I was sitting with a team when their manager came in and asked, “Hey. Are you guys finished with this feature?”
The Scrum Master responded, “We haven’t even had time to even begin the discovery on it yet.”
The manager looked surprised and said, “Oh, OK. Would you let me know when I can see it?” and walked out.
It really surprised me as the feature seemed trivial and so I asked, “What do you need to learn about this? It seems really straight-forward.”
“You’re right.” he said, “We could just build this. But we don’t want to.”
I must have had a look of shock on my face, because the Scrum Master went on to explain how the team is tired of managers coming in during the middle of the Sprint with new work. Telling the manager that it hasn’t even begun discovery was an effort to condition management about the new process, and that Agile doesn’t mean that the team will do whatever is asked, whenever it’s asked.
Bludgeoning people with process is not the answer. That was part of the old way, as well as managers demanding what people worked on. It was part of the institutional memory that everyone is too busy, fearful for their jobs, and use the rules and regulations to hold some of the work at bay.
I consoled myself with the fact that Agile had encouraged the team to show some courage even as this position of the team helped solidify the us/them distrust between management and the teams. I had a lot of work to do.
I worked on:
- when and where is the right place for management to introduce development ready work- at the Sprint boundaries and on the Product Backlog
- collaboration between the teams and management to define opportunities for discovery, and create a mutual purpose
- having managers explain the organizational benefit of the opportunities and concentrate on the why, rather than the what
- co-creating a mid-range plan with the team and management, defining outcomes and ways to measure against their progress
If your team understands what people want, how best they can use it and that you can build it, why not go ahead and develop it?