How Can I Get My Manager to Change?

One of the most common concerns I hear during Scrum training or coaching is: “how do I get my manager to change?” While there’s no recipe I can provide to address this specific challenge, I do have a few recommendations.


Start by Modeling Scrum Values

Get started by modeling the Scrum values within your organization. Be an example to your manager, starting by showing respect and openness.

When I say respect, I mean to meet your manager where they are on their journey without colluding with any dysfunction that may be occurring within the organization due to the manager’s action or inaction.

Acknowledge These 2 Key Items to Make the Most of the Scrum Approach

Once you have a foundation of respect and have started embodying the values of Scrum, you can take a couple more steps to help lead your manager toward making the transition that’s required to realize its full value.

1. The Pressure From Above

Individuals within management roles are people, too. They don’t come to work each day trying to do a “bad” job. It’s important to understand that these individuals receive questions, sometimes daily, by those above them.

When are we going to be done?

How much is this going to cost?

What are we going to deliver?

These questions find their answers through Scrum, by roles within the framework. Yet, it’s important to be empathetic. Acknowledge the traditional role that managers play in answering these questions.

Teach them who answers these questions under Scrum. For example, the Product Owner (PO) owns the cost aspects of the effort, and the Development Team can answer questions involving process completion.

2. The Implied Lack of Control

Many managers mourn the apparent loss of control when moving to Scrum, without realizing that they truly never had control. Those doing the work—the Development Team—were always in control. At best, a manager could lobby those in control to do certain things. At worst, a manager was forced to manipulate or coerce those under their control to behave in a certain way.

While moving to a new way of work, the number of “management” positions will decrease. Yet, there will still be a need for leaders in the organization. Teach them their role as managers.

The responsibilities of these leaders differ from how most managers were originally trained. Instead, a leader in a Scrum environment has three responsibilities:

  • Help the team understand the goal. They should help the team understand what success looks like and why the organization is pursuing the effort.
  • Help the team understand the constraints. They should help the team understand the scope, schedule, cost, and quality constraints that they must respect in pursuing the goal.
  • Step away from the team. They must step back and ask how they can help the team achieve its goal within the constraints.

Remember: be patient. Change won’t occur overnight. It takes time and multiple conversations. During this process, you may take a step forward and two steps back. But you will eventually make the forward progress you all desire.

Managers Must Make this Transition to Reach the True Value of Scrum

Although this is far from a prescription, following these recommendations can help managers make the necessary transition to realize the full value of working in a new way like Scrum. To learn more about management under Scrum, send us a message.