As an Agile leader, do you have more or less control of outcomes?


Mastering Outcome Control with Scrum: A Leader’s Perspective


In today’s fast-paced business environment, the ability to control outcomes effectively can be the difference between success and failure. As a professional scrum trainer, I often encounter questions about whether Scrum provides more or less control over outcomes compared to traditional methods like Waterfall. The answer, as with many things in life, is: it depends. Let’s dive deeper into this topic, exploring how Scrum can transform your leadership approach and enhance your team’s performance.

The Control Conundrum: Waterfall vs. Scrum

Understanding Control in Waterfall

If you’re coming from a traditional Waterfall background, you might feel like you’re relinquishing control when transitioning to Scrum. Waterfall is a linear approach, where each phase of a project must be completed before moving on to the next. This structure can create a false sense of control, as it often relies on detailed upfront planning and strict adherence to timelines.

  • Pros of Waterfall:
    • Predictable stages
    • Clear milestones
    • Detailed documentation
  • Cons of Waterfall:
    • Inflexibility
    • Late feedback
    • Higher risk of project failure

Embracing Control in Scrum

In contrast, Scrum is an Agile framework that emphasizes iterative progress, collaboration, and flexibility. Scrum provides control in a different way: through shorter feedback loops and continuous improvement. This means you can make adjustments based on real-time data and team insights, rather than sticking rigidly to a predetermined plan.

  • Pros of Scrum:
    • Adaptability to change
    • Frequent feedback
    • Higher team engagement
  • Cons of Scrum:
    • Requires cultural shift
    • Initial learning curve
    • Potential for scope creep

The Leader’s Role in Outcome Control

Setting Clear Intent and Direction

As a leader, your primary responsibility is to set a clear intent and direction for your team. This involves defining the vision and goals that you want your team to achieve. When your team understands the bigger picture, they are more likely to align their efforts with organizational objectives.

  • Define the vision: What is the ultimate goal?
  • Set clear objectives: What are the measurable milestones?
  • Communicate expectations: What does success look like?

Establishing Boundaries and Decision Authority

Your team needs to know the boundaries within which they can operate. This involves setting constraints and clearly defining the extent of their decision-making authority. By doing so, you empower them to make decisions confidently, knowing they are aligned with your expectations.

  • Define constraints: Budget, time, resources
  • Clarify decision-making: What decisions can the team make independently?
  • Provide guidelines: Best practices, standards, and policies

Nurturing Trust and Collaboration

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful Scrum team. As a leader, it’s your duty to foster an environment of trust and collaboration. When team members trust each other and feel trusted by you, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and deliver outstanding results.

  • Encourage transparency: Open communication channels
  • Promote collaboration: Cross-functional teamwork
  • Build relationships: Regular team-building activities

Being an Enabler: Supporting Your Team

Problem-Solving and Removing Obstacles

One of the key roles of a Scrum leader is to be available to help solve problems that the team cannot resolve on their own. This might involve removing impediments or providing resources that the team needs to succeed. Sometimes, it’s as simple as making a decision that the team is not authorized to make.

  • Identify obstacles: Regularly check in with the team
  • Provide resources: Tools, training, and support
  • Make tough decisions: When necessary, step in to keep the project on track

Commitment to Team Success

Your commitment to enabling your team’s success is crucial. This means being willing to invest time, effort, and sometimes financial resources to ensure your team has what they need to perform at their best. How committed are you to enabling your teams to succeed? This question should guide your actions and decisions as a leader.

  • Invest in training: Continuous learning opportunities
  • Provide support: Emotional and professional support
  • Celebrate successes: Recognize and reward achievements

Personal Insights and Recommendations

Personal Experience: Leading a Scrum Transformation

In my journey as a Scrum trainer, I have seen firsthand the transformative power of Scrum. One notable experience involved leading a Scrum transformation at a mid-sized tech company. Initially, the team was skeptical about abandoning their tried-and-true Waterfall approach. However, by setting clear goals, defining decision boundaries, and fostering a culture of trust, we gradually saw remarkable improvements in productivity and morale.

  • Start small: Pilot Scrum with a small project
  • Iterate and improve: Continuously refine processes
  • Involve everyone: Ensure all team members are on board

Practical Tips for Leaders

  • Stay engaged: Regularly participate in Scrum ceremonies
  • Be a servant leader: Focus on serving your team’s needs
  • Encourage feedback: Create a safe space for honest feedback


Controlling outcomes with Scrum is less about holding onto every detail and more about setting a clear direction, empowering your team, and fostering an environment of trust and collaboration. By shifting your mindset and embracing the principles of Scrum, you can achieve a level of control that is adaptive, resilient, and ultimately more effective in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Remember, the key to successful Scrum leadership lies in your commitment to your team’s success. Be clear, be supportive, and be ready to adapt – your team will follow suit, and the results will speak for themselves.

By adopting these strategies and mindsets, you can master the art of outcome control with Scrum, ensuring your team not only meets but exceeds expectations. Happy Scrumming! 🚀

Connect with Advanced Product Delivery.

APD offer private, tailored training courses as well as business agility and coaching. Our public training courses are delivered by practicing Agilists: Product Owners, Scrum Masters and coaches who are expert trainers and facilitators.

Whether you are looking to become a #scrummaster or #agilecoach, we have a range of internationally certified and recognised #agiletraining courses that are perfect for you. Visit Professional Scrum Training courses for more information.

If you are looking for professional, deeply experienced and skilled #agilecoaches and #agileconsultants to help you transition from traditional #projectmanagement to #agile #productdevelopment, we’ve got the ideal team to help you make that transition a success. Visit our Agile Coaching section to find out more about us.

If you have identified Lean Agile Procurement as a great opportunity to enhance #agility within your organization, visit the Lean Agile Procurement Training course or Lean Agile Procurement coaching page.

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