Agility at Company X. A diagnosis of leadership behavior and team design within the IT Scrum teams of Company X.

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Problem One and a half years ago, the Company X introduced Scrum to their IT department consisting of 150 employees. The Scrum teams work on innovative software features, creating and optimizing them in two-week sprints. While the teams made great progress applying the rituals and rules related to Scrum, great strides can still be made regarding the soft skills of the employees and leaders working together in the Scrum teams. The question from Company X in short is how to influence their employees’ behavior in a way that not only the rituals, but also the agile philosophy will be reflected in their behavior. This includes taking on whole-team responsibility and accountability, addressing each other when unwanted behavior occurs, sharing knowledge within and between teams continuously, and focusing on the creation of business value by realizing products more result oriented. Research design In order to provide Company X with practical recommendations, the researcher decided to focus her research on diagnosing operational leadership behavior of agile leaders who are in direct contact with the IT teams regarding their day-to-day activities. The researcher decided to additionally focus on the design of the teams and their tasks. The main part of the research is conducted by interviewing the Scrum Masters, Product Owners and team members from two teams, in order to obtain an image of the situation that is substantiated from multiple perspectives. Conclusion During the interviews, it became clear that both teams and their tasks did not meet the ideal structural conditions for an agile team. Because of their multiple-item portfolio, individuals mostly work parallel on independent tasks. Furthermore, the teams work on both user stories (innovations) and incidents (support tasks) during the same sprint. Finally, inherent to the nature of their tasks, the teams deal with a large number of external dependencies. The Company X IT teams work according to the Scrum method: they are guided by a Scrum Master and Product Owner and they work with two-week long sprints. As a consequence, behavior in line with this method is expected from the team members: bearing whole-team responsibility and accountability, and sharing knowledge continuously. However, in light of the facts stated above, it is not self-evident for the teams to fully benefit from working with an agile method, and thus to display the desired behavior. Therefore, as a final conclusion for (agile) leaders it is most important to always adjust one’s leadership style and practices to the specifics of an individual team and its context. Holding on to agile leadership practices when the design conditions and context are not optimal for working with an agile method, will not make team members display behavior that is desired in an agile context. In line with this conclusion, practical recommendations are made directed at the Scrum Masters and Product Owners in the agile framework, the management of Company X, and with regard to follow-up research.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen