Ender Yükseł, PhD
Martin Lohmann, PhD
Seasons of Scrum
Sponsor: Spoke and Wheel
About this podcast episode
How do agile teams align with corporate strategy, plan future resources, and support individual career growth? Martin Lohmann and Ender Yükseł have a proposal.
For our last podcast in 2022, we are excited to share an idea for a Development Manager that Ender and Martin defined at SimCorp. Martin Lohmann, who has moved on to a newer role at ALM. Brand is watching in real-time as the organization brings on a similar Development Manager role, albeit with a slightly different name.
Ender, Martin, and Bill Raymond share stories related to the development manager role, including:
✅ Typical management challenges within Scrum teams
✅ The role of the Scrum Master
✅ The role of the Development Manager
✅ How the Scrum Master and Development Manager support team success
✅ Strategies to improve Scrum team success
📝 This podcast is based on the work Ender and Martin developed for SimCorp and published on the Agile Alliance site:
(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity
You need to stop yourself from taking actions or giving directions to the team, because then you are actually blocking the team to, to learn how to solve their challenges.
Bill Raymond: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m joined by Martin Lohmann, agile coach at Alm. Brand and Ender Yüksel, director, development manager at SimCorp. Hi, how are you today?
Martin Lohmann: Great. Thanks.
Ender Yuksel: Thank you so much. Real nice to be here.
Bill Raymond: Yes, I’m really excited to have you here. We’re going to be talking about the development manager and we’ll get into what that is in just a little bit. But before we get started, could you introduce yourselves? Maybe we’ll start with you, Martin.
Martin Lohmann: Yeah. I’m Martin Lohmann, as you just said. And I’ve been working with agile for the last 15 years. Most of the time as a SCRUM master, but most recently as a full-time agile coach. And I used to work with Ender in SimCorp, where I was introduced to the role of the development manager. But for the last two years, I’ve been with Alm. Brand as a full-time agile coach.
Martin Lohmann: I’m really excited about being here today, Bill, and talking about the developer manager role.
Bill Raymond: Great. Hi, Ender.
Ender Yuksel: Hi Bill. So let me also introduce myself,my name is Ender and, just like Martin, I live and work in Denmark. And by education, I am a computer scientist software engineer, and I have taken different roles until now, including SCRUM master role. Currently, I’m doing management and this topic that’s we are going to talk about today, which we can summarize as management in agile is very interesting and exciting for me.
One of the things that we really try to focus here on the podcast is taking a look at different angles, how people approach agile.
Bill Raymond: And this one really stood out for us because you both wrote an article and we found it on the Agile Alliance, and we’ll provide a link to that in the show notes for the podcast. And it’s titled, "The Development Manager: A SCRUM Master’s Best Friend." And we read it with great interest because one of the challenges that organizations have, and I know you’re going to talk about this in the podcast, is we go and we say, we’re going to do agility. And then we maybe take some sort of a framework like SCRUM or you know, pick a framework. And it says, here is how you should work together. And so you define how you’re going to work together and how you’re going to do things like sprints and things like that. But what we don’t get into is how you actually organize yourselves. And it might be very different than what it looked like before and roles might change.
Bill Raymond: And this is what we’re excited about because you talked about the management role, because I think a lot of leaders and managers start to wonder, where do we fit when we start implementing these frameworks?
Martin’s Role at Alm. Brand
Bill Raymond: Before we do get started on this, maybe Martin, you can tell a little bit about your current work that you’re doing as an agile coach. And then I’ll talk a little bit about you, Ender, and your role. And Martin, maybe you could also touch on some of the work that you are also doing at SimCorp that’s related to this particular topic.
Martin Lohmann: Yeah, the interesting thing about what I’m doing right now, especially related to this subject of today, because in Alm. Brand, we are not using the development manager role. When I came into Alm. Brand two years ago, they had already adopted the so-called, Spotify model, taking inspiration from Spotify.
Martin Lohmann: And there you have the chapter lead role, which is kind of orthogonal to the development manager role in the sense that it is based on people skills. So you have a manager for people with the same skills across multiple teams or squads, as we call them in Spotify.
Martin Lohmann: But just recently, we also came to the conclusion that we need some leadership or management around our squads or our team. So we are currently establishing a new leadership model where we have a group of managers, a group of chapter leads taking responsible for a group of teams. So it’s kind of the same thing as a development manager we hear about today, but spread out across a couple of managers. And it just has told me that even though you have this Spotify model, you always need some leadership or management around your team, someone to support the team. And that’s what I’m working on right now, we are rolling out that new leadership modelfor 30 teams.
Ender’ Work at SimCorp
Bill Raymond: Wow, that’s great. Thank you. Ender, can you share a little bit about your work at SimCorp?
Ender Yuksel: Right. So SimCorp, originally, a software company producing software for more than five decades. And we are very proud with that, of course. And until 2015, 2016, SimCorp had been utilizing a waterfall software development model with six-month development cycles. And of course, the company was a market leader, but there were a lot of reasons to start an agile transformation.
Ender Yuksel: And of course, a company of a size of around 2000 people, which has a very strict and also strong waterfall tradition, it is not very easy. When your teams or your employees do not even know the basics, suddenly, you try to scale agility, so therefore the frameworks come in handy. So back then, in 2016, this development manager role was created.
Ender Yuksel: And this role is compared to traditional management. It’s not part of day-to-day execution. In contrary, it’s the focus is on long term development of individuals and teams. And obviously, this is over short term and medium term gains because now we are focusing on long term strategic points.
Ender Yuksel: So this is also my role for the last three plus years. Before that, I was a SCRUM master, so I made a transition from SCRUM master position to development manager position. Basically, it is about people, learning, and strategy. So that’s how I can summarize for now.
We do cover a lot about SCRUM and this next season of the podcast, we’re going to be covering a lot of topics. Because I know our listeners are interested in learning more about SCRUM, so we have some interesting topics on that.
Bill Raymond: But I do like to make sure that anyone that might be listening to the podcast for the first time maybe understands the general concepts, in case they haven’t listened and heard about SCRUM before.
High-level SCRUM Overview
Bill Raymond: So could we get a quick brief overview as to kind of, what SCRUM is at a very high level, along with why that was selected for SimCorp?
Martin Lohmann: Talking about SCRUM shortly is, I’ll do my best for the very, I love this framework. You can say that what SCRUM is very good at, is delivering software quickly to end users. Basically, you have a team working in what we call sprints, which can be between two and four weeks. And for every sprint, they are supposed to deliver something which we call potentially shippable, something which can put into production after each sprint.
Martin Lohmann: And that makes the framework extremely adaptive because you can change, in principle, you can change direction after each sprint and you can reprioritize. One thing also, I think, which is very, not specific for, but very important part of SCRUM, is that you have very clear roles. You have a role called the product owner who’s responsible for the value creation within in the team and the prioritization of the work that the team does.
Martin Lohmann: You have the SCRUM master who’s responsible for the process. And then you have what you call, the developers, which are the people who are doing the actual work within the team.
Bill Raymond: Great. So it’s basically defining a very specific team structure that allows us to quickly deliver new value to our customers.
Martin Lohmann: Exactly. Yeah.
Project Management vs Product Management
Bill Raymond: Wonderful. Now with everything that you just said, you said that you used to be waterfall, which is something that we tend to refer to as traditional or maybe project management, as opposed to product management.
Bill Raymond: And that’s the whole concept of planning everything out ahead of time, having some sort of a schedule where people are supposed to deliver things, hopefully that works out. I think what we’ve seen in the past is that very frequently, once we do the big plan, everything changes about three weeks into it and we end up with problems.
Bill Raymond: So this is embracing the idea that things change, which is why we have these short sprints, where we can change our track if we need to. Is that where you’re coming from?
Ender Yuksel: That is correct, and much more. To be honest, it’s also about changing the mindset and culture. Also changing the way people work. Because I remember before agile transformation, we had our business people in a separate location. Most of them were in the United Kingdom.
And then the development teams, developers were receiving the work from them and they were in a different location, let’s say in Denmark and Germany and so on. And then after they did their development, then we had testers in another location, which was Ukraine for us. You see, people were in different locations, not really talking to each other, not really working together to deliver value fast.
Ender Yuksel: And the feedback cycles were very long. So indeed, this is really where we are coming from and part of the motivation, but it spans a lot more points and details, surely.
Organizational Changes Because of SCRUM
Bill Raymond: Right. Thank you for that. I really appreciate it. So you decided to go down this path and you’ve already kind of alluded to the fact that you maybe have teams that are in different locations and you also have a sort of structure in place for how that work gets done. So when you decided that you wanted to move to SCRUM, were there any organizational changes you had to make?
Ender Yuksel: Yeah, there were to be honest, plenty of organizational changes. So let’s start with the management levels, which is probably most relevant to our topic today. With the adoption of agile ways of working, we actually scrapped two levels of management. In the article, we also explained that before we had traditional manager levels and then we removed those andinstead of you know, simply converting titles to new agile roles, like now you are a SCRUM master, now you are release train engineer or something else, we actually asked everyone to apply to these roles and they went into interviews.
The Four Quadrants
Ender Yuksel: And then suddenly, we realized that the traditional managers, depending on their interests, they actually picked different paths, because in the agile leadership, we actually divided this into four areas. Sometimes we call it four quadrants. So people and organization is one of them, obviously. Product is another. Technology is the third one, and process and ways of working is the fourth one.
Ender Yuksel: So for example, if a traditional manager was very much hands-on and technical, some of them took architect roles or technical leadership roles.
Ender Yuksel: For those of them that were more into people, they applied for development manager role or ways of working roles. We also to be honest, lost some of the colleagues, because some of them also wanted to continue in the traditional ways So this was one of the organizational changes.
Ender Yuksel: When we set up the teams, obviously, now we talk about SCRUM, but as I said, what we picked was a scaling framework, which was actually relying on SCRUM teams and kanban teams. So we also had very few, but also kanban teams. Anyways, these teams, regardless of the approach, they were cross-functional. And I just mentioned that we were functionally separated. So meaning that you couldn’t find these different roles in the same location.
Ender Yuksel: So that was also one other organizational change. So we had distributed teams, and now we are in the days of COVID or post COVID, which of course, seems like very natural these days, but this was one of them. There’s plenty of other things, I wouldn’t like to spend too much time on them, but individual bonuses, time registrations, things that do not add value, these were all either removed or modified.
You went through quite a change process there, and you have mentioned development manager a few times now. So it would be a good time to introduce this role. One of the things that I think is interesting is, I don’t think that we have a development manager role in our SCRUM or skilled frameworks or kanban.
The People Quadrant is Missing in SCRUM
Martin Lohmann: And I think I can add more details to the development manager role in SimCorp. But just, you already said that we don’t have much about these in the original frameworks. And Ender talked about these four quadrants of leadership. And when I introduced SCRUM, I talked about process, product and technology. But the last quadrant, the people side, is kind of missing within SCRUM. And maybe in the ideal world with a very mature team, maybe the team can take care of all these things by themselves, education, conflict resolution, strategy, but in reality, you need, at least in the beginning and for a long time, I think in an agile transition or transformation, you need some leadership around people. And that was kind of what we saw in SimCorp was missing. And that’s how the development manager role came into play.
People, Learning and Strategy
Bill Raymond: And I think you have listed three different areas, of people, learning and strategy. Could we cover each of those at a high level?
Ender Yuksel: Sure. So people is perhaps the easiest part, because we already talked about that. So what we want is the development and growth of our people. Our teams are not second class citizens compared to business commitments or deadlines and so on. So we want them to be prioritized and they need a specific leadership role for that.
Obviously, we want to have awesome teams. As our atomic unit is teams, so we want to grow healthy and happy teams, and we need to provide them vision, guidance and support they need. We also need to unlearn a lot of the traditional things and reflexes. So for example, we must have trust in people and we must provide room and psychological safety for people to thrive.
Ender Yuksel: There is super shortly the people role, the people side of the triangle.
Ender Yuksel: And then comes the learning side. But I actually need to add that the development manager is actually line manager for a whole SCRUM team together with product owner, SCRUM master and developers. And then if there are also other roles, like technical writer and user experience specialists, also them. But it is sort of utopic and unrealistic to expect that a development manager can help all of these different roles in their growth. Because in the traditional teams, let’s say if it was a team full of developers or full of testers, then probably the traditional manager was a former tester or a former developer who could very well help with the growth and career planning of the employees.
Ender Yuksel: So now in SCRUM team, there are three different roles, three different responsibilities, therefore we also worked on a set up of learning organization. And learning organization is not something we invented. The term is coined by, I believe, Peter Senge and his book, "The Fifth Discipline" was a big inspiration for us.
Ender Yuksel: So basically, we would like all of us to be able to acquire new knowledge, new skills all the time, so that we continue to be competitive and innovative. And so, all of us also worked in certain learning areas. So for example, if I have a product owner that I want to help, but I haven’t worked as a product owner in the past, so what I’m doing, I’m talking to product management learning area and they help me and my product owner with the professional development.
Ender Yuksel: There is the learning bit, and that’s also very important. We sort of mimic SCRUM roles there, so like product owner in SCRUM, we have learning owner, which kind of decides on the learning priorities.
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Ender Yuksel: The third corner of the triangle is the strategy and that’s a very important topic because in a midsize or large corporate translating and localizing strategy, which is defined on the top level and when it comes to the team level, this is not something easy, and it might lose or fade out until it hits the team level.
Ender Yuksel: So there is also a lot of things that needs to be done there. It’s not only prioritization or providing time for that, but for example, using the right tools, which could be OKRs, which could be something else. And then guiding and coaching the teams for that and making sure everyone understands the strategy. And that’s something about that is also part of the game.
Bill Raymond: Oh, thank you very much. And that strategy piece is interesting to me because when you’re talking about strategy, I think when we talk about these frameworks, very often we think about the product owner as being the strategy person for the team, right? And that strategy for the team is usually, here’s how I’m working with the customer to identify the most value that we’re going to bring, so I can help shape the work that’s being done. But what you’re saying here is that yes, that still happens, but also you need to think about the corporate strategy and have alignment on that. Is that where you’re saying the development manager lives?
Ender Yuksel: Exactly. So to give a very concrete example, for a lot of software companies or solution or service provider companies,becoming a SaaS company, I mean, Software as a Service is requiring some sort of transformation. That could be the strategy of the company. But then again, when you are in a SCRUM team or kanban team, then you are of course, part of a big picture, and perhaps you don’t directly see how your work contributes to the corporate strategy and vice versa. Like, what can you do to achieve the corporate goals? So you are spot on, Bill, so it’s actually more of this high-level strategy.
Bill Raymond: and I can see that if the teams sort of manage that themselves, then we could be pulling them into quite a bit of strategy conversations on a regular basis and be pulling them away from that work that we’re hoping that gets done every sprint.
Ender Yuksel: Exactly.
Martin Lohmann: But there is also an element of strategy being reflected into the skillset within the team. So development manager also has an eye for what kind of skills will be needed within the company within the next year, or even in the longer term, because they know the strategy. As Ender was mentioning, maybe you want to be a SaaS company. What skills does the team need to acquire within the next year or so?
Bill Raymond: Oh, that makes sense as well. You’re really thinking ahead. And so you’re probably spending a lot of time working with this SCRUM master and other members of the product team, but I’m guessing the SCRUM master is going to be a good pairing to work towards that plan for your resourcing.
Ender Yuksel: So we mean it when we say they are best friends.
How Many Teams for a Development Manager?
Bill Raymond: How many teams does a development manager manage?
Ender Yuksel: Sure. Andthank you, Bill, it’s a really good point. So when this role was defined, it was defined with four teams or up to four teams in mind. And when I say, team, then we were referring to either scaled agile or SCRUM team size, which can vary it from seven plus minus two or seven to 11 or six plus minus three or two pizza teams. But this is the range that we are talking about.
Ender Yuksel: And then as I said before, we talk about whole team. So it’s not like product owner refers to a product manager and a SCRUM master refers to somebody else, so it’s the complete team.
Ender Yuksel: And also in the article, we mentioned that this might sound as too many people to work with, but bear in mind that the role is not about execution. The role is really about people and teams and their development.
Ender Yuksel: So that is one thing. Another thing is obviously, when you look at other companies or other organizations, how they solve line management, then you might see a lot of different examples. So one example is line manager per role. So manager for developers, manager for SCRUM masters, so on.
Ender Yuksel: Another example could be the location, could be geographical location, so manager for this city or this town and manager for the other. And it can also be levels, like manager in team level, managing in agile release train level.
Ender Yuksel: So there were many examples, but this was what SimCorp decided, And we still keep this role.
Ender Yuksel: Where it is in the organization, it’s also a good question. You asked me, it is both in team level, working with the teams, but also close to the upper management. And I think that there’s a healthy balance in there.
Ender Yuksel: I also would like to say that this was not merely a problem of line management when SimCorp came up with the development manager role. It was also about, we needed agile leaders to lead the change and have a long term focus. So this is kind of how it is in the organization.
What is the SCRUM Master role?
I think it would be useful before we get into how the development manager and the SCRUM master work together, could you define for us at a high level, what the SCRUM master role is?
Martin Lohmann: The SCRUM master role is the one being responsible for the process. And I think, if you look at a ship, he will be the one responsible for the machine, making sure that the machine is running, the machine is running smoothly, that the developers have optimal conditions for doing their work, having the optimal processes.
So the product owner decides what the team should work on, but the SCRUM master ensures it has been executed efficiently using the SCRUM framework.
you can look at the SCRUM master as kind of being a manager for that team in some ways, because they do tend to help remove roadblocks. They do tend to be someone that you might go to in order to help make some improvements.
How the Development Manager and SCRUM Master Work Together
Bill Raymond: And so can you talk a little bit about how the development manager and the SCRUM master role work together?
Martin Lohmann: Yeah, and also maybe I should go back to the title of our article, "A SCRUM Master’s Best Friend." And I think we added that to be a little provocative because I think, when I’ve been talking to SCRUM master, I think most SCRUM masters have an inherent skepticism towards managers. And I think also from my own experience, if you’re working in an organization where managers do not have an agile mindset, you would like to get them as far away as possible.
Martin Lohmann: So the idea here was actually to turn the thing around, so that a manager can also be your best friend as a SCRUM master. And I see these roles as complimenting each other. Because as Ender mentioned before, some organizations, they choose to have the SCRUM master as the people manager, but that kind of tilts the balance because you would like in SCRUM that the three roles, product owner, developers, and SCRUM master, that they are equal.
Martin Lohmann: So if you’re making the SCRUM master the manager of the team, suddenly you have made one of the roles more powerful than the other, so you don’t want that. But on the other hand, sometimes within teams, you need some management support. For instance, if you go into an agile transformation, some developers may still have the mindset that they have been judged or rewarded based only on the technical skills. So when the SCRUM master says, yeah, you should do some testing, you should learn other skills, they would think: "this is not something which will help my career. It’s not something that will help me getting a salary raise." But then you have the development manager who can step in and talk to these developers and explain to them there are new expectations here in the company.
Martin Lohmann: Actually, we will value your learning more skills. You are already a brilliant C# developer, maybe you should learn other skills.
Martin Lohmann: But if you say that as a SCRUM master, maybe they think, Hey, this guy is just like this agile fanatic, I’ve been here for so many years, I know how this organization works.
Martin Lohmann: So I think in this sense, the development manager can help a lot. They can also help with conflict resolution. I think of course, conflicts should be resolved within the team, and I think it’s a SCRUM master’s job to help solve conflicts. But sometimes, they get to a level where someone with people management responsibility should step in and take over from the SCRUM master, or work together with the SCRUM master.
We always talk about the importance in agility of enabling teams to do the best work that they can, and enabling them to continue delivering value. But if we don’t put some sort of a structure where people just keep inserting themselves into the team and more and more meetings happen and more ideas just keep flowing in, we need to protect that team in some ways. And I think that’s kind of what we’re talking about here, there is that level of protection in that. You know, if the team is doing these sprints, these iterations or getting the work done, we have one person that’s sort of that vessel, maybe that’s the wrong word, but the person that’s kind of taking a lot of the input and strategy for what the next value is that you’re delivering, and that’s a product owner.
Bill Raymond: You have another person that’s making sure that the team’s working successfully. And then you have this other person that’s also making sure that we’re aligning to where the company is going in the development manager. That makes sense to me, because imagine trying to be a part of all of that, you wouldn’t get a whole lot of work done.
Is that the approach that you were taking with this role?
Martin Lohmann: Yeah, and again, going back to these four quadrants of leadership, you’re just saying one person cannot be responsible for everything. And also I think, people have also differentpreferences and skills, so having a master technical person and a master people person, and a master process person,these people are very, very rare.
Martin Lohmann: So now actually with this role, we are looking for someone with excellent people skills and the ability to grow people.
We always like to give some sort of a takeaway, some sort of thoughts on what you might be able to do.
Bill Raymond: So if someone’s listening to this right now and they’re thinking, I’d be interested in maybe adopting this kind of a structure for my agile teams, can we talk a little bit about what you might recommend?
I think it goes for any agile manager, but because the development manager is so close to the team, it’s even more important that development manager, he or she must have a very sound understanding of SCRUM and the dynamics and mechanics within a SCRUM team, because they are so close. So they can do a lot of good things for the team, but they can also do a lot of damage if they don’t understand what’s going on within the team and how to support a SCRUM team.
I’ve met some great managers over my life, my career, and sometimes they are so separated from what it is that we’re doing, that we don’t feel like there’s a good connect. Even though they’re a great leader and a great manager and they have great people skills. Sometimes, they don’t fully understand what it is that we do and how we do it.
Bill Raymond: And so what you’re saying, I think, is make sure that this role not only is a great manager, but also really does have a deep understanding as to what the teams are doing.
Martin Lohmann: Also, how they work. As a development manager, it’s a great thing you show up at the standup meetings to show your interest for the team, the team’s daily meetings. But if you do that in an interrupting way, you are just making things worse.
Ender Yuksel: Exactly, so that’s one of our favorite examples, actually. There is a very natural instinct when the team is discussing or sharing about a challenge or a problem, then you need to stop yourself from taking actions or giving directions to the team, because then you are actually blocking the possibility of team to learn how to solve their challenges.
Ender Yuksel: So definitely, any leadership and management role, they need to have some sort of education, in order to protect the team sometimes from themselves.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, well, I think that’s a great way to end the conversation. I really appreciate the time that you’ve both taken today. I’ll start with you, Ender. Is it okay if anyone reaches out to you?
Ender Yuksel: Yeah, definitely. And I believe the easiest way to do so is to approach me on LinkedIn.
Bill Raymond: Right And Martin, yourself?
Martin Lohmann: Yeah, the same for me. Please reach out on LinkedIn.
Bill Raymond: Wonderful. if you’re listening to this right now in a podcast app, just scroll down to the bottom, to the show notes, and you will see those links there. I also noticed through the conversation, you mentioned a book called, "The Learning Organization," so I’ll make sure that I provide a link to that there.
Bill Raymond: And at the beginning of this conversation, Ender, you mentioned that we need to create space for the team to thrive. And we just had a fabulous conversation with Lyssa Adkins on the podcast, it’s fairly recent one. You can just go ahead to the agileinaction.com website, and you can search for how executive leaders create the space for agile to flourish. And I think that will provide you some context there as well.
Bill Raymond: Martin Lohmann and Ender Yüksel, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for your time today.
Ender Yuksel: Thank you for having us.
Martin Lohmann: Thank you, Bill, for having us.