Why you should teach Scrum to your boss and how

Why you should teach Scrum to your boss and how

One of the biggest challenges when introducing Scrum is not really related to Scrum as such, but more to the consequences that Scrum creates in the organization by exposing the real problems.

For instance senior people (managers or senior technical experts), afraid of losing their position, might get alarmed by the serious challenge to their status and do their best to slow down the change. If you want to have any probability of success with Scrum, you’d better do something to address the natural resistance of middle management to move away from a command and control leadership style.

Start with your boss.

In two of his inspiring articles, Steve Denning, author of the best-selling book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management – Re-inventing the Workplace for the 21st Century, says that Agile is The Best-Kept Management Secret on the Planet and that Scrum is a Major Management Discovery.

Bingo! If you want your boss to support your company’s Agile transformation and introduction of Scrum, you just have to teach her… Agile and Scrum.

How can you do that?

1. Training and self-education

Dedicate a consistent amount of time in education, in individual coaching as well as in team coaching with the Leadership team.

2. Gemba

Respect is one of five Scrum core values: it means putting people into the conditions to do a great job and trust they will do their best to accomplish their goal. It’s about staying close to the teams, where “real” things happen and you can identify ways to improve the system.

Gemba is the Japanese word which means “the real place”. So if you want to help your boss to learn Scrum, encourage her to walk where work happens and Scrum actually comes to life.
Encourage your team to invite your boss to the Sprint Review: it might be a real culture hack, because she might think that Scrum is only a development team’s stuff.
Pass by your boss’ desk and invite her to join for the Daily Scrum. She might claim that she does not want to disturb the team: challenge her to stop asking weekly reports and join the Daily standup instead.

3. Deliberate Practice

Scrum is founded on an empirical process control: the biggest amount of knowledge is created by experience and feedback.
Coach the Leadership Team to use Scrum for their work, so that they can learn Scrum by actually practicing it. Have your boss feel the pain as well as the excitement of working in short iterations.

Additional suggestion

Always keep an empiricist approach: you will get her more open to new things, because she would feel less in danger.
Address concrete and painful problems and show how Scrum can help her with them.Avoid falling into the trap of: “this is Scrum, this is not Scrum”, or “this is right, this is wrong”. Escape discussions based on personal opinions, but try to build a “we-are-together-against-the-problem” atmosphere. At least you will save a lot of talks and useless discussions.

Giuseppe De Simone

Giuseppe De Simone is a Lean and Agile coach (now lent to being a manager) with 15 years’ experience in SW development, half spent also in driving/supporting complex organizational changes.
He is one of 60+ Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Coaches in the world.
Having served several teams and organizations, he has first-hand experience about how Agile practices and Scrum in particular can work with success.
Giuseppe has been dedicating a big portion of his 8000+ hours experience as Lean and Agile coach to develop professional 21st century managers, by supporting Leadership Teams and managers in different sites within Ericsson. As a trainer, he organized and taught several classes about Agile and Scrum all over Europe and in 2011 he designed his own Lean and Agile Leadership program, he has been teaching and continuously improving since then.
You can read about his thoughts on his blog (R)Evolutionary Agility or on his Linkedin profile.