Scrum Rules: As a Team Member No Member of My Team Reports to Me

August 7, 2020
4 minute read

Inside the Scrum Team, including the Product Owner and the Scrum Master, no individual should report to any other individual. The team reporting structure should be flat.

This does not necessarily mean that all Team Members are peers in the org chart. For example, one team member could be quite senior, and another quite junior. However, for the Scrum principle of self-organization to work effectively, individual Team Members should have no concern about what their “boss” wants them to do. Instead, within the Scrum Team, there should be a completely safe environment for individuals to volunteer for tasks, raise obstacles, provide candid feedback to any other Team Member, and have a mutual sense of commitment to the work of the team. If the Scrum Team is absent of reporting relationships then it has a much higher chance of becoming a high-performance team. If there are reporting relationships within the Scrum Team there are often significant obstacles to full openness and self-organization and this, in turn, will significantly hamper the performance of the team.

Achieving this flat reporting structure on a team when there is a reporting relationship between two or more team members can be very challenging. Here are some possible approaches to consider:

  1. A “boss” team member could resign their positional authority. This might require changes to the person’s employment contract and the re-assignment of that person’s staff to some other manager outside the Scrum Team.
  2. Similarly, a “boss” team member could officially leave the Scrum Team. This would mean that they become an outside stakeholder of the team and could still observe Daily Scrums and participate in Sprint Review meetings. But they would not be able to attend other Scrum team ceremonies. In particular, they would be blocked from attending the Sprint Retrospective.
  3. Of course, similar actions could be taken with regards to the staff member who reports to a “boss”: resign from the team or be promoted to no longer be in a reporting relationship.
  4. Finally, and most unusually, the nature of reporting relationships could be changed so that they become solely mentoring relationships. For this to work, the organization needs to eliminate individual performance evaluations of any sort, and needs to implement dramatic changes to hiring and firing practices so that no one individual approves the hiring or firing of another individual.

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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