October 17, 2014

Scrum world domination

BY :     October 17, 2014

world-dominationSince I started working at Sogeti in 2007 I have made it a point to bring Scrum to the company, my colleagues and the customers I work for. This has been an active choice because I believe in Scrum.

When people ask me what my future plans are in regard to Scrum I will tell them that my plans are Scrum world domination. People will laugh, they will joke with me at that point, but I am serious.

Think about Scrum, think what it has brought us. People will complain about lack of documentation, or they will say quality is a serious issue when you use Scrum. I have a lot of experience in Scrum and can tell you; problems with documentation and quality stem from a bad implementation of Scrum. If you buy a city car and drive offroad with it all the time and then complain “this is a bad car, it just doesn’t work very well” is that a fair statement?

Why do I believe in Scrum?

There are many reasons but I will give you a few compelling ones. Some may sound familiar and you will hear them from many people, maybe if you hear it that often there is some truth to it; after all, once is an event, twice is coincidence, three times or more is definitely a pattern.

Scrum is a motivator, it allows people to improve their skills, encourages teamwork and team empowerment, and sets purpose. Have you heard these words before? I do quote Daniel Pink often. He wrote a book called Drive in which he talks about what motivates people.[1] He names three things:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

These three will motivate people that do work that involves cognitive skills. Scrum is usually used in environments that require people to use their mind. The teams are autonomous in the work they do when it comes to “how” they achieve a sprint goal. A goal is set every sprint and helps the team make decisions, but it also motivates them to get things done! Working together as a cross functional team helps the team to improve their skills and learn from each other. Scrum boasts that teams will improve their speed immensely. This is aided by the team learning to understand the product that they work on. When they know the product through and through they will be better equipped to make this product better for the market or users.

There is a tradeoff… Teams cannot improve effectively when the team keeps changing. Adding and removing people from the team in an effort to improve the team from the outside will distort team dynamics and will only slow down the team and cause quality problems. The teams will start asking for more information to get the backlog ready as they are unsure what the next change to the team will cause and where the knowledge will be kept. The other trade off is that the team needs a Single goal, not several. They will also have trouble when there is more than one product to work on.

Scrum helps create value. Because the product owner can order the backlog in what brings the most value to the product, the team will always work on that which will deliver the most value. Value is a fickle thing though, and the product owner will have to work hard to define what adds value. A product owner is not a side job. The order of the backlog changes along with the emergence of knowledge on what brings value. New technologies and new insights will affect the backlog and will affect the roadmap of the product.

This is also why in Scrum it is not possible to give the business a firm grasp on what the product will look like in the long term. It is not a lack of desire that the Product Owner (leave the team out of this) cannot give you what no other framework or method could ever guarantee. Any Product Owner would love to have that crystal ball in which he or she can see the final product.

Advantages are that the end product will be the best product for its purpose, tradeoff is that the product will evolve over time to become this “best” or most valuable product.

One of my previous blogs was about Product vs. Project, I wrote that for a reason. What IS an end product? Like everything a product has a life cycle. If you look around you it will be apparent that all products have changed over time. Who had an iPhone 3 in 2008 might now be walking around with a brand new iPhone 6. The Volkswagon Beetle from the fifties now looks all futuristic as the New beetle.

Products evolve, they change because the market demands it to become better or to conform to rules. Driving without a seatbelt is no longer an option, I doubt though that the Citroen 2CV had seat belts when it came out.

Doing projects that end after the deadline has been reached will cause a product to entropy. New budgets to put changes in the product mean new projects with probably new project teams and new people to lead the teams and the product development. Imagine a team that knows the product through and through working on the product until the effort to improve the product becomes more precious than the return on investment.

Scrum evolves as well

I was in a session recently where someone asked the participants what the next hype (referring to Scrum and Agile) would be. I will not address this notion and will just refer to the definition of hype and point out that Scrum has been around for at least 20 years, if not longer. Also Scrum is constantly evolving. It has to be to make the most of the improvements that have been emerging while creating thousands upon thousands of products with using Scrum. The Scrum guide is being worked on and reviewed time and time again and has changed significantly. Even wording of ceremonies and events change to fit the current times. What we used to call Backlog Grooming is now called Backlog Refinement, mainly because of the negative connotation that Grooming developed on the internet. If Scrum as a framework evolves, it in effect gets new versions. As a Scrum adept it is necessary to stay up to date with these changes. It is important to know what is going on in your field of work, so stay with us!

I am very much aware that Scrum needs the right environment to thrive. A company that thinks that Scrum is merely for the IT department and is like a black box where we can throw wishes in to receive products as gifts will have to change their thoughts. Traditional expectations will as tradition has it be met with disappointment. This mind shift is something that Scrum Coaches and Masters need to address. Being a Scrum Master does not stop at the Development team’s door.

I genuinely believe that Scrum will improve products, lives and ultimately the world. This is my plan for Scrum World Domination, to make the world just a little bit better to live in.

Anyone have a hollow volcano I can rent?

[1] Pink, Daniel H. (2010). Drive – The Surprising Truth about what motivates us. 2815 of 3967: Canongate Books. ISBN 978-1-84767-888-1 also look at his video:

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  1. clashroyalemembers · May 12, 2017 Reply

    A company that thinks that Scrum is merely for the IT department and is like a black box where we can throw wishes in to receive products as gifts will have to change their thoughts.

*Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group