The Growing Popularity of Leadership Scrum

I’m noticing quite frequently now  people from a broad variety of fields, especially agile transformation consultants, executive coaches and engagement model designers, are seeing success with Leadership Scrum as a highly effective approach to Business Agility.  Starting with the Product Team has not given us nearly the lasting benefits that starting from the top of the organization has.  I attribute this to the difference of impact that leaders who go first have on the rest of their organization.

Authorization by example, is just more viable as a self-replicating vector (aka. ‘meme’) than directing people to “do-as-I-say, not-what-I-do.”  People who are leading Exponential Organizations understand this phenomena instinctively, and they are taking very bold, decisive action toward behavior modification throughout their organization, starting with themselves. Expect to see many more presentations and publications at the biggest Agile conferences, by people who dove into this aggressively.

For those who are not as familiar with the framework of Leadership Scrum, it is detailed below.  We, the framers of Leadership Scrum, welcome your comments, observations while introducing it in organizations, and success stories you’ve directly observed.


Agile adoptions require alignment of engagement at every level of authorization up, down and across the organization. Agile adoptions require bottom-up participation as well as top-down authorization to be successful.

Scrum is a set of practices that align with Agile principles and facilitate delivery of value.

Ideally, two things are true from the start if Scrum is being considered for use across the enterprise:

  • The leaders have examined and completely understand the Scrum Guide and have an appreciation for the organizational changes that are needed to support the use of Scrum.
  • The leaders have direct experience implementing Scrum themselves, by applying Scrum to their own leadership work.

This latter aspect is especially important. If the executive leaders have direct experience using Scrum, they become more fluent in it and accordingly success with Scrum is much more likely across the enterprise.

Leadership Scrum is composed of Events, Artifacts, Roles, and Rules. Supporting Practices are recommended and optional.

These elements are listed below: 

    1. PREWORK:
      1. Prework sets up the Leadership Scrum Team for success with both leadership work and the enterprise Agile adoption process. The Leadership Scrum Team sets up for success via the following Prework steps:
        1. Examine the Scrum Guide and discuss the implications of implementing Scrum across the organization.
        2. Examine the Core Commitments and then discuss in detail, with intent to understand the guidance they provide.
        3. Develop and periodically update a roadmap of the next 3, 6 and 9 months of leadership work, leadership tasks and organizational milestones
        4. Examine and size leadership work items, and forecast effort required for each leadership work item, optionally employing User Stories and Planning Poker to complete these tasks.
      1. The LPO is the owner of this meeting
      2. Each sprint starts with general discussion the Leadership Roadmap as it stands.
      3. This is immediately followed by a facilitated Lean Coffee meeting (this is a kind of tabletop Open Space meeting) in which the whole Team participates.
      4. During the Lean Coffee, the items that will go into the Sprint are discussed, developed and ultimately selected, as output from these discussions
        1. Only items that have previously been examined and sized by the Team are candidates for discussion and selection during the Lean Coffee segment of the Sprint Planning meeting.
      5. The output from the Lean Coffee segment is a set of leadership items that will be added to the next planned Leadership Sprint.
      6. The Team uses empirical data on what was achieved during the last 3 Sprints. This data is averaged and used as a measure of likely capacity for purposes of populating the Leadership Sprint with work. If 3 Sprints of data is not available, a WAG (wild ass guess) of likely Team capacity is used.
      1. This is the same as the Daily Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Any members who are traveling are required to send in the 3-questions information as text, by email or in some other way
      1. The demo is an event where stakeholders (subordinates) are invited to attend and provide feedback. Meeting attendance is optional. In this meeting the leadership team demonstrates progress on items included in the last Sprint.
      2. The Sprint Demo can be added to any scheduled monthly “all-hands” meeting
      3. Optionally, the Authority Circle meeting format is employed as the last step of the Sprint Demo meeting (see description below)
      1. Leadership teams complete Leadership Scrum Sprints with a facilitated retrospective in the Lean Coffee format.
    1. The artifacts in Leadership Scrum include the Leadership Roadmap, the Leadership Sprint Backlog and the Scrum Board which depicts work remaining in the Sprint. The details follow:
      1. The Leadership Roadmap (LR) is a high-level Product Backlog, depicted on a timeline. It is a near-term view of the likely sequencing of tasks and activities that achieve the strategic plan in tactical terms. The strategic plan is a 1, 2 or 3 year plan that is updated as frequently as monthly. The strategic plan, if available, is the source of Leadership Sprint Backlog items. Otherwise the Team constructs the Leadership Roadmap from known elements of the work that must be achieved to be successful in a business context
      2. The LR looks out 3, 6 and 9 months and is the source of per-Sprint Leadership Backlog (LB) items. The maximum look-ahead is 9 months.
      3. The LR is a timeline of activities, research, tasks, milestones and events. The items on this list are constantly changing in terms of schedule and priority.
      4. The LR can be considered to be a kind of Product Backlog, per the Scrum Guide, with work prioritized and sequenced for execution immediately, and also 3, 6 and 9 months out.
      1. This is a list of items that are selected from the LR for addressing and completion during the current 1-month Sprint.
      1. The Scrum Board is a simple visual depiction of the work remaining in the Leadership Sprint. The columns are “TO DO”, “DOING” and “DONE.”
      2. The Scrum Board may be depicted inside an online tool such a Trello or similar.
  3. ROLES
    1. LEADERSHIP PRODUCT OWNER (LPO): This person is the person with the most formal authority in the given situation. Whoever is the topmost person in terms of formal authorization is the correct person to take up this role.
      1. The LPO is responsible for defining the milestones and sequential order of items depicted on the Leadership Roadmap
      1. The Facilitator is like a Scrum Master in core Scrum, with an emphasis on facilitation.
      2. The Facilitator, who facilitates the Lean Coffee format of the Sprint Planning meeting, also facilitates the Daily Scrum.
    3. COACH
      1. The Coach is an optional role. The Coach is an external consultant who helps the Leadership Team get started with Leadership Scrum. As soon as the Leadership Team gets the basic idea, the Coach guides less and less and observes more and more.
      2. The Coach mentors the Facilitator in the basics of Leadership Scrum.
    4. TEAM
      1. The Team executes on work that is loaded into the Leadership Sprint
      2. The Team includes all of the LPO’s direct reports and also includes others whose inputs of work and planning are essential for success.
  4. RULES
    1. Only the LPO can alter the schedule and sequencing of tasks and events depicted on the LR.
    2. Sprints are 4 weeks long
    3. The Team consists of the set of all people who report to the LPO
    4. The LPO is always a member of the Team
    5. Coach and Facilitator can be the same person
    6. Any Team member may occupy the Facilitator/SM role.
    7. Additional Guidelines
      1. The LPO and the Facilitator may be the same person; however this is not recommended
      2. It is recommended that all Leadership Scrum artifacts are depicted visually in the workplace.
    1. USE OF THE CORE COMMITMENTS. The Core Commitments describe 11 behaviors that help guide teams towards achieving goals and objectives. It is highly recommended that the use of the Core Commitments be part of implementing Leadership Scrum.
©2017 Mark Sheffield, Jon Jorgensen and Daniel Mezick
Offered for license under the Attribution Share-Alike license of Creative Commons, accessible at and also described in summary format By utilizing this Leadership Scrum Guide, you acknowledge and agree that you have read and agree to be bound by the terms of the Attribution Share-Alike license of Creative Commons.

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