Scrum from a different perspective

Scrum offers us a defined framework and discipline to develop and maintain complex products. Yes, this framework is currently used as a project management methodology by many organizations. Also, Scrum challenges to traditional management approach with its autonomous and liberal structure. In this article, I will try to show the management thought behind the Scrum with the comments of today’s management thinkers, leaving methodological aspect of Scrum and relevant practices aside.

In his book entitled, Drive, Daniel H. Pink presents very convincing arguments on what is motivating us by destroying all known clichés and offers a different perspective on human motivation. He puts forth this perspective with a behavioral pattern which he calls “Type I”.

Type I behavior depends on three nutrients: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Type I behavior is self-directed. It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. And it connects that quest for excellence to a larger purpose.”

“To encourage Type I behavior, and the high performance it enables, the first requirement is autonomy. People need autonomy over what they do, when they do it, who they do it with and how they do it.”

To Pink, “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” are of course complementary elements. However, autonomy is the most important beginning point. Then what’s the approach of Scrum about autonomy? This can be derived from the following words in Scrum Reference Guide:

Scrum Teams are self-organizing and cross-functional. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Cross-functional teams have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team. The team model in Scrum is designed to optimize flexibility, creativity, and productivity.”

Considered as the most influential management thinker of 20th century, Peter F. Drucker, the coiner of the term “knowledge worker”, says the following about the autonomy:

“Knowledge workmanship requires both autonomy and responsibility.”

“Knowledge workers should be required to define their own duties and results of their works, because knowledge workers must be autonomous.”

Drucker offers the concept of responsibility as a complementary to the concept of autonomy. Indeed, it is important to determine what to do, when to do it, who to do it with and how to do it and maintain autonomy. But it is undoubtedly that important to define business results and take their responsibility. Aren’t the Scrum Teams also primarily responsible for timely production of committed output at expected quality and time and for the development of product, while managing forecasting, planning and developing processes about the product they are working on?

In his successful book entitled Good to Great, Jim Collins presents the factors that make good-to-great companies actually good-to-great with tangible data he collected as a result of long efforts, and refers to the discipline culture as follows:

Good-to-great companies created a consistent system of management with clear boundaries and then gave employees the autonomy and responsibility to perform their jobs within this system. They hired self-disciplined people who don’t need to be managed, and managed the system, not the people.”

Giving people autonomy and responsibility within a consistent system with clear boundaries”… That a very good summary by Collins as a best practice. Don’t you also think this is exactly what the Scrum aims for? Doesn’t the Scrum offer a consistent system which enables self-management of people and guides them becoming self-disciplined as well, with a “framework” -with clear boundaries- established by taking strength from the principles of transparency, observation and adaptation?

In his latest book entitled What Matters Now, described by him as a multilateral agenda to establish organizations which can achieve success, Gary Hamel, one of today’s most influential strategists, says the following after listing his criticisms about traditional management approach which he finds extremely controlling and bureaucratic:

As we clarified the management ideology, we can pass to the second question now: Does the control have a philosophical rival which can survive? Of course there is; freedom! People, who are free to pursue their areas of interest, chose their commitments and assume their own obligations, can flourish and develop. And what we need today more than ever is the organizations that give this opportunity to people. An organization can never be competent unless it is completely humane. The key to this is undoubtedly going beyond the words. We need a radical and powerful ideology which liberates employees, destroys top-down hierarchy and generates solid business results.”

As Hamel suggests, this kind of management approach is really encouraging to establish organizations where employees enthusiastically go to their work every morning.

Yes, there are the associations of what I see in Scrum and foregoing ideas of management thinkers which inspire me with their books. I hope I showed some ways. As I said in the beginning, I think it is more useful to consider the Scrum a complementary means to the general management approach of an organization, rather than a required project management methodology. A composition of a management thought and project management methodology sounds nice…

Yazar: Oğuz Tetik
Technical Leader / Scrum Master


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