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Executive Summary

In this article, I discuss the role of those outside of the Scrum Team. This includes managers, stakeholders, and any other member of the organization that the Scrum Team works for. I look to the Scrum Guide first, and then discuss some other ideas not specifically from the Scrum Guide. In short, the role of those outside of the Scrum Team is to:
  • Collaborate with the Scrum Team on Release Planning
  • Collaborate with the Scrum Team in Sprint Reviews
  • Influence, but not contradict, the work priorities as decided by the Product Owner
  • Receive teaching and coaching on Scrum from the ScrumMasters
  • Not interfere with the Scrum implementation
  • Assist the Scrum Team in removing organizational impediments
I also speak to the role of Managers in Scrum, which is a specific subset of those outside of the Scrum Team.

Introduction

A common question when trying to implement Scrum is, "What is the role of members of an organization that are not on a Scrum Team?" Let's take a look and see what we can find out about this.

What the Scrum Guide says about people not on the Scrum team

"People not on the Scrum Team" includes managers, as well as anyone without a defined role on the Scrum Team.

Here is what the Scrum Guide says on this topic.
  • "Everyone else[besides the Scrum Team] is a “chicken.” Chickens cannot tell “pigs” how to do their work. Chickens and pigs come from the story..." [ See story in the Scrum Guide]
  • "The ScrumMaster also enforces the rule that chickens are not allowed to talk or in anyway interfere with the Daily Scrum."
  • "The Daily Scrum is not a status meeting. It is not for anyone but the people transforming the Product Backlog items into an increment (the Team)."
    • I find these last two quotes from the Scrum Guide to be somewhat confusing. If the Daily Scrum is not for anyone other than the Team, then why would chickens even be present at the Daily Scrum?
  • "Only the Product Owner has the authority to cancel the Sprint, although he or she may do so under influence from the stakeholders, the Team, or the ScrumMaster."
  • "During the Sprint Review, the Scrum Team and stakeholders collaborate about what was just done. Based on that and changes to the Product Backlog during the Sprint, they collaborate about what are the next things that could be done."
  • "The ScrumMaster helps the Scrum Team and the organization adopt Scrum."
  • "The ScrumMaster also helps the Scrum Team do its best in an organizational environment that may not yet be optimized for complex product development."
  • "For the Product Owner to succeed, everyone in the organization has to respect his or her decisions. No one is allowed to tell the Team to work from a different set of priorities, and Teams aren’t allowed to listen to anyone who says otherwise."
  • "The purpose of release planning is to establish a plan and goals that the Scrum Teams and the rest of the organizations can understand and communicate."
  • "The organization can then inspect progress and make changes to this release plan on a Sprint-by-Sprint basis."
  • "Most organizations already have a release planning process, and in most of these processes most of the planning is done at the beginning of the release and left unchanged as time passes."
  • "This release planning usually requires no more than 15-20% of the time an organization consumed to build a traditional release plan."
  • "The estimated effort[for the Release Burndown] is in whatever unit of work the Scrum Team and organization have decided upon."
  • In an optional "Tip" : "In some organizations, more work is added to the backlog than is completed[during a release timeframe]."
  • "Some organizations are incapable of building a complete increment within one Sprint."
  • "This [undone]work [to make an increment releasable] is accumulated linearly although it actually has some sort of exponential accumulation that is dependent on each organization’s characteristics. "


Summary of what the Scrum Guide says about those outside of the Scrum Team

  • Members of the organization:
    • can view the decisions of the Product Owner by viewing the priorities of the Product Backlog, and thus know what items will be worked on, and in what order they will be worked on.
    • cannot tell the Scrum Team how to do their work.
    • are not able to talk or in any way interfere with the Daily Scrum
      • The guide is ambiguous on whether other organizational members can be present at the Daily Scrum or not.
    • can attend the Sprint Review to collaborate on what was done and what is to be done next.
    • receive teaching and coaching from ScrumMasters on how to adopt Scrum.
    • help the ScrumMaster to remove organizational impediments.
    • are not allowed to contradict the Product Owner as to what work priorities are.
    • can attend Release Planning meetings to collaborate on the release plan.
    • can work with the Scrum Team to decide the effort units that will be used on the Release Burndown.
  • The Scrum Guide also speaks about managers/management, which are a specific subset of "members of the organization."

Some other thoughts on the role of those outside of the Scrum Team


  • As much as possible, those outside of the Scrum Team should try to work as Servant Leaders to the Scrum Team, by removing impediments. Every impediment removed is one more chance for the Scrum Team to succeed by delivering value to the organization as a whole.
  • As much as possible, those outside of the Scrum Team should work very hard not to interfere with the Scrum process implementation as executed by the Scrum Team.
  • Stakeholders of the system under development should take every opportunity to guide the product's development by collaborating with the Scrum Team during Release Planning and Sprint Reviews. These two activities, in particular, thrive on good customer/stakeholder feedback, so the outputs to those activities are only as good as the feedback that is given as input.

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