Self-organizing and meddling Stakeholders

December 13, 2013
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Any Scrum Master worth his Scrum Master certification believes that all humans are enthusiastic and seek to receive greater duty. So, they deliver much greater value when self-organized. This self-organization is what created us from single celled beings. A Scrum Master brings working deliverables sooner and makes available more precise predictions of timetable and budget compared to traditional waterfall Project Managers. Under Scrum, if we plan a ten-month project and divide the effort into twenty, fortnight sprints;  at the end of sprint #5 (25 % into the project), we would have completed five iterations of development. In the equivalent period a waterfall project would have generated a stack of specifications and authorization forms, and Scrum would have created five packages of confirmed, shippable deliverable. All this is majorly because the Scrum team feels empowered.

One important aspect that no scrum master certification training deals with. It is about managing the Stakeholder participation. External stakeholders have a completely valid interest in the success of a project and conversely, the project team cannot work effectively without their contributions. Even if Scrum team members know how to outline and deliver project features, useful deliverables cannot be developed without the involvement of the executives, managers, and the other stakeholders that the team serves. The irony is that most senior folk, especially in our country are overeager to “leave their mark”. In their over eagerness, the following behavior is exhibited.

  • Statements like “This is how we do it Here!” are heard
  • External stakeholders talk in the daily standup meetings
  • Status information demanded outside Sprint Planning Meetings
  • Scrum Masters, Product Owners or Project Sponsors receive requests from their superiors to “Correctly” guide the Scrum team

Because of this distraction, the Scrum Master is not concentrating 100 percent on team and organizational obstructions and processes. Product backlog wastes away and/or is passed over. If the product owner is coerced by these stakeholders, features get selected or priorities substituted outside of sprint planning meetings ignoring the backlog. The Product Owner may start imposing improper assessments regarding risk.

While inappropriate outside influence can be exerted at any point in a sprint, it is most visible when external stakeholders over participate in daily project activities, especially the daily standup meetings. This is also the place where the Scrum master can most effectively stage an intervention by consistently putting into effect the “Silence rule” for external Stakeholders: Undeniably, there may be that one justified remark that gets lost. But it will lead to others and then there will be no easy place to draw the line. Again, we should remember that we are dealing with superiors who have learnt to intimidate subordinates to get their obedience. Scrum masters can also Conduct Scrum training to External Stakeholders in part start of a project and try to convince the Stakeholders why their comments would be counterproductive.

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