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.

21st
DEC

ScrumMaster as Impediment

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Basics

One of the biggest reasons the Scrum framework works so well is through the role of the ScrumMaster, an individual whose time is dedicated to ensuring a team’s ability to deliver on its sprint promises remains unobstructed. The ScrumMaster achieves this in a number of ways, such as by reminding the team to adhere to the Scrum process and keeping the Product Owner informed about how development is going. But, above all, the ScrumMaster is charged with removing impediments that prevent a team from completing the work it has negotiated for a given sprint. This can literally be anything from replacing a broken PC to mediating a disagreement between two developers. If it’s keeping the team from moving forward, it’s the ScrumMaster’s job to eliminate the impediment.

But what about situations when the ScrumMaster is the impediment? As Vikas Hazrati of InfoQ observes, it’s a scenario faced by many Scrum and agile teams, especially offshore installations where cultural hierarchy and traditional communication strategies complicate the process even further. But, as many CSTs have countered, when the ScrumMaster is creating an additional impediment for the team, there’s likely a greater degree of dysfunction lurking elsewhere that is manifesting itself in the ScrumMaster role. Usually, it means that traditional, command-and-control management techniques are still dominating the organization, even if the outward effort is to become more agile or abide by the rules of Scrum. For instance, if the ScrumMaster is committing to work on behalf of the team, acting as a proxy for the Product Owner, or actively managing the team (instead of respecting the ScrumMaster role’s lack of authority), Scrum’s distribution of authority and responsibilities are being broken. And when that happens, Scrum’s potential to deliver value is undermined, as well.

Do you encounter ScrumMasters at your organization who seem to do the opposite of what their role demands? If so, what are the reasons you suspect these ScrumMasters are failing to remove impediments, etc.? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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31st
MAR

Has Scrum Become the Face of Agile?

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum

I just came across a recently published Forrester report called “Ensure Success for Agile Using Four Simple Steps,” that provides recommendations for how organizations can smooth out the agile adoption process and make sure it sticks. Written by David West, with assistance from Mike Gilpin and David D’Silva, the report draws on the experiences of companies using agile to manage complex projects (from HP to Wells Fargo) as well as companies who offer agile training and software solutions, such as Danube Technologies which publishes ScrumWorks Pro. It’s a great document for organizations considering an agile transformation or those who have taken the plunge, but are still encountering obstacles to adoption. To purchase it, head here: http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,54037,00.html

One of the most interesting aspects of this article was how Scrum is used almost interchangeably with agile. That is, while Scrum is in fact just one project management method beneath the umbrella of agile, there was virtually no mention of any other method. (Rational Unified Process (i.e. RUP) was mentioned, but Crystal, Spiral, and DSDM were not.) It’s clear that Scrum has become the most popular exponent of agile over the past few years, but West’s report suggests its popularity has grown to the point that it has become the face of agile. Nearly every concrete example provided refers to Scrum and, early on, Scrum creator Ken Schwaber is quoted about Scrum teams as a proof point of an “agile” trend.

In part, this squares with one of the report’s main points: “Make organizational change, not agile development, the main focus.” That is, agile development is only doing its job if it’s helping an organization improve its processes and become more effective and efficient. After all, if a team religiously follows agile practices and processes, but fails to enact actual change, then there’s no point. In that sense, any agile method can work for an organization, but I suspect West returns to Scrum time and again because it is the most widely practiced—and most successful—method.

What do you think? Is your team using another agile subset to manage projects? Or is Scrum just the standard? What reasons do you see as responsible for Scrum’s popularity?

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