The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.
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 final part of 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 Three
Don’t fail before you start – avoiding common pitfalls prior to the pilot stage
By Katie Playfair, director of client services, Danube Technologies, Inc.
So you’ve got your team – now what?
It’s almost time to start sprinting but not yet! The manager trying to spark this Scrum transformation needs to make sure their (hopefully) all-volunteer pilot team is armed with the tools they need to be successful at Scrum. The first thing they need to do is understand what Scrum is. There are two basic categories of knowledge about Scrum that will help the team begin practicing:
Knowledge of Scrum mechanics:
- Roles, meetings and artifacts
- Story-writing (requirements) basics
- Common patterns and anti-patterns
Understanding of Scrum principles:
- Reflexive knowledge of Scrum values
- Embrace of guiding principles
- Ability to apply values, principles and practices to scenarios not discussed in class
Although the first category of knowledge can be taught at a very basic level through books, blogs, and other didactic tools, the second must be taught through experiential means. Managers have a variety of providers to turn to and should consider the following factors:
- Does this instructor have experience implementing Scrum at an organization of similar size and type to yours?
- Is this person highly accessible and responsive to our questions and needs? Do they, or their educated staff, get back to you quickly with answers?
- How involved in and respected by the Scrum community is this instructor?
- Do they have case studies or references to back up their claims?
Once the pilot team has received some high-quality training (remember, we’re keeping costs low by limiting our audience to only those who will be immediately practicing Scrum), a manager should also be looking into infrastructure that will help them be successful. When piloting Scrum, it is extremely preferable that the entire team be co-located, if possible in the same room (team room). If facilities make that impossible, managers should seek to approximate in-room co-location as much as possible by providing some shared space for the team to have their daily stand-up and sprint planning, review and retrospective meetings. Although it is best to allow the team to develop its own tools for tracking sprint commitments and work, managers should be prepared for the need for a physical task-board area, a virtual way of tracking tasks through a Scrum-centric project management tool, or both. Often at this phase of the project, managers do not yet have senior management support or much financing to work with. Fortunately, there are free tools that can provide this necessary infrastructure without having to go through the budgeting process.
Motivated, educated, and armed with tools…
With an educated volunteer team armed with motivation, eagerness to try Scrum, knowledge about the framework and infrastructure to support their work, managers can finally feel free to let the team actually start sprinting. Now that the team is ready to sprint, the team needs to be successful in two major ways:
1. The team needs to be successful on a project that demonstrates the value of Scrum to the organization. Essentially, they need to “show me the money!”
2. The pilot team needs to experience success and enjoyment from the process, so that their motivation level stays high to continue on with the pilot.
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