Scrum Rules: The Team Member Role

July 10, 2020
3 minute read

Nothing gets done without the people who do the work in a Scrum team. Scrum calls these people the Development Team. Scrum also includes two special roles: the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. All together these make the Scrum Team. And all the members of the Scrum team share some responsibilities, constraints and the all-important behaviour of self-organizing.

Self-organizing is hard to do for most humans in corporate settings. We have become accustomed to fixed roles, reporting relationships, and limits. Self-organizing requires that the habits we have adopted from this corporate culture are completely discarded and replaced. The replacement is simple: treat everyone with respect and openness and as a team, do everything possible to deliver product increments every Sprint.

It’s the “everything possible” that is particularly challenging. “Possible” for many people is synonymous with “permitted”. Breaking past that conceptual framework takes hard work, good experiences, and an environment where the learning failures that go along with major change are not punished, but instead embraced. And, perhaps ironically, it takes permission. The current holders of power and authority must give it up in one form (control) to get it back in a different form (empowerment).

Ultimately, Scrum’s founders, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland are concerned about the people. Scrum is meant to bring pride of work, happiness and success back into a workplace that has largely forgotten that people are not robots. We are not simply stimulus-response mechanisms. Give-us-a-bonus-and-get-happiness is not the reality of being human. Relationships, excellence and purpose, generating knowledge and creating beauty, all in a work environment are desirable and possible with Scrum. Scrum helps us re-humanize the work environment after decades of dehumanization.

The current situation, even in many organizations adopting Scrum, is still grim. The Team Member role is a start at building a better workplace.

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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