it?), Pair Programming, Automated Builds, Automated Testing, a Definition of Done, and so much more.

  2. Look for someone who is supportive of a Scrum transition and has some clout in the company. Convince them to hire professional Scrum Trainers for at least a week or two, to get the whole thing started. Your company's transition is not an exception, it's the norm; meaning Scrum Trainers have plenty of experience dealing with such situations.

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The problem is you have missed the point of these frameworks.

The purpose of a framework is to provide value. A well executed framework is one that provides more value than whatever was before and is not one where the "rules" are precisely followed. The rules don't matter, the value does.


Back to agile and scrum - they gained acceptance because they provide value when it comes to new data for management to act upon.

Data has to be measurable. If more things are measurable, that is good value. If data is more accurately measured, that is also good.

The key objective of scrum is to provide management with sufficient data to aid in planning resources, alerting stakeholders of problems early and ensuring that deliverables match expectations. Saying "scrum says there is no team lead" misses the point - it's a methodology for visibility, not somehow pretending that developers don't need a team lead.


That's the problem with SCRUM's definition of no team lead etc. There is no real argument as to why this should be preferred over having a leader. Is there more data? More visbility? Is there anything that can be measured more that wouldn't be if there was a leader?


Once you understand that providing data to management is the key item, everything becomes easier. Don't fight for "correctly implementing a framework". Instead, every day, ask yourself:

  • how can I create visible data for management to act on. Can I make a widget board that shows progress>
  • how can I create more accurate visible data. Can I make a site that lists core features and the test coverage of them?

That is how you provide real value to management, and create real opportunities for growth.

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    The promised value of Scrum mostly comes from the developers having the opportunity to self-optimize and distribute their workload, and allowing the sum to provide value better than its parts combined. Yes, it also allows more visibility simply because everyone is involved in everything. Lack of command-and-control can hinder but I don't see how data delivery --which is incremental p much by definition-- is basically not the opposite of that. If anything, 5 people allowed (plus TLs consulting them) to think about what management wants to see in their data will for sure increase value – Victor S Oct 7 '18 at 19:22
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    So stand-ups, user story breakdowns etc. are not what provides visibility, there are other tools for that. I'd suggest this article on what visibility means in Scrum charlenedickson.wordpress.com/… – Victor S Oct 7 '18 at 19:40
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    can you cite a source on this? I can not find any support for this except for cautions against. – Victor S Oct 8 '18 at 12:25
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    @Victor in short, scrum is a terrible idea. don't push it, it won't work,not yet anyway. – bharal Oct 8 '18 at 13:08
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    Scrum is not what they tried nor is it a flat hierarchy by any means. It is basically equivalent of the squad tactics if line infantry is command-and-control. Squads are given objectives they finish by any means they know within the scope. Line infantry marches in formation when told and fire when told. I am assuming you are in a traditional management position and have like 15+ years experience by now which might make it difficult to accept. It is proven to increase productivity. I strongly recommend doing more research with an open mind. – Victor S Oct 9 '18 at 20:29

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