Thoughts on empirical management, Business Agility and Enterprise Scrum (part 3/3)


Although Scrum does not have prescribed roles for middle and other forms of management, needn’t have, there will obviously be a shift in management style. I would expect the new mindset to be very Lean-like, as Agile and Lean are blending philosophies. But on top of that, expect the emergence of empirical management when founding product development and product management in Scrum, as a mean to maximize competitive positions in the land of Extremistan.

Migrating from predictive to empirical management holds a mind-shift for managers towards asking people to solve a problem, no longer by telling them how to solve it by imposing detailed tasks, instructions and a plan. Enterprise goals and objectives serve as input for the empirical closed-loop feedback process control framework that Scrum is, enabling people to develop the solution that best implements the posed objectives. Scrum Teams consist of skilled inspectors that frequently inspect the effective outcome of their work against the desired outcome, the objectives. Adaptations on the processed materials and tasks to produce the materials are introduced to eliminate unwanted variances. The inspectors will also inspect the strategies used to play the game, not the rules. Adaptations that lie beyond the power of the Scrum Teams move to the ACT team or to the transformed management.

Enterprise objectives relate to ‘Business Value’. But there is no generic predefined formula or definition for ‘Business Value’. It can only relate to a living organization, not some theoretical formula. What does an organization want to be known for? How wants an organization to be perceived? What do the users or customers of an enterprise value? What is the ultimate mission that an organization wants to achieve? That might be included in Business Value. And software products should re-enforce that. An organization should continuously strive to augment that, also via the software products it launches and maintains. An organization should be organized to optimally serve their target audiences. An organization should be a Customer-Oriented Enterprise. And what can be more fun than being a CEO of a COE?

The customer-oriented enterprise identifies and focuses on its customers and customer products first. And we should differentiate the customer product from the software product. Scrum is applied in the customer-oriented enterprise to organize the complex work on its software products in Scrum Teams. Multiple Scrum Teams work together to translate and maintain a Product Vision for a customer product to various channels and platforms as software products. Each Scrum Team is composed of the best suited Team Members across the line management organization.

  • The Product Owner is obviously a real Business person.
  • All ‘development’ is done in an incremental way by a self-managing Development Team. The Team develops code, test cases, documentation, plans and tasks. Team Members are recruited from departments that were previously probably only supporting development from a distance! They are now part of the Scrum Teams, if the nature of their work and skills is essential in the ‘Definition of Done’.
  • The best-placed person is selected to master and teach the process, the Scrum Master.

Line management adapts to the new situation that the software development process is finally decoupled from the way the enterprise internally is organized. In many organizations the software development process bubbles through the internal organization, sequentially passing work results across isolated specialization groups. And from this inbound focus it is overlooked that end-users and customers often need to be aware of internal organizational structures to understand and use a presented software product. An annoying and nasty effect for the people that should be served by the organization.

The impact of this new orientation is broad and even disruptive. The disruptiveness however is controlled via the incremental change process, that expects all impacted departments and roles to be represented in the ACT team,  the management team mandated to drive and implement the change in the organization’s structures and DNA.

Applying Agile and the Scrum framework re-installs respect for people and their skills and focus areas, not in the least for, but certainly not limited to great and skilled software engineers. It has the power to finally getting rid of labeling people as (human) resources, replaceable pieces of machinery. The time has come to establish, sustain and promote people practices, and they will primarily look at how people are supported and motivated for working happily and sustainably in and around cross-functional Scrum Teams building valuable products that excite users and customers.