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Increasing Communication in Agile Environments

14 November 2017

Shane Billings

Scrum is designed to increase open communication. The benefit of open communication is that better knowledge leads to better decision making. Open communication assumes trust in the decision making of the entire group, and not that of just a select group. In a Lean and Agile environment, we trust that the group can make good choices, and we try to give them as much information as possible to do so.

Velocity and burn-down charts help the team make decisions and make management aware of status. This data is public to everyone. Program release charts show the remaining work of a program. At any time, the current state and the trending history of teams can be seen. This gives everyone an idea of where teams have evolved from, where they are, and where they are going.

All the Scrum ceremonies, except for the retrospective, are open meetings that anyone can attend. Thus, all stakeholders can influence the strategy and direction of the group. Although the product owner has final responsibility for the product and the team has final responsibility for the way in which the product is developed, these ceremonies allow any interested party to have a say.

The backlog is another source of valuable information. This simple method of determining what has been accomplished and what is slated for future release is a launching point for valuable conversations about the content of the product. Valuable information, such as identified waste, ideation source, cycle time, and lead time, can be determined.

The product itself is often a form of open communication. Although it is common to hold the product back from the customer while in development, to maintain intellectual property, the product owner sees the results of their work frequently. This feedback loop allows the team and product owner to align and communicate based on the best information available — product truth.

Although these items are the foundation of information in Scrum, often there is more that grows out of this. The information can be tailored to the needs of the group. The foundation that Scrum provides is powerful and can even be sufficient for some groups. The principle of open communication so that everyone can make empowered decisions is a vital part of Scrum and Agile.

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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