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Launching Scrum

How to Prevent a Flat Tire

27 March 2014

Ajay Kabra
QAI India Ltd

Scrum is an approach that endeavors to create a profitable business by relentlessly focusing on what is of value to the customer. It is a philosophy that not only makes your business profitable but also provides you with an engine for continual improvement.

Let's start with an excellent quote from Mike Cohn (www.mountaingoatsoftware): "Scrum is an Agile framework that allows us to focus on delivering the highest business value in the shortest time" (Cohn 2007a).

Selling anything to anybody requires an element of understanding "What's in this for me?" from the buyer's perspective. If you are able to provide justified, understandable, and convincing answers to the business, management, and development team involved, the process and approach would be more streamlined.

At a tactical level, the implementation of Scrum in an organization would result in the following:
  • Reduction in cycle time
  • Reduction in waiting time
  • Reduction in query time
  • Reduction in throughput time
  • Reduction in defects
  • Ability to execute flawless process
The first step, even before you make a holistic road map, is to create interest within your senior management so that they start to appreciate what Scrum is all about and understand the underlying principles.

A few things that one should do in order to get traction for Scrum in the organization:
  • Get an Agile Scrum thought leader to address the senior management of the organization.
  • Let representatives from companies who have implemented Scrum come to your company and give presentations, highlighting their success stories.
  • Arrange visits for your senior management at companies that have successfully implemented Scrum. Try and find companies in similar product/business lines (you will be better able to find instant connection with the management).
Introduction of Scrum should impact all the key business objectives of the organization. Looking at Scrum in isolation would not bring the desired changes in the system. Furthermore, driving process ownership would require that top management be willing to change the way the organization is structured.

On a Scrum project, roles have well-defined meanings and boundaries. All individuals are aligned to one of the defined roles in the system (in an ideal world) so that ownership can be defined for all deliverables and for the management of the required output and pertaining issues.

Lack of role ownership results in a number of inefficiencies and impacts the overall effectiveness of the project/output.

Lack of role ownership is also a major cause of process discomforts and problems related to the ability of the process to meet the desired outcomes. Fixing this often requires that the senior management be willing to change the company's structure and operations (moving away from legacy approaches to the new Agile/Scrum method of working).

Scrum can be qualified with a new name: "Time-management approach." This is because one of the prime objectives is to reduce the lead time for delivery, making quick turnarounds with great quality for the customer, which brings immediate value to the system.

A healthy implementation of Scrum practices should have a positive impact on each of the four parameters of business, namely:
  1. Flexibility
  2. Employee engagement
  3. Cost/revenue
  4. Customer engagement
Management should regularly monitor the performance of each of these four metrics. I would recommend that the leadership team spend about 30 minutes every month (or least 15 minutes right after each sprint) to ascertain whether their journey is progressing as desired.

Implementing Scrum is about driving a fundamental change in the way the organization and projects operate. As with all change initiatives, it is imperative that we communicate to all concerned the reasons and benefits of implementing Scrum. It is important to remember that awareness without immediate action is of no use. If there is a long gap between communication and action, the team can lose sight of what the goal is. It is recommended that action on Scrum should commence within two weeks of the alignment session.

Set up a Scrum office (similar to a PMO function). This office would have a Certified Scrum Coach as a lead. The profile of this function/office should be to manage adoption and deployment and sustain the gains from the transformation. The team entrusted with this job would be part of the Scrum Office, with the Scrum coach taking the leadership position.

The ScrumMaster should be acting as a CIO (Chief Improvement Officer) for the project and also for the organization. Create a culture of continuous improvement, value thinking, and constant reflection. All decisions and changes should be done with the team's involvement.

Change takes time; it is not like instant noodles. Adopting and implementing Scrum in any organization requires a significant shift in organizational mind-set, including breaking up old habits, and this process takes time. There would be lead time required for the new set of approaches to become firm in the minds of all relevant stakeholders. Of course this includes the development team members, as they would have been used to the command-and-control style of working before they embraced the self-organizing, self-managing concept and started to practice it.

One of things that I would strongly recommend that ScrumMaster do is to perform the art of observation.

Mastering the art of observation is a key aspect in Agile adoption and implementation. This is not easy, and the organization and the ScrumMaster need to really invest time to master it. Observation refers to what you see in a workplace or in a certain context as you walk through it or are a part of it. This can be done via a leadership mandate, and it has to be taught.

The following are a few objectives that can be accomplished through observation:
  • See at the source what is happening.
  • Discover potential problems.
  • Get beyond data and see the facts.
  • Understand the customer.
  • Understand what is working and not working in the team.
At times it is important to perform a GEMBA, a concept from Lean to see the work at its source. Sometimes observations will even lead you to unlearn a few things that one would have thought were working as a standard approach. Of course, observation has to be followed by evaluation, analysis, and inferences.

The ScrumMaster should facilitate the discussion with the development team members to define and implement processes that would work for the team. The ScrumMaster should also ensure that the team understands and appreciates the following:
  • The process should have effectiveness criteria built in.
  • The process should have efficiency criteria built in.
My worry is that in today's fast-working world, with its ever-changing technology, there is little patience at the top management of organizations. Somewhere in this rat race, we have forgotten the elements of people, feelings, respect, and empathy, along with listening.

Patience and nurturing are the name of the game, and a supportive organization will no doubt reap the benefits of this investment in long run. Should the organization and the ScrumMaster not practice the "patience" part of the game, however, very soon we shall be patients ourselves.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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