Ok…But who is resposible for delivery?

Decided to create this post as I’ve heard this question many times during the last 3 weeks. Several people asked that during the cspo training; clients asked 2 times; my boss and my colleagues could not omit this question too(3 times in total). So I want to share some of my thoughts on this topic.

Let’s imagine a scrum team, which is working on a Product. We have a Scrum master – a nice guy – and a Product owner, who has a lot of great ideas and drives the product on. The team works hard every sprint (yes, they play tennis and drink coffee several times a day. And… oh, hell… they even read facebook and watch cat videos during the working hours. So, just an average team). And one day their stakeholder/big boss comes and asks Scrum Master, “Ok, I see the team is working. You have a scrum master, a product owner… But we have a release planned in 2 months. So, tell me, who is responsible for the delivery? Who is responsible for the release being shipped on time?”

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As a Scrum Master, I always have a feeling that this person does not understand that I am not a project manager. Our Ukrainian (not sure if it is specifically local. I believe this question is often asked by thousands of managers across the world) managers believe that without someone controlling the delivery, it won’t happen. Someone needs to control delivery, someone needs to control all those people! It is so convenient for the companies when they have the one person to blame for project failures.

As one of my trainers said once, “If you have a Delivery Manager – you probably have issues with delivery.”

I think the problem of all those people is in scrum itself – it is radically different from the traditional way of running a project. So, let’s discuss who is really responsible for the delivery.

Why it is not a Scrum Master

Scrum master is the one responsible for the process working – that is, the team is producing. He is responsible for the health of the team – all the aspects of it. It’s a long term mission – much longer than the release.  Scrum Master’s role is not that of a manager or a “leader”. Scrum Master does not assign tasks. Scrum Master does not tell the Team what to do or how to do it. He is a kind of a coach that sport teams have – he does not play, does not win – the team wins the games.

It is hard to imagine that team can do the work without someone “managing” them and telling them what to do. It is hard to separate yourself from a “project manager” role in a lot of development companies, as it is a big cultural shift when you start adopting scrum. Companies are often afraid to make the “next step” and get rid of their scrum-buts, as these steps include effective communication, deliberate planning and, of course, a process of trial and error before the organization culture starts to shift to this new paradigm. But do we have a chance to try and fail and improve? Of course not, I won’t receive my quarter bonuses! Therefore, such poor Scrum Masters just have to survive the pressure themselves or just shift it to the team.

Once again, the Scrum Master is not a project manager. The Scrum Master is a servant-leader role. The Scrum Master does not assign tasks and doesn’t give working solutions and decisions to the team. The Scrum Master does not act as a proxy for the Team and the Product Owner. The Scrum Master helps, coaches and guides the Team in becoming self-organized.

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What might happen if Scrum Master is made to be responsible for the delivery:

Scrum Master starts controlling everything. He does not give a chance to the team to “self-organize”. Usually you can hear from such scrum master, “Yes, the team should be self-organized, but it takes time. This project is CRUCIAL! We need to deliver it on time. So we will use the best practices I know and use them the way I tell my team, so that I can be sure we do our best.”

Scrum Master starts bossing everyone and not caring about the quality, process, etc. Because “we need to deliver!” He can cancel retrospectives, plannings, other meetings to “save” time for development. Also he can start allowing team to close the tasks which are not “done”, i.e. have many bugs, just to “move faster”.

The Scrum Master role is not that of a manager or a “leader”. The Scrum Master does not assign tasks. The Scrum Master does not tell the Team what to do or how to do it.
The Scrum Master role is not that of a manager or a “leader”. The Scrum Master does not assign tasks. The Scrum Master does not tell the Team what to do or how to do it.
The Scrum Master role is not that of a manager or a “leader”. The Scrum Master does not assign tasks. The Scrum Master does not tell the Team what to do or how to do it.

Why it is not a Product Owner

According to the scrum.org, the definition of the role responsibilities is:

  • Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;
  • Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
  • Ensuring the value of the work the Development Team performs;
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next;
  • Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

I would like to add:

  • Stakeholders management;
  • Decide on release date and content;
  • Be responsible for the profitability of the product (ROI) – responsible for the budget.

So, the Product owner is responsible for WHAT the team is delivering.

The Team is responsible for the delivery

Hooray, we finally found the one who’s responsible!  The team is responsible for the delivery. That is why the Team must be empowered. Yes, it is difficult to let the traditional management legacy go.

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It is difficult to let the traditional management legacy go.

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