In most hierarchical organizations the spirit of absolutism still prevails. All power is with the boss. He or she manages and controls, imposes rules, monitors their compliance and punishes misconduct. Even today there are still enough small and big Sun Kings: L’état c’est moi! This is because people are still susceptible to excessive power on the one hand and on the other because the Enlightenment apparently had little influence on the design of modern organizations. The advance of knowledge work and the increasing striving for agility also lead to a new Enlightenment with a more pronounced separation of powers.
Scrum is a deceptively simple framework for agile product development. Besides the development team there are only the roles Product Owner and Scrum Master. The process is lean and requires only a few artifacts and events (as the meetings in Scrum are called). This simplicity leads in practice to all kinds of fake agile and cargo cult – lovely but rather ineffective drama. To prevent this from happening, there is the Scrum Master. Unfortunately, this important role suffers from many misinterpretations, as the following three anti-patterns illustrate.
Agility means adaptability. First and foremost with regard to the product being developed. Step by step, usable interim products are created, which help to explore the problem domain and the possible solutions. However, adaptability not only covers the product, but also the way the team works. “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” Among the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto this is one of the most important. Agility is therefore much more than just a method, but rather means taking responsibility for the product as well as the way people work together. However, especially the latter requires the right stance to be successful and not to end up in blaming. It is exactly this stance that Norman L. Kerth beautifully described as the Prime Directive in his book “Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews” (Amazon Affiliate Link).
How to eat an elephant? Exactly: In small slices. With this salami tactics you can master big tasks. Many recognize the iterative-incremental nature of agile methods like Scrum and therefore feel reminded of this elephant carpaccio — a fallacy which is based on the fundamental confusion of complicatedness and complexity.
Without a culture of trust, no agility. Cargo cult yes, but no agility. And without agility there is no chance of at least surviving digitalization, let alone benefiting from it. In an agile organization, responsible and empowered people can quickly make customer-oriented decisions in decentralized structures. This requires trust. They make these decisions in complex and uncertain environments, validate them through rapid implementation and learn particularly from failures. And that needs even more trust.