LeSS with Gene and James: Why Agile Roles Are Being Eliminated? What Are Systemic Root Causes Of This?

Industry Announcements That Led To This Discussion.

On January 19, both Bloomberg and Reuters, independently, came out with the news about one large American bank holding company that eliminated 1100 Tech Jobs, and by making this decision, directly impacted ‘agile delivery’ roles/agile jobs families.  (click the links above for details).

Interestingly, a few years ago, the same company openly published the news about discontinuing the role of Scrum Master in favor of ‘Agile Delivery Lead’, with the ladder role being now eliminated.  Unfortunately, the original two posts by the company, publishing its decision, are now removed from the company’s site:

Misunderstanding the role of Scrum Master, in simple organizational settings (e.g. small-scale product development – Scrum) and complex organizational settings (e.g. large-scale product development – Large Scale Scrum) have been well known.  This could be one of the main reasons why some organizations shift away from/discontinue the role of Scrum Master, in favor of ‘agile leads’ and alike, more traditionally sounding roles (with the root ‘lead’ in them) –  companies and their people gravitate towards what seems to be more traditionally understood.

In order to understand the situation in full, from organizational design and systemic implications perspective, these decisions need to be well researched and analyzed. Things to consider, while analyzing:

  • Understanding the real purpose of agile frameworks (e.g. Scrum, Large Scale Scrum)
  • Funding/budgeting that are aligned to products (not projects, programs, portfolios)
  • HR norms/policies, supporting career path, compensation and promotion of agile roles
  • Understanding the differences between job security and role security

Have you been impacted by what is described herein? Do you feel that soon you might be impacted by similar decisions of your  company?  Is your company at the point of decision-making,s uch as:

  • Should Scrum Master role be discontinued in favor of an ‘agile lead’ (or similar) role?
  • Should Agile lead role be eliminated, as next step in agile maturity journey?
If you think what is described here warrants a private or group discussion, feel free to reach out directly (bottom of this page).

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3 thoughts on “LeSS with Gene and James: Why Agile Roles Are Being Eliminated? What Are Systemic Root Causes Of This?”

  1. A few years back now: a “green” colored banking shop liquidated large group of “IT Project Manager”s. It did it though mass lay-off legislation (under redundancy clause) and thus could not rehire back within 6-12 due to the same legislation.

    As per usual – organization could not just operate without these, as they were not redundant in the value-chain and the organization went over-zealous on the layoff numbers . The shop decided hire back “Delivery Managers” instead – widely the same mandate with minor changes. Most of these contractors of course that in can bounce-around in their mandate and plug holes.

    So don’t be surprised the org mentioned in the article in a few months from now to hire “Zen Den Masters” in a lurking wisdom to support operations.

  2. I would suggest to read this nice article written in 2019: https://medium.com/serious-scrum/we-replaced-the-scrum-master-role-with-the-agile-delivery-lead-role-50181acc7aa9
    I really think company trying to cut cost reducing the employee and asking to do the same amount of work to few people has nothing to do with agile.
    Like reported in the agile manifesto: “We are uncovering better ways of developing
    software by doing it and helping others do it.” It is totally fine to change the way to deliver, but asking to scrum master to do double work including a focus on technical improvement instead of considering the agile principle “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams” is totally non sense.
    To me this simply means that management is going to cut cost without any idea about the future. I would suggest to that managers to have a look to this: https://www.polygon.com/2013/7/5/4496512/why-nintendos-satoru-iwata-refuses-to-lay-off-staff

  3. Referencing the quote below, I don’t read anything that suggests a change in how they value those with agile skills, rather a change in structure. This can be a positive step in their progression, if they are ready for it. Agile, or any similar evolution, will not be sustainable if propped up by a separate group. While needed at first, eventually agile has to just be the way work gets done. That is what I read here. Informal communities of practice will form organically, if they don’t exist already, to replace the formal structure that was the agile job family.

    The company plans to eliminate its “Agile” job family and integrate it into existing engineering and product manager roles, it said in a statement. The affected employees have been invited to apply for other roles in the bank.

    “The Agile role in our Tech organization was critical to our earlier transformation phases but as our organization matured, the natural next step is to integrate agile delivery processes directly into our core engineering practices,” the statement said.


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