Tribal Leadership in an Agile World - GrandView PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 March 2011 15:40

This week’s GrandView guest post is by Si Alhir, a well-known expert in the GrandView Community and a frequent presenter in GrandView’s popular Product Management View webinar series. For over two decades, Si has helped companies synergize business and technology around proven best practices. In this post, he defines and discusses Tribal Leadership in an Agile World.

By Si Alhir (Twitter: @SAlhir), web:

Tribal Leadership is a proven transformational process and leadership model for fostering organizational health, which leverages natural groups to build thriving organizations by focusing on language and relationship structures within a culture.

Agility is a value system that emphasizes people, results, collaboration, and responsiveness involving self-organizing cross-functional teams that constitute an agile enterprise. Scrum is a framework that organizes work for maximum efficiency and effectiveness based on the Agile value system using three roles, three ceremonies, and three artifacts.

Using Tribal Leadership’s cultural stages, we can recognize the stage of a team or organization. Using Tribal Leadership’s triading, we can foster greater agility. And using Tribal Leadership’s tribal strategy, we can leverage that agility toward an outcome.

Triading involves three-part relationships that link people and tribes, and triading is used to link roles in Scrum. Each relationship is based on core values and mutual self-interest. Each end of a triad is responsible for the quality of the relationship between the other two ends, so each role in Scrum is responsible for the quality of the relationship between the other two roles. By fostering these triads in Scrum, we foster greater agility with self-organizing cross-functional teams.


The diagram summarizes various common triads:

  • ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Team: These roles all value overcoming impediments to succeed. Without overcoming impediments, the Product Owner may not have a product at the end of a sprint or release, the Team may not produce the product throughout a sprint or release, and the ScrumMaster may not have addressed impediments throughout a sprint or release to ensure the success of the Product Owner and Team.
  • Define-detail, Build, and Test perspective on a Team: These roles all value completing a goal, requirements, or user story. Without completing a goal, requirements, or user story, the analysts or define-detail perspective may have not sufficiently defined and detailed the intent of the product, the engineers or build perspective may have not built what was intended, and the testers or test perspective may have not ensured the quality of the product. All perspectives are interdependent!
  • Governance/Oversight, Business, and Technology: These roles all value alignment to succeed in the marketplace. Without alignment, business and technology may be less than successful!
  • Product Manager, Architect, and Project Manager: These roles all value leveraging technology to be successful. Without appropriately leveraging technology, these roles may not successfully deliver a product.
  • Product Manager, Experience Practitioner, and User/Customer: These roles all value providing and having the best user/customer experience. Without the “right” user/customer experience, the Product Manger’s product may not be successful, the Experience Practitioner’s work may not be successful, and the User/Customer’s “needs” may not be met.
  • Marketing, Sales, and Product Management: These roles all value the overall business, which involves financial (or similar) sustainability. Without being financially sustainable, all of these roles may be less than successful!
  • Architecture, Engineering, and Infrastructure: These roles all value the overall application of technology, which involves technology (or similar) sustainability. Without being technologically sustainable, all of these roles may be less than successful!

While more specific roles are highly dependent on each organization, the intent is always to foster stable partnerships (stage four) as self-organizing cross-functional collectives (teams).

Ryma's March 9th webinar ( combined elements of the 2009 four-part Agile Product Management webinar series ( and the 2010 three-part Tribal Leadership webinar series (

See Tribal Leadership in an Agile World for more information.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 15:44

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