Recently a senior agile coach shared that what was most needed was for leaders to have someone give them feedback on how disruptive and costly their behavior was to Scrum teams. When leaders would bypass the Product Owner and go straight to teams and change priorities and assign work, it caused many problems, most of which were unseen or not noticed.
First, there is the cost of lost work or rework. As Mike Cohn has shared, changing your order at the restaurant after the kitchen has begun working on it is waste. In addition, many ScrumMasters have said that the constant changing of priorities causes a loss of faith, trust, and confidence in leadership.
In another similar situation, a Vice President was demanding that the development team be fired because they weren’t delivering. Yet, it was this same situation of leaders constantly changing priorities that were the cause. Rather than the team completing 10 features, they were half-way done with 20 features, but not fully complete with any. Every few weeks, a different executive over a different area was coming to the team and assigning different work.
When leadership decides on the Product Owner, the team’s Sprint Review of what was done for the Product Owner is a feedback loop. If any leader went to the team and changed priorities, all of the business would hear about it in the demo (if not earlier).
Also, if leaders would have a coach, that would help with honest, direct feedback. Internal employees often don’t speak out for fear of how it might affect their job, and for good reason based on what I’ve seen. The outside coach not only acts as a mirror, but has a goal for the leader to grow through behaviors that are holding them back. And that’s mulitplier effect is worth a couple hours a month.