Management sometimes feel that the scrum process separates them from the teams. When teams are self-organizing, management interference can be treated like an impediment. This leaves managers wondering where there place is and how they can influence their teams. Some believe the solution to this problem is to remove management altogether. In some cases this may be the right solution, yet in others management are able to provide invaluable support and guidance to the teams. In this case management just need to be shown the opportunities they have to input into the process.
One key opportunity is the sprint review. The purpose of the sprint review is to inspect the changes made during the sprint and adapt the backlog of upcoming work. Management can use the sprint review to focus the organization in several ways.
Engagement by example
There is no doubt that engaged employees do the best work. If you don’t attend the review (or you spend the review playing with your phone) you send the message that the team’s work is not interesting or valuable. If management is not engaged with the product then employees will inevitably find it hard to connect as well. So go to the review and be part of the picture (rather than some guy in an office). Show an interest and get to know your staff. Stick around after the review and talk casually about the product. Not only will you increase your employees engagement in their work but you can learn a lot more from casual conversations than status reports .
For scrum organizations this usually means fostering openness and honesty. Managers can support this by asking questions and, more importantly, listening to answers. Encourage employees to ask the hard questions and expect high standards from each other, while of course being understanding and supportive. If the organization comes together for the sprint review it can be a good opportunity to build a sense of community and highlight desired behavior while discouraging undesirable behavior
Share The Vision
A common criticism of scrum is that practitioners can become myopic and focus too much on short term gains. This can be combated by using the sprint review effectively to step back and look at the bigger picture. We can adapt the product backlog to consider the longer term goals as well as quick wins. Generally management are ideally positioned, along with the Product Owner, to provide this high level view. Providing context also helps improve decision making within the team as they can better understand the contribution their piece of the work is making. Linking things back, having a sense of purpose drives engagement as well.
Reduce Risk Early
The reason the sprint review occurs every 2 weeks, regardless of whether we actually want to release the resulting product increment, is that it is a great chance to communicate the progress so far and adapt to any deviances before they become more extreme. In other words, we want to reduce risk early. The more stakeholders (which includes management!) we involve in the sprint review, the more likely we are to get feedback while we still have a chance to do something about it. Feedback that comes moments before release, or worse, after the release, can be much more disastrous and demoralizing for teams
The review is also a time to identify any major impediments holding up the team. Management are often in a position to expedite the removal of these impediments but obviously they can’t do this unless they know about them. Coming to the review gives managers a chance to learn of major impediments but also by building a relationship with team members they can also increase the chance that impediments will be communicated to them earlier.
With so many potential benefits of management attending reviews it seems clear that it is worth the time, no matter how busy a manager may be.