Believing in Scrum
19 December 2013
One of the indicators of future success in a project that is done within Scrum is the faith the people filling the Scrum roles have in a positive outcome. I'd like to share my perspective on starting to believe that Scrum is the right thing to do in order to deliver high-quality products in a fast-paced environment.
It happened some time ago, when I was still a developer. Together with seven other colleagues, we were selected to pilot Scrum in the organization, in a project for a major telecom supplier. The Scrum concept was new to me. I went through some basic training and then started working according to the rules I'd just learned, not giving too much thought to it; I did it because I was told to. But in time, something changed, and I started doing Scrum because I wanted to. Here's what I feel the pivotal factors were.
Passion of the ScrumMaster
Our ScrumMaster was passionate about this way of working. Day in, day out, he always explained the rules of the game with energy and dedication. My "engineering" way of thinking was always pushing me in the direction of "This is all just mumbo jumbo. How we organize is irrelevant. Our knowledge is important; the rest is a waste of time." But the way this guy was just relaying his energy to us somehow hooked into my soul and bypassed my rational thinking.
Sense of belonging
Yeah, we were the Scrum team. We were the pioneers of a new way of doing things. It was new, cool, nothing the others had ever experienced before. But things came at a price. We were confronted with attitudes like: "What, you're now responsible for the planning, design, testing, documentation at the same time? And without a pay raise? You pulled the shortest straw, dude." Legit comments, as no one took the time to present the broad benefits of enjoying a sense of responsibility and commitment, of being part of an autonomous team, things that cannot be achieved in the command-and-control model. Inside the Scrum team, these feelings grew. Working side by side, exchanging ideas and experiences. It's basic group bonding psychology, and being a cross-functional team paid off as we had a lot of things to learn from each other.
It took about two sprints to get some functional results. But the frequency that followed was way higher and more satisfying than using Waterfall, where we could see something working after six to nine months in a project of this caliber. I was feeling proud, and being able to present something every four weeks made me feel that I had purpose, that I was important for the company I was working for. Every time someone was missing from the demo, be it the product owner, client, or stakeholders, and was thus unable to give us feedback for our hard work, I took a personal hit.
Results and feedback
I was able to tackle a lot of new ideas, and at some point even the previous "boring" tasks (documentation, build system adaptations, etc.) started to make sense if balanced properly. I had changed my perspective. My contribution was important for a positive project outcome, a project for which my team was responsible. Feeling that I was on an ascending slope brought energy and enthusiasm to my daily work.
Notice that we did have our problems, including a quite absent product owner, and constant interference due to changing company priorities (which affected team composition). But we managed to battle through.
This is part of what I want to facilitate, as a ScrumMaster, for teams that begin working with Scrum. All it takes is for them to start to believe. Sounds a bit like The Matrix, but it has proven to be true for me, and I'd like to pay it forward.
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