I was talking today with Martin Drapeau at PlanBox.com, brainstorming “what do managers need”?
So, I have let the cat out of the bag: I am not one of those agile guys who thinks all managers are evil. (Yes, I have in my career seen more bad managers than I want to admit…not bad people, but “not-so-good” managers. Yes, it is a problem.) In fact, I think some managers are quite good.
So…one thing we talked about is how important it is to manage the impediments.
I say: Typically our first big impediment is a lack of focus on removing impediments. I talked about this in a recent post.
What’s next? Well, I like to ask ScrumMasters…”where is your public list of impediments?” And all too often I get: “Ummm…….(long pause)” Which is usually not a good sign.
Then I like to ask somewhat experienced Scrum people in my classes: “OK, how do you prioritize impediments?” Often I get “Ummm….(pause)”. [I don't give them time for a long pause.] You can guess by now: this is not a good sign.
The simple answer for impediments is: We prioritize the ones, which if improved or removed, will increase the velocity of the team the most. The more complex answer is: “The ones that give the best cost-benefit ratio.” And the benefit is the improved velocity (mainly) and the cost is (mainly) the cost to reduce or remove the impediment. (Always apply the most uncommon thing: common sense.)
Do managers have a role? Yes, most assuredly, in removing impediments.
And, typically, there is a management team (or should be) whose main (only) job is removing impediments. I will call it the IRT (Impediment Removal Team), but other writers give it a different name. And that IRT team should see a list of all the impediments from all the teams, and try to prioritize them across the whole group. And then organize the removal of the biggest impediments for the group. This often that the IRT picks some appropriate ones to work on (tops ones where they can be effective).
(And all the members of the ‘real’ teams should see all this too.)
Could a tool help here? Yes, after about two or three teams, we think a tool could help.
So, for management reporting, would it be good to relate the impediments removed with the increased velocity? Yes, rather obviously as soon as you ask the question, although exactly how might be a bit of a problem. But, if managers had this info (and teams too), would it affect behavior in a positive way? We think so.
(Yes, Virginia, it can be abused. And, perhaps less likely, people can drink too much milk too…everything has some risks.)
Obviously, although we may have an IRT, we also still have the (team) ScrumMasters driving the removal of the top impediment for each Team. (Unless the IRT is working on that one, in which case maybe the 2nd one.) And again, the right people should fix each impediment. Right means they are available, they are good at it, they will do it (in a reasonable timeframe). So, an impediment might be fixed by almost anyone: the ScrumMaster himself with his bare hands, the Team (or part of the Team), or people outside the Team.
Reminder: Do not do lots of management reporting. Too many numbers running around can be confusing, and NOT helpful. We only report what is useful; things that help us all make better decisions and act better, more usefully. Numbers never tell close to the whole story, but often tell us non-obvious things that can be very useful.
ScrumMasters: One of your biggest impediments is getting some managers to understand the new reporting and to use it well, operating from lean-agile-scrum values and principles. As some of you know, this can be very hard work for you.
Make sense so far?
What are the most important things I have left out? (I know there are many common questions I have not answered here.)
More generally, your comments are wanted. Please comment.
I will have more to say on this topic shortly.