In a company, the development manager comes from a technical and PM background. He also acts as a tech lead, without doing any development work though. He focuses on the management side of the role.

In the morning scrum meeting, the developers start talking about yesterday, today and if there any impediments. The development manager starts asking questions to the team members such as "where are we on this?", "why did this occur?" etc. The team members reply, therefore many times starting going into details. The Scrum Master has tried mentioning that this is not a technical meeting, but the manager replies that he wants to know what's going on "with this specific thing" or "we need to understand this better". Sometimes he replies to the SM "hold on, we need to discuss this", therefore the SM has given up trying to refocus the discussion. Other times, the SM will try to coordinate the discussion on a topic, and the manager will say "let's move on, this can wait". Sometimes he will even get annoyed if the SM says "let's take this offline".

The SM had separate discussions with the manager on this, and the manager replies with arguments such as "the morning scrum is a great place to catch up on what is going on, without distracting people throughout the day", and "some people need coordination, therefore we need to hold their hands for a bit".

In this company the manager is responsible for the delivery of the product and has been working very closely to the team since day one. He has contributed a lot and still does, but it seems that he wants to control every aspect of the meeting, and the development (this propagates down to planning, where the manager will ask things to be done and therefore prioritising the backlog along with the PO).

In this company, there is a fixed project deadline, and it sounds far more important to meet the deadline "no matter what", rather than cultivate a scrum environment. The SM and PO feel hopeless, and they don't feel things can change. What would be your suggestions to SM and development manager, in order to facilitate scrum better?

  • 2
    I don't know scrum, but isn't the team supposed to be self-organizing? Difficult to reconcile with "we need to hold their hands a bit". So long as this manager is committed to NotScrum, it seems to me that scrum is doomed.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:27
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    how long is your average scrum task? if someone needs to ask "where are you on this" then they are too long
    – Ewan
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 15:10
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    You're scrum meeting has become a status report to your boss. He resists your attempts to refocus it Shrugs.
    – Nathan
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 22:45

5 Answers 5


The Scrum Master has to demand any people not part of the Development team to be 100% silent during the Daily Scrum. This is the rule according to the Scrum guide:

The Scrum Master enforces the rule that only Development Team members participate in the Daily Scrum.

After the Daily Scrum it is fine to discuss a little bit about details if needed.

I suggest that you also let your manager read the LESS pages about Management. This to make him understand what is expected from managers in Agile environments.

Now it is possible he does not want to change his behaviour and he doesn't care if your team is doing real Scrum or something that looks like Scrum. I would try to get the whole team to say (out loud together) they want to follow and implement Scrum by the book, since it generates the most value. Afterwards you should also learn your manager the Shu-Ha-Ri and if he want to play Ri he should first learn and play the game for a while, like a few years before altering it.

To end I would like to quote Martin Fowler as a final suggestion:

If you can't change your organization, change your organization!

I have done both sides in the past and really its great either way. If you think you can change the organization don't give up after some push backs. Keep repeating and repeating with respect, eventually they will turn around. Change of culture can be a process of years, so you need to have a long breath.

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    I'd also recommend Software in 30 Days for the managers, directors, executives, etc. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 13:40
  • Totally agree with Niels. Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 13:58

There are several problems going on, here.

For one thing, one person is running the daily scrum. This by itself is a problem. The purpose of the daily scrum is not a status pull; its purpose is to improve team co-ordination. It is a meeting by the Development Team, for the Development Team.

The fact that it's being run by someone who not even on the Team is even more concerning. If your technical lead isn't the Product Owner, isn't the Scrum Master, and isn't doing any development, then it sounds like he shouldn't actually be part of the Scrum Team at all (though he may still be considered part of the Development Team even if he doesn't do any development. It depends on what exactly 'the management side of the role' entails). If he's not part of the Scrum Team, then not only should he not be leading the daily scrum, he probably shouldn't even be there.

I'm also assuming the meeting isn't being time-boxed. The daily scrum should take at most 15 minutes (there's a reason I've often heard it called the 'daily standup'). If the Team is constantly going off on tangents, then it's pretty unlikely that time-box is being honoured while still allowing everyone to speak their part.

By far the biggest problem, however, seems to be a lack of buy-in. If it is "more important to meet the deadline 'no matter what', rather than cultivate a scrum environment", then as long as that holds true, you're going to have difficulty getting traction on any improvements. Before anything else, you need to find a way to improve buy-in. The simplest way to do this is to show what sort of problems the current process is causing.

This is, of course, assuming that the current process is actually causing problems. You mentioned the Scrum Master and Product Owner feel helpless. Have you discussed this with the Development Team as well? Has it been brought up in a retrospective? Do you have actual metrics describing incurred costs? The first step is to discuss and examine current issues. The next step is to make them visible.


One approach you could try is as follows:

Speak with the development manager and ask him to remain silent during the daily scrum, while the team are answering their 3-questions and self-organising.

Once all the team members have spoken the Scrum Master declares the daily scrum to be over and asks if there is anything else to cover. At this point the development manager can ask their questions.

Perhaps they won't need the whole team to be present for their questions as they may be specific to certain individuals. Then the other team members can return to their work. This is a more efficient use of their time than having the whole team listen to conversations that may not be relevant to them.


Like Barnaby, I think you need to get the devmgr to be quiet during the first part of the meeting, but I suggest two specific approaches to that end:

  • Work with his comment that "some people need coordination, therefore we need to hold their hands for a bit", especially if there is a line manager who is not the dev manager that you can enlist for support.

    • Explain to the devmgr that the daily scrum is explicitly structured to facilitate and teach team coordination, and that it is therefore important to allow this brief ("10-15 min") ceremony to proceed without interruption so that those who aren't good at coordinating can practice this on their own every day without handholding.
    • Frame it as low-cost skills development (this is where the line manager may be able to back you up), & use analogies like letting toddlers try to cruise on their own before handholding or they'll never learn to walk on their own.
    • Then defer to his concerns/worldview: "after the ceremony, if there are coordination issues they haven't resolved themselves, or if you need more details to fully understand what's going on, that's when the handholding is valuable to the team & to the project."
    • Maybe encourage him to take notes during the ceremony, to be sure he doesn't forget anything he wanted to come back to.
  • Alternatively, or if that doesn't work, give up on defending pure scrum (for now, until you can get help/allies/etc). Create and circulate a standard agenda for this daily meeting:

    • Agenda item 1: Scrum ceremony (dev team only)
    • Agenda item 2: Discussion of issues arising (dev manager)
    • Then you can point to the agenda every time he interrupts: "Right, we'll get to that in the next agenda item - hold that thought." If your workplace has a strong culture of meetings with agendas that are to be followed, this should help.

Good luck!


Is there support from other levels of management that may be able to assist with resolving this issue? A best case scenario might be that others will be able to help enlighten the Dev Mgr as to how his interactions can be unhelpful and even damaging to efficiency and ultimately success. It's also important to reinforce the positive interactions. "The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team."

Aside: Does the "fixed project deadline" include a fixed scope? If so, many benefits of Scrum can still be achieved; however, there will certainly be problems of the waterfall variety.

  • Yes, there is a fixed scope as well, and things have been dropped especially as the deadline approached in order to meet the deadline.
    – dqm
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 12:59
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    If desirements are being dropped, then I would say that the scope isn't fixed. That's a good thing. Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:00
  • The project has a fixed scope, there just wasn't enough time to finish it on the first release.
    – dqm
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:05
  • So they are being delayed? Removed from this release and will be part of a later one? Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:14
  • Yes. Some of the "agreed" features have been postponed to next release because there was no time/resources to deliver on set date.
    – dqm
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:20

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