Our team is switching to Scrum. I would be the ScrumMaster (in addition to being a developer), and another developer would become Product Owner (in addition to our product marketing guy).

All members of the team, including me, would be managed by the would-be Product Owner. By that I mean that the guy would be the one deciding about our yearly evaluation, raises, etc. Would this hierarchical link be prone to introduce issues? How do organizations typically map hierarchical structure onto agile teams?

I suppose it's quite common that the ScrumMaster has a hierarchical link to the other developers in the team. Here it would be the Product Owner. Is this different?

  • It was finally decided that we would all be managed by another person... – Xavier Nodet Dec 21 '10 at 20:38

The product manager doesn't manage the team, but the product backlog. Having any hierarchical link will make things harder.

I also suggest you to remove yearly evaluations from your company. They are individual, and Scrum is focused on a team rather than individuals.

There is no hierarchical link between the Scrum Master and the rest of the team. The team is self managed.

The ScrumMaster ensure that the scrum process is properly implemented and help the team on a daily basis.

The team reports to the team during the daily stand ups.

The team reports to the product owner during the sprint review.

Simple and effective.

  • He will stop coding, except for fixing bugs in a part of the product he his unfortunately the only one to know well. By 'reports to', in my question, I mean 'is managed by', as in 'has salary raises decided by'. Do you use the same meaning in your answer? – Xavier Nodet Oct 20 '10 at 8:12
  • Je traduis "reports to" en "fais des compte rendus à". En d'autres termes, l'équipe fait des comptes rendus au chef de produit. – user2567 Oct 20 '10 at 8:18
  • I updated my question to make it clearer it's about hierarchical relations inside a Scrum team. – Xavier Nodet Oct 20 '10 at 8:32
  • I changed my answer then. – user2567 Oct 20 '10 at 8:42
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    A person will work you harder with you and with more honesty if there is no hierarchical link, and no evaluation. When you set evaluation, you will change the behavior of your employees to target high rating in evaluations. THEIR evaluation, not the one from their coleagues. So forget about team spirit. – user2567 Oct 20 '10 at 17:24

As with most things there is no fixed answer here - it really depends on the team and the individuals involved and their relationships. I am the PO for a team who I functionally manage. It works fine. Can it get in the way? Sure it can, but if everybody wants it to work it can and does work. As a manager you need to be very clear about separation of your activites (manager vs PO - what hat am I wearing right now?) and also behave as more of a coach / team member than the old command and control style traditionalist. Manage with a very light touch and act as part of the team.

  • If offered the choice, would you recommend this situation, be neutral, or advise against it? – Xavier Nodet Oct 20 '10 at 15:13
  • Wow. I want a PO and manager like Mick, then :p Sadly, however, I think this type of manager/work environment is pretty rare. Even having the Scrum Master as part of a "traditional" hierarchy can be potentially problematic. As Mick points out, you really have to have your "hats" sorted out - which not everybody has the self-awareness to do well – H.Y. Oct 20 '10 at 16:06

The product owner should, ideally, be part of the team in exactly the same way as the others. It's also got nothing to do with admin tasks. The scrummaster should be owning the process and ensuring the technical side is on track, the product owner should be ensuring that what the team is up to is matching what the business needs and that it isn't getting bogged down in technical tangents not relevent to the project. There is a natural tension there, which is why it's generally better not to combine them into one person. I find the closest parallel to PO in a traditional setup would be something between Business Analyst and project manager - but much, much closer to BA than PM.

Obviously you'll need to do reporting, and also the admin tasks - but don't get them mixed up with the scrummaster and product owner roles (even if those are the people doing them).

In our team we rotate the scrummaster role every couple of months (or when it looks like someone gets bored of it). I'm the development manager where I work (but I also take an active part in coding) - but that doesn't necessarily mean that at any one time I'm SM. I find that emphasises collaboration over hierarchy and once you're comfortable with scrum I suggest you do the same.

  • I must disagree with lot of energy. The product owner should NOT be part of the team! The Scrum Master is a part of the team. The product owner is also certainly NOT a business analyst. The team is the "business analyst". The PO is certainly not a project manager too! The team is the project manager (self managing team). What you are talking about is not Scrum at all. – user2567 Oct 20 '10 at 8:15
  • I do agree with you about the team being the project manager. As to PO, well it depends on your definition of "team" (I mean it not in the sense of the development team, but rather the wider team). I should also clarify that for us (and this isn't by-the-book-scrum) we don't have a 'PO' - that role is occupied by a group of people (which includes me) who priortise items and update the backlog once a month. I find that in most places the BA is the proxy business owner, which is what I mean by what I wrote. – FinnNk Oct 20 '10 at 8:30

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