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I am QA manager with 5 reports. Our team also has a dev manager who is equally involved in the Scrum team. My concern has been slowly rising with the way she directly asks my reports about how they would feel changing their responsibilities within the team. For example right now, 2 QAs are in charge of issue verifications as well as automation, she mails them asking them directly how they would feel if 1 of them does only issue verification and the other does automation(loops me in the mail). While there is nothing wrong with the idea itself, buit the situation is that I have already told him that we, the QA team are already discussing how we can move things around assignment wise, I would really expect her to let that be on my plate for dealing with until I update her with what our decision as the QA team was. Instead of her directly taking charge and asking this question to concerned QAs.

How can I:

  1. Assertively communicate to him that QA resource allocations is on me and QA team as a whole?
  2. Clearly define what the boundaries are for my role and his - which seems to be blurry for him?
  • Not that it especially matters, but the dev manager changes gender between your description ("her") and the two-part question ("him"). As I said, there's nothing gender specific about the question, but I noticed it, so I mention it. – PoloHoleSet Aug 2 '17 at 21:20
  • @PoloHoleSet Thats right. It happened because we just had an interim dev manager who was a lady. Our dev manager is back now. :) – nysa Aug 2 '17 at 21:21
  • And both of them are/were doing this? Or the regular one is? Or does that not matter because you want to know the best way to deal with something like this anyway, because it could happen again? – PoloHoleSet Aug 2 '17 at 21:23
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    The actual one who came back is that way. The interim one wasn't doing such things. I want to manage it right. I am new to management. – nysa Aug 2 '17 at 21:33
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    Unless they are above your direct chain of command they should not contact your reports on process issues. I would talk to your boss about this as if it goes poorly they need to be ready. – paparazzo Aug 2 '17 at 21:38
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Just tell the dev lead how the desired process is looking. There is no need to make a fuss of it. Just something like

Hey, I appreciate that you want to optimize the work load for everyone, but there is no point in asking the QAs directly. This is a management decision, and if you ask the QAs directly, they may think that there has already been a decision. So please just ask me to avoid any confusion.

Escalate only if this doesn't work.

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It's A Balancing Act

While I certainly understand the desire to manage your employees, you also need to understand that this is the way it should work in an agile team.

Many people do "Scrum" but it's still the managers calling the shots and assigning work. That's not actually how it's supposed to be.

Proper agile is team driven. The team should be making the decisions and should be comfortable discussing and swapping around work allocations as a group.

The scrum team is supposed to be the "boundary." Not your management reports! People who say someone "should not contact your reports" isn't experienced in working in an agile environment.

However, you have an org that's not fully product aligned. When you have a hybrid of both tactical project leadership (a Scrum team) and role-aligned management (dev manager, QA manager) it can get confusing as to what kinds of things are supposed to be handled via either channel.

Some orgs just say "ok, we'll solve this problem by just having everyone report to one manager for that product/service/component." Others come up with guidelines or guard rails for what kinds of things the reporting structure does vs the agile team.

The way to resolve this issue is to openly ask in a spirit of inquiry, of either a group of managers including the dev manager or an agile coach if you have one on hand, "Hey, so I'm used to working in environments where I say who's doing what on my team. But on our agile team, the team is starting to self organize things like that. How do we balance the team making decisions with the management responsibility to develop our reports etc.?" and have the management team come up with a normative response that makes sense to everyone.

But simply insisting that work assignments come from you may be a career limiting move if the org is serious about being agile.

  • The issue is, this self organizing is not happening in that sense within team for these kind of decisions. Dev team resource allocations go through dev manager only and no other route, but QA team allocations must go via self organizing QA teams? There is supposed to be a 2 way street. – nysa Aug 3 '17 at 17:29

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