Some of my personal thoughts, observations and discussions I had on Scrum, as being a method to be Agile.
There are lot of opinions on Scrum, and it’s very easy to be carried away by the Agile Evangelists, completely forgetting the objective and the problem is targeted to be solved by Scrum.
Scrum is a way of working of a team
Scrum basically means that a team commits to deliver something in a pre-defined timeframe.
This time box is usually 2 weeks. That means that the full team is able to deliver what has been agreed up front within that time.
This is for me the only absolute rule in Scrum. You (the team) commits to making sure this is delivered. Everything else within Scrum, from my perspective, is optional, and as a team can be considered helpful to achieve the commitment.
The team manages the Backlog
More often than not, people think that the Product Organisation is managing the Backlog. I would recon that this is false. The Product Organisation is handling priorities within the Business and Marketing realm, and bringing this expertise to the table. The Backlog is influenced by many factors, and it’s the teams mission and objective to know most of them and making sure the right decisions come out of this.
Tools are just that, tools.
“A fool with a tool is still a fool” — Ron Weinstein.
Tools that are used, like Jira, TeamCity, Monday.com, etc…, are necessary when things get bigger. I have spend more than half of my career without any of these tools. I wasn’t explicitly using scrum or anything Agile, I was just working together with bright and smart people, delivering what was necessary to be successful in three different startups.
What happened was that the Founders and hence the main stakeholders were completely involved in the process. We didn’t have to make a sprint review meeting, they were seeing first hand the progress. We didn’t have to provide internal release notes, because everybody was aligned, informed and active.
Nowadays, we have a plethora of options, and while some are free for smaller teams and undertakings, when you really would need these tools, they start to be quite expensive.
But wait, what was the problem again?
Glad you asked 😉
The problem we try to solve is uncertainty and the business risk that comes with it. Uncertainty has a different effect on different humans, but seems to be particularly hard to manage in big and established businesses.
So what does Scrum bring us? It provides a way for us to have, after a short period, the certainty that we will have exactly what we agreed on up front. And more specifically, the size of the time box allows a business (and by extension a team) to take a risk on spending the time, energy and effort (and hence money) on something that is uncertain.
Hold on, Scrum and Agile ‘transformation’ is driven by the IT department
I can tell you that the transformation will fail. There will be a major success for PMO people, and they will be there to ensure ‘translation’ services. But the management, business, sales, and other departments will be clueless, desperate, and frustrated.
Processes will be put in place, rigid frameworks will try to fix crazy uncontrollable teams. ITIL anyone?
I recently discovered the following article The New New Product Development Game, from 1986 about Product Development, and how to deal with challenging constraints and goals. It does emphasise what I have experienced, hard work, closely knit teams and absolute focus. It does seem to contradict Agile practices done today. More opinions on that later.