The Scrum approach to agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. Scrum and other agile methods were inspired by its shortcomings. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, functioning software, team self management, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities.
Scrum Methodology’s Guest Column feature asks individuals throughout the Scrum community to address an issue that is a common obstacle for Scrum teams. In the inaugural column, entitled “Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right,” Katie Playfair, director of client services at Danube Technologies, Inc., discusses how teams can work toward making a Scrum transformation a success—long before the transformation actually occurs.
Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right, Part One
Don’t fail before you start – avoiding common pitfalls prior to the pilot stage
By Katie Playfair, director of client services, Danube Technologies, Inc.
The pressure to create more software of higher quality with fewer people isn’t new, but the global circumstances of the last several months have created greater urgency around cutting costs and doing more with less. Scrum is a framework designed to leverage small teams to deliver maximum business value and has become the answer for many organizations for reducing development costs and time to market, while still delivering a great product. As Scrum becomes a more visible and popular framework for managing enterprise development, managers and executives are naturally eager to implement it as soon as possible. In an interesting paradox, however, most successful enterprise Scrum transformations have been driven, at least initially, through strong bottom-up efforts that started at the developer level, gradually gained the acceptance of management, and, ultimately, scaled organically to large teams. So if managers today are drawn to Scrum, how can they leverage known best practices of bottom-up transitions to spark a transformation in their organizations?
Don’t start how you think you should…
If you are a manager eager to roll out Scrum across your organization, please hear out this argument. What you believe has worked for you in the past (in terms of rolling out new processes) will probably not work with Scrum. Here’s an anonymous proof point:
Case One – Online e-commerce portal:
Senior managers at this company decided Scrum was the key to restructuring teams and, therefore, developed a process roll-out plan based on previous process roll-outs. The plan involved training about 150 software team members and asking all of the teams to “kick-off” on the same day. The plan sounded very organized, but, critically, failed to consult anyone with actual enterprise Scrum implementation experience. Trainers were brought in for several sessions. What management discovered is that employees had not “bought into” changing the way they worked. Moreover, since more than 50 percent of the staff was comprised of contractors who felt the transition jeopardized their employment, more than half of the staff present for training refused to participate. Ultimately, after spending tens of thousands of dollars on training, only a few enthusiastic individuals embraced Scrum. It took approximately three years for these enthusiastic volunteers, working on a pilot project, to re-sell Scrum to the organization by demonstrating their success and the best practices they had developed as a small pilot team. This same outcome could have been achieved by spending only a few thousand dollars on sending those enthusiastic volunteers to training or conducting a small- to medium-sized training session for 10 to 30 people.
Almost every successful Scrum transition has started with an enthusiastic pilot team that wanted to try Scrum, demonstrated its capacity for success, documented their best practices, and, finally, asked their management to invite other teams to join. So if your plan for starting Scrum among your teams doesn’t look anything like that, it is almost certain that you will fail either entirely or by spending more time, money, blood, sweat, and tears than necessary.
Rather than spending time developing an enterprise roll-out plan, sending out RFPs to vendors for training and coaching services, and risking spending too much money, let’s talk about how managers can leverage best practices developed by successful Scrum teams around the world to facilitate lasting change that positively impacts the bottom line. On a side note, what you’re about to hear is going to be cheaper than these “big bang” strategies, too.
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Scrum Training Series
- Scrum based funding model – 20 percent May 9, 2013
- The Next Big Idea March 5, 2013
- On Being Available February 17, 2013
- Should Scrum Always Require the Product Owner to Attend the Sprint Retrospective Meeting? February 5, 2013
- Happiness Metrics January 23, 2013