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The way I understand Scrum is that the team organizes itself. As a developer, I should decide what's the right way to reach a goal. If necessary, I should communicate with other team members to get things done.

A short time ago, one of our team members became the team leader. During the daily standup he comments on or criticizes team members for what they do, or the way they want to do work. He tries to force team members to do things the way he wants.

Isn't that all against the idea of a self-organized team?

  • I"d guess that the team leader you mentioned is also the Scrum Master... would that be the case? – Tiago Cardoso Sep 8 '16 at 22:26
  • @TiagoCardoso this is not the case. – brainray Sep 9 '16 at 10:53
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    So, the concept of team leader shouldn't apply... – Tiago Cardoso Sep 9 '16 at 18:00
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Isn't that all against the idea of a self-organized team?

Yes and no.

Since the 'team leader' is a member of the Team, his opinion should be taken into account. If any team member's opinion is ignored during organization, then that's a strong smell that there's something wrong with the whole 'self-organizing' situation.

One thing you and he need to take into consideration, however, is that Scrum recognizes no 'team lead' role. The only roles in the Scrum Team are Product Owner, Development Team Member, and Scrum Master. No member of the Development Team intrinsically has more decision-making authority than any other member.

The 'team lead' does not own the issue. However, neither does the person working on it. The entire Team owns each issue (once they've entered into the Sprint), and as such any complications or concerns regarding implementation details of those issues are the purview of the entire Team.

When something like this comes up, the details need to be discussed (note: not during the daily Scrum, that's not the purpose of that meeting) and a consensus needs to be reached. If the 'team lead' believes there is a problem with how someone else is approaching an issue, then what he should be doing is explaining the problem and convincing everyone that his approach will be better - not simply dictating how it should be done and assuming his orders will be followed. Likewise, this can and should be done when any Team member sees a problem with an issue being worked on by any other Team member. It's not just the 'team lead' who should do this.

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Symptoms of a Partial Scrum Implementation

During the daily standup he comments on or criticizes team members for what they do, or the way they want to do work. He tries to force team members to do things the way he wants.

You have multiple problems with your Scrum implementation, and they aren't just the ones you think you have. Specifically:

  1. In Scrum, there is no role labeled "team lead." All members of the development team are equal members of the team.
  2. The daily standup is for planning and coordination of the daily increment, not code reviews or debates. Besides being toxic in his approach, the "team lead" is misusing the ceremony and should be reminded of the purpose of the meeting.
  3. Keeping the daily standup on track and enforcing the Scrum framework is the responsibility of the Scrum Master. Where is she in all of this?
  4. Recurring problems should be brought up and addressed during the Sprint Retrospective. It doesn't sound like the team is leveraging that properly.
  5. The team is collectively responsible for product development. Self-organizing doesn't mean team members can do whatever they want in isolation; it just means that no one outside the Scrum Team should be allowed to interfere with the team's processes or workflow.
  6. The second half of Sprint Planning (where Product Backlog Items are decomposed into tasks for the Sprint Backlog) is where team discussions about implementation should take place. It doesn't sound like the work is being agreed to by the entire team during Sprint Planning, which is a huge red flag. There's nothing stopping team members from having discussions (or even formal meetings) outside of the Scrum ceremonies to address implementation details, but the team should always exit Sprint Planning with a shared vision of the work to be done.

In short, the Scrum framework is not being followed. An experienced, active Scrum Master is needed to help the team work more effectively within the Scrum framework, and to provide guidance to team members about their roles and workflows.

  • Overall a good response. Some points: "The daily standup is...not code reviews" is inaccurate although would not be an ideal practice. "Keeping the daily standup on track is the responsibility of the Scrum Master" is inaccurate as it is the Development Team's responsibility; the Scrum Master can coach if the Development Team needs improvement. scrumguides.org – Alan Larimer Sep 11 '16 at 21:04
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I would add that it is also a "people problem". Isn't the team leader a star (person with high ego and probably high knowledge)? Or primma donna developer? Some people can't help but know better and they keep impose other their will. The issue sooner or later will come up during retrospectives and developer team would solve it. If not, scrum master should react and empower other team members to dare to have and implement their own ideas. There is a common misconception that stars are irreplaceable. Rarely the are. Don't get intimidated!

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