Diana and I were kicking around a few topics for this episode, and we ended up selecting “Agile and Leadership, friends or foes?” The idea is to talk about how Agile and Leadership play together (or not)
In this episode, we talk with Diana Larsen and Jutta Eckstein about what problems Leaders try to fix with Agile, what challenges they have when they try to adopt Agile, and we will do this with the focus on the Scrum Master role, and what they can do by working with the leaders of the organizations they work within.
Let’s start by defining some of the major challenges we see happening out there.
The 3 biggest challenges on how Agile plays (or not) with Leadership
Some of the challenges we mention in this episode are not new. You are probably familiar with many of them. We talk about how Agile requires us to think about leadership as a distributed responsibility that team members need to take on, which is itself a major challenge for Scrum Masters as they help their teams understand what that means in practice.
We also discuss how important it is to understand that leadership is not simply a “role”, but also something we need to earn, including Scrum Masters.
Finally, we talk about the important role that leaders play for the teams they work with. Specifically in setting the direction that helps the teams adopt quicker processes like Hypothesis-Driven-Development, for example.
How Scrum Masters can cope with these challenges
We then discuss how Scrum Masters can understand, and learn to cope with these challenges. Not surprisingly, Agile Retrospectives come up as a critical tool for Scrum Masters to use when working with teams and their leaders.
Regarding collaboration with leaders, we discuss how Scrum Masters can help teams focus on the right goals, which need to be defined in cooperation with leaders in the organization.
But there’s a second tool we discuss that complements perfectly the work we do with the retrospectives and helps the teams and leaders understand where they can contribute the most: visualization as a way to establish a shared context.
Do Scrum Masters really need to protect the team from their leaders?
Stop me if you have heard this one before. Way back when I was taught that Scrum Masters need to protect the team from interference. Although it made sense to me at the time, with the passing of time, and after collecting more than a decade of experience, I have come to value a different approach.
In this segment, we talk about the need (or not) to protect the team from Leadership interference.
The goal, of course, is to generate a real collaboration between the team and the leaders in the organization.
The key resources on leadership and Scrum by Diana Larsen, Jutta Eckstein and Vasco Duarte
Given that leadership, and the collaboration between teams and leaders is a critical topic for Scrum Masters, we discuss some of the resources (books, podcasts, articles) we’ve found useful and informative on how to tackle that collaboration.
Here are the resources we mention:
- Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General McChrystal
- Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David L. Marquet (David was on the podcast to talk about the book)
- Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas by Lida Rising
- Adaptive Action: Leveraging Uncertainty in Your Organization by Eoyang and Holladay
- Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach by Gerald Weinberg
- Agile Fluency by Diana Larsen and James Shore
- 7 Rules for Positive, Productive Change: Micro Shifts, Macro Results by Esther Derby
How about you? What have been your major challenges when working with leaders in your organization? Leave a comment below and share the tools/books/podcasts you’ve found useful.
About Diana Larsen and Jutta Eckstein
Diana Larsen co-founded and collaborates in leadership of Agile Fluency™ Project. Diana co-authored the books Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great; Liftoff: Start and Sustain Successful Agile Teams; Five Rules for Accelerated Learning; and the seminal “Agile Fluency Model: A Brief Guide to Success with Agile” article.
Jutta Eckstein works as an independent coach & consultant.
As a developer, she started with XP in 97/98, started scaling agile in 2001 (and published about that in 2004), and am now Jutta focuses on company-wide agility.