Scrum and Power

Many organizations are built around power.  It is an old old idea.  Power and hierarchy — I think I was told — goes back to the days of Babylonia.

We think knowledge creation and power do not go well together.

No one person knows everything.  Everyone must contribute, at least in a rough feeling of equality.

So, I few key ideas.

  1. The whole team is responsible for success.
  2. We leave the business cards and the titles and the hierarchy at the door of the Team Room.
  3. Everyone is listened to.  We let the smartest person on this specific topic make the decision (usually fairly quickly). Very likely a different person on the next topic.
  4. We do not worry about power or position.  We ask everyone to do the best they can today to help the Team win.
  5. To the degree that the organization still has power and hierarchy, we can laugh at it and ignore it.

So, I did NOT say we eliminate all hierarchy.  I am NOT waiting for the day when the word power is never used.

But putting fear into knowledge workers will not help.  We have to get over a LOT of old uses of power, position and hierarchy.  A lot of old games.  And everyone, pretty much, has to get over it.  The workers have to have more courage.

Why? Because however much some manager says “we are all equal” (or something similar), you do not know it’s true until you take the courage, speak up, and do not get punished or relegates later.  Only when you take the courage to act to find out that the culture has changed.

Similarly, managers must start too.  And talk in a different way.  And it is often contrary to what they have been told or told themselves for years.  It too can feel scary.  Do not be afraid.  In NYC, someone might say “be a mensch!” (You might google that.)

To be fair, this is not a Scrum issue.  This is an issue, broadly, for any business with knowledge workers.  (With physical labor, it may be that power and hierarchy are still useful.)

And in our work we need some controls, eg, over people who talk too much (a common problem in our work).  Power is not the answer for that.  Timeboxes might be.

Say hello to a world run notably less by power.  The world of knowledge workers.




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