I recently wrote an article entitled Simple Scrum where I attempt to describe Scrum in an industry-independent way. I was dissatisfied by retaining the names of the Scrum roles, as they seem too industry-specific [more] or at least are loaded with meaning specific to current (often unsatisfactory) usage. In considering a fully industry-agnostic Scrum, I have recast the roles to their essence.
The Roles in Agnostic Scrum
1. The What Voice
A single voice, possibly channeling many voices, with the aim of defining ‘well formed outcomes’ and prioritizing for the highest possible value in the given context. The What Voice is also responsible for expenditure and any go/no go decision.
2. The How Tribe
A cross-functional group of 3-7 people who between them contain all the skills necessary to solve the problems given by the What Voice. Only the members of the Tribe are empowered to make decisions as to how to do the work, requesting clarity and support from the What Voice as necessary.
3. The Joker
An outcomes-neutral facilitator, concerned with fostering a collaborative environment, guiding the tribe towards self-improvement and self-sufficiency, and challenging the containing organization to lead through release and honor, rather than control and mistrust. The Joker acts as a servant to the team, and an agent of change within the wider organization.
These three roles constitute the Scrum Team; it is the pull in three different directions: profit, mastery and the greater good, that generates the healthy conflict and tension required to reach previously unimagined levels of innovation and creativity, and allows Scrum teams to deliver true value.
There is a fourth role in Scrum, outside of the team, but involved at regular intervals. The role is essentially everyone else who cares.
4. The Audience*
Everyone who funds, uses or profits from the product, service or idea being created. The Audience offer feedback at regular intervals, and should contain amongst them a handful of serious critics.
The What is the destination; the How is the pathway
Calling the first role the What Voice and the second role the How Tribe instantly sets the two aspects of creation aside from one another. For self organization to work a team (or tribe) needs to be empowered, left alone and trusted. Trusting is difficult when requirements are vague, and empowerment is impossible when the tribe experience continuous interference regarding the technologies, tools and practices being used.
We need a clear separation between what is being asked for —essentially a goal: an outcome of value— and the path we’ll take to get there. People on the business end of the creative process need to define clear outcomes, that describe audience and value. As they are likely not developing solutions themselves they need to be completely feet-off the solution pathway, unless specifically invited in.
Looking at the Scrum roles in this industry-agnostic way allows us to see the underlying principles and values on which the roles need to operate to be successful. It is too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day implementation decisions, and lose sight of the greater purpose.
* I first came across the term “audience” for users and stakeholders in Matt Heusser and Chris McMahon’s recent ST&P article [Volume 6, Issue 10, Oct 2009] Performing the Software. I liked it, and thus borrowed it. Thanks guys.