Culture change is almost automatic when decision rights change


Scrum, Kanban, DevOps. Etc. All are best viewed as a pre-fabricated systems of decision rights.

Scrum is a good example. The roles, artifacts and events defined in Scrum are typically implemented fully. But, the rules about decision rights are usually not implemented or honored. This leads to the appearance of “full-on Scrum” to casual observers. But the decision rights by role are modified, or missing.

Implementing Scrum without those decision rights will not get great results, or change your culture for the better.

Example #2: Kanban

Kanban. Same thing. There are specific decision rights defined in Kanban. The Kanban method says that the Team or a representative member of the Team, and the person requesting work, are to discuss the work, at the boundary of the Kanban board. And they are to characterize it by Work Item Type, before adding the work to the queue. Work Item Type also implies “cycle time” which is how long the requester of the work can be expected to wait for it to complete.

Typically, a representative Team member is the one that has the discussion at the boundary, and decides about the assignment of a specific Work Item Type.

Also typically, the dev-Team member has LESS authority overall than the requester of the work does. This can lead to problems: the dev-team member managing the boundary may end up “caving in” and assigning a Work Item Type with a faster cycle time, because that is what the requester pushes for, and wants. This amounts to an override of Kanban decision rights with respect to who owns the decision about what Work Item Type will be assigned.

Kanban implemented like this will not get you great results, or change your culture.

Summing up

Improving value delivery, quality and so on usually involves changes to how decisions are made, and who make them. Aligning changes to decision rights in service to more value delivery usually involves at least some discomfort at first. This is the price of genuine improvement … and genuine culture change… for the better.