Walking the talk

I have a weekly meeting with the staff in my office, open to all in our business unit as well as my direct reports. In this meeting I update the staff on what is going on at other campuses and within the company. In the meeting following my attendance of Agile Open 2011 session hosted by the Toronto Agile Community, I shared some of my thoughts and referred the staff to my blog on the conference. And much to my surprise, not only did some of them read it but they went through the site and read the rest of what I had posted. I then received an email challenging me to ‘walk the talk’.

I posted that one reason for starting this blog was because there was a lack of dialogue about agile and other topics in our office. The email I received challenged me to bring one topic to every staff meeting for discussion. The sender offered to support the dialogue and would bring their own topics for discussion by the group. Ok, now I had to come up with a topic for our first session. The very next day, following posting of notes from the Scrum of Scrums (SoS), I received an email about one of the points in the meeting notes. At the SoS, the group discussed making managers Scrummasters. The email I received indicated that the employee thought this was a very bad idea. Excellent, a topic for my first session.

Actually, ‘walk the talk’, or the say-do gap, comes up on a fairly regular basis. Trust is a big factor in agile. Without trust between team members, and teams and management, agile doesn’t really work. Closing the say-do gap is an easy way to build trust. It isn’t always easy thing to see though. For example, our group has a policy of no meetings on Wednesday’s for the staff. However, the managers trying to book meetings with staff across at least two different time zones and sometimes 3 or more locations, found the empty space on Wednesdays very convenient. We started to book meetings on Wednesdays until the topic came up at a SoS. We, the managers, were breaking down trust because we were not following the agreement to not book meetings on Wednesdays. This didn’t actually occur to us until a colleague in another group pointed it out. We needed to close our say-do gap by leaving Wednesdays meeting free.

And our first ever open discussion about agile in a staff meeting was a success. It was a success because almost everyone contributed to the discussion. The overall sentiment was that managers as Scrummasters is a bad idea. There were a few suggestions on how to improve the role of Scrummasters which I shared with the other managers. I look forward to our next meeting and discussion.

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4 Responses to “Walking the talk”

  1. Are you going to follow up with a blog post on the pros and cons regarding having managers as scrum masters? This has come up at work, although so far we have kept scrum masters to the team leader level and senior analyst level. Anyway, would love to hear the pros and cons that came out of your discussions. Please and thank you 🙂

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