• Javier Perez Fernandez

A story about scrum implementation: the incoherent leader

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

The leader of an organization wanted to communicate as soon as possible to his teams that they were going to start working using scrum and that he expected the teams to self-organize and improve their processes. He contacted me to help them in the process of setting up agile teams.

When we explored the situation together, he explained to me that the organization had a major motivation problem and the turnover rate was very high. Until then, the organization had a classic structure in which each team had a leader. He explained to me that he was an agile enthusiast, he thought that if his teams were self-organized and took responsibility for process improvement, he would not only solve the motivation problems but also improve the value delivered by his teams.

However, he didn't have much room for error. There were customer commitments that couldn't go wrong. He thought that including team leaders within each scrum team would ensure the two objectives: that employees would be more motivated and that teams would be well organized to achieve their goals.

At that point I had to ask him about it: How does putting someone to organize the teams fit with the self-organization principle of the agile manifesto?

After reflecting on it he came to the following conclusion: If you put a person to organize a team, then you have an organized team, not a self-organized one.

This distinction helped the leader realize the inconsistency he would have incurred if he had asked teams to self-organize but his actions had prevented self-organization. It also helped him reflect on the consequences for his teams' motivation if he gave a message but behaved differently.

We were therefore able to explore other alternatives to help solve the motivation problem through agile methodologies while maintaining consistency.

How consistent are your actions with what you say? Have you ever observed any inconsistency between a leader's actions and what he or she advocates? How did it affect the system?