Agile, Scrum Master

Mother-in-law syndrome in the Agile world

Mother in law is spoiling the family life! Managers are spoiling Agile Team!

“Monster in-Laws:” A Leading Cause of Divorce. In the Agile team context this causes for attrition.

An article titled “Divorce Causes: 5 Ways to Destroy Your Marriage” in the Huffington Post states that in-Laws can be a leading cause of divorce. Author Francesca Escoto writes, “how spouses relate to the in-laws is a strong predictor of marriage longevity. A man who gets along with his wife’s parents is wise — his chances of a strong marriage increases by about 20 percent. Women who get along with their in-laws actually have an increased probability of divorce, by about 20 percent.” 

What can we do about it ? We need them but they should not break the family.

In an Agile Team/Family, the manager is like the mother-in-law! in the Agile world they do not have much to do, because they have retired from the active family life, or lets say delivery role. This delivery role is managed by the Product owner and Scrum Master.

But, managers like mother in law is interfering in every course of action.

Have you seen such instances in Agile projects where the manager is hovering around the scrum team?

Mothers-in-law are known for being, judgmental, critical and overbearing. They don’t want to leave the control. For them, you are still kids and cannot decide for your good. In Project team also Manager could be the same.

She is always right, without exception. Which means that she’s never wrong. She’ll never admit being wrong, and she will never apologize for anything. In her opinion, you (and possibly your spouse) are the only person to blame. Similar situations can be seen in the Agile Team.

To establish her dominance she will expect you to please her. That would require you to appear at every family event, to learn her way of cooking, cleaning and just about everything else under the sun (because her way is clearly better). And, if you fail to do any of those, you are doomed! and she has a right to complain about you to anyone who’ll listen. Similarly with the Agile Team, the Manager does exactly the same and the escalation goes to the senior leaders.

If you are still not kneeling to her will, she will move on to heavier artillery. She will start a smear campaign in her community, trying to turn everyone against you. If she succeeds, those people will start putting pressure on your husband to leave you, saying that they’re just “worried about him” and they “want him to be happy.” Similar things can be found with the Agile Team, where Manager will be doing exactly like this and eventually the husband/scrum team member may leave.

Don’t try to mediate your son’s marital disputes. Let them solve their own problem. In Agile team, let the team members solve it, managers don’t have to jump into all these to become an hero. Managers are already heroes, now it’s time for the team to become one.

Don’t rearrange your daughter-in-law’s house. Clearly the coffee mugs should be stored in the cabinet over the coffee maker. Any idiot can see that. But it’s not the Mother-in-law’s kitchen. So, Mothers-in-law don’t decide where the coffee mugs go. In an Agile team, the team decides everything with the help of PO and SM.

  1. Fold daughter-in-law’s laundry without her permission,
  2. Buy clothes for daughter-in-law that only mothers-in-law would wear,
  3. Think daughter-in-law is perfect,
  4. Enter daughter-in-law’s bedroom without knocking,
  5. Offer unsolicited advice,
  6. Show up unannounced,
  7. Criticize daughter-in-law’s cooking.

All these activities can be mapped to Agile team context where Managers are getting into team comfort zone and spoiling the self-organized culture.

Many of the items on the list are considered faux pas in any situation. They are a hundred times more egregious when put in the context of a mother-in-law – Manager)/daughter-in-law (SM/PO) relationship. 

How to Manage her, or Managers

What Scrum Masters can do for the Agile team ?

a) Respect her different viewpoints. Even if you don’t agree with what she has to say, listen to your mother-in-law. Don’t immediately write off what she has to say. Hear her out (even if you feel it’s ridiculous) and let her know you’re listening. You don’t have to agree to anything.

Respond neutrally by saying, “Okay, I’ll consider that” or, “Thanks for your input.”

If she puts you in a difficult position, defer to your spouse. Say, “I don’t want to answer right away. Let me talk to my spouse first.”

b) Use humor. Deflecting criticism, or other awkward interaction with humor can deflate conflicts and put everyone at ease again. Whether the situation seems tense or she’s making things difficult, a little humor can go a long way.

c) Work through your own feelings about your mother-in-law. Are you able to put yourself in her shoes occasionally and see just where some of her so-called interfering or judgmental behavior comes from? She values the person you’re married to, so there must be something good inside her!

 – Keep in mind that whatever your feelings, your mother-in-law remains one of the most important people in your spouse’s life. Be sure it’s not your own untamed jealousy causing problems.

– If your relationship with your mother is strained, or difficult consider whether that is affecting your relationship with your mother-in-law. Remember that they are different people, and you can have a different relationship with each one.

d) Create some ground rules. If you live with your mother-in-law, establish some ground rules for living together. If you know there are things that might cause conflict, talk about them beforehand and make sure everyone understands the rules and why they are in place

e) Make compromises. You and your mother-in-law will inevitably disagree on certain things, especially when living together. Choose your battles and decide what things you can tolerate and what things you need to be firm about

f) Create mutually-agreed boundaries. Both you and your mother-in-law may enjoy having your own space and ways of doing things. Ask your mother-in-law how you might make her comfortable while enforcing your own needs and expectations. As long as your boundaries don’t conflict, try to respect her space and independence.

g) Look for the good she does and praise it. Look for the good things about her, not just the bad. If she’s always cleaning despite you telling her not to, thank her for her care and contribution. Find the positive ways she adds to your life, your partner’s life, and even your kids’ lives. If possible, do this in her presence and be genuine

h) Talk about how she makes you feel. If you’re in conflict with your mother-in-law and it’s not resolving over time, or on its own, it’s time to talk about it. If she tends to criticise your marriage, or your parenting, let her know how this makes you feel. Be kind and honest and tell her what you’d like instead. Aim to find resolutions to your problems.

Author: Chandanlal Patary. 

Share your thoughts in the comments section.


SCRUM Values: Story from Panchatantra

There lived four friends in a certain town. Though, all of them were young learned Brahmins, one of them was a complete ignorant in matters of learning but had good common-sense. The other three were very learned in matters of the Holy Scriptures, but lacked common-sense.

One day, as the four friends met, they decided, “The scholarship that we have over the Holy Scriptures is no good, if we cannot use it to impress the king, or otherwise to earn money!” 

They decided to travel, in order to earn a living using their learnings. But, the fourth friend was not learned, so they thought of leaving him behind. They agreed, “What good is common-sense? His talents would not help in earning money, so let’s leave him.” 

After much pleading by the fourth Brahmin, the other three decide, “It will not be correct to behave like this to a dear friend, let us take him along. We should also share a part of our earnings with him!” 

As decided, the four started their journey. As they were travelling through a jungle they noticed the bones of a dead lion lying on their way. 

One of them said, “Let us start using our scholarship! We have a dead lion in front of us. Let us test our scholarship, and try to bring it to life!” 

They are Open and transparent in thei decision making.


While the three Brahmins agreed, the fourth Brahmin did not like the idea. But, his preference was ignored by the other three, and they started theholy rituals.

One of the Brahmins collected the bones of the lion and using his scholarly education, created a skeleton of the lion. 

The second Brahmin used his expertise to cover the skeleton with flesh and skin. 

As the lifeless lion stood in front of them, the third Brahmin initiated the rituals to put life into the lion. 

They are all committed to do their work but  that was foolhardy commitment

The fourth Brahmin was alarmed, “O friends, if the lion comes to life, he will kill us! Please stop what you are doing!” 

The fourth Brahmin was focused on his survival. The other Brahmins were focused to exercise their talent and they were committed to do so.They were courageous to accept the consequence.

The Brahmins ridiculed him, “After reaching so far, are we going to waste our knowledge? You say so, because you are jealous of our scholarship!”

They did not exhibit any respect to their team member.

The fourth Brahmin knew that there was no point in arguing with them. He pleaded, “Please give me a moment. I wish to climb the tree nearby before you infuse life into the lion.” 

He started climbing up a tall l tree, and could see from above the third Brahmin using his scholarship, to put life into the lion. 

As soon as the lion came to life, it noticed the three Brahmins, who were celebrating the successful implementation of their education and talent. 

The lion immediately pounced on them, and killed them. 

The lion was also committed!

The fourth Brahmin could do nothing but wait till the lion had gone. Then, he climbed down the tree and returned home alone. 

Fourth Brahmin demonstrated all the scrum values.

He showed Openness and Courage to challenge their decision, he respected their decision.

He was focused and committed to warn them and save everyone’s life.

The fourth Brahmin is the scrum master, he has shown courage, he was committed and focused to help his fellow team members. But, as they did not show any respect, he could not do much to save them!

If all these team members were trained to understand the scrum values, their life could have been saved.


Ideal scrum team size, 5 to 7 +/- 2; why?

Free-Rider Problem? Ringelmann Effect

In 1913, Max Ringelmann, a French agricultural engineer, conducted what many believe was the first recorded social psychology experiment.

He carefully measured how much force people exerted when they pulled a rope alone, and when they pulled it with up to thirteen additional people.

He conducted additional studies in the lab and in the field and summarized all these results together.

His results were mind-boggling.

Applying his findings back to the rope experiment, Ringelmann found that when a person was added to the rope, everyone pulled with less strength.

When two people were on the line, they each pulled with 93 percent of the force of a person working alone.

Three people each pulled with 85 percent of the force, and so on.

By the time eight people joined the rope, they were each pulling with half the force of a single person.

As a result, a team of eight pulled the rope with no more total force than a team of seven.

In a set of simple rope pulling experiments he discovered that, in what is now known as the Ringelmann Effect, people’s efforts quickly diminish as team size increases.

Eight people, he found, didn’t even pull as hard as four individuals. He rationalized the decay in effort by suggesting it was difficult for team members to coordinate effort, and left it at that.

The Ringelmann Effect is another name for the dreaded free-rider problem. Free riders are people who try to hide in a crowd and let others do the work.

A summary of seventy-eight free-rider experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology validated Ringelmann’s finding—that increasing the size of a group causes a decrease in individual effort.

But the study went a step further and examined the structural elements of cultures that cause free-rider behavior.

According to Ringelmann (1913), groups fail to reach their full potential because various interpersonal processes detracts from the group’s overall proficiency.

Namely, two distinct processes have been identified as potential sources for the reduced productivity of groups: loss of motivation, and coordination problems.

Part of’s behavioral code is the “two-pizza rule”: if a project team can’t be fed by two pizzas, it’s too big.

The rule exemplifies Bezos’s belief that real work should be managed by the smallest teams possible.

It is also a perfect illustration of a hunting party.

Less is more for team !! No body can hide !


Chandan Lal Patary

The Agilist’s Guidebook-A Reference for Organizational Agile Transformation | Enterprise Agile Coach