Initiating Scrum from the Top Down

Scrum continues to gain traction within Microsoft.  While it initially started with a grassroots movement in teams, Scrum's success has resulted in it being more frequently being initiated from the top down.  I did a small, informal survey of people on an internal ‘agile’ alias last fall.  The result of this survey was about 40% of the teams were initiated from the top down.

In my opinion, implementing Scrum from the top down is more difficult than from the bottom up.  First of all, you have to overcome the initial skepticism that individual contributors have for any process imposed on them from the top down.  Second, you need to ensure that ScrumMasters are properly trained and bought into the process.  Finally and most concerning, you have a strong tendency to end up in a traditional command and control environment instead of the self managed world that Scrum targets.

I’ve seen and heard of top down implementations at Microsoft that haven’t been well received.  The individual contributors that should benefit from Scrum are chafing from the additional overhead and a perception of micro-management.  It is extremely frustrating to me when a process that is supposed to empower developers ends up micro-managing them.

Ken Schwaber, one of the Scrum founders, apparently is seeing this problem as well.  You can read about his view here.