Launching Agile Scrum – How to prevent a Flat tire?

Scrum is an approach that endeavours 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 the element of “What for me in this one?”, If are able to provide justified, understandable and convincing answers to the business, management and the 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 roadmap, is to create interest in 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 in the organization for Scrum are:

  • Get an Agile Scrum thought leader to address the Sr. Mgmt. of the organization
  • Let representatives from companies who have implemented Scrum come and make a presentation in your company highlighting the success stories
  • Arrange visits of your senior management to companies, that have successfully implemented Scrum, try and get these in similar product lines of business lines (you would be able to find instant connect with the management)

Introduction of Agile Scrum should impact all the key business objectives of the organization; Looking at Agile Scrum in isolation would not bring the desired changes in the system

Driving process ownership would require that the top management be willing to change the way the organization is structured

On an Agile Scrum projects, roles have well defined meaning and boundaries in the system. All individuals are aligned to one of the defined roles in the system (in an idealistic world) so that ownerships can be defined for all deliverables and managing the required output and issues pertaining to them

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

Lack of role ownership is a major cause of process discomforts and issues related to the process being able to meet the desired outcomes. Driving role ownership would require that the Sr. management be willing to change the company is structured and operated (move away from legacy approach to the new Agile Scrum method of working)

Scrum can get qualified with a new name as  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 would bring immediate value to the system.

A healthy implementation of Agile Scrum practices should have a positive impact on each of the 4 parameters of business namely:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Employee Engagement
  3. Cost / Revenue
  4. Customer Engagement

The management should regularly monitor the performance of each of these 4 metrics. Would recommend that the Leadership team should be spending about 30 mins every month (or least 15 mins post each sprint) to ascertain whether their journey is underway as desired.

Implementing Scrum is about driving a fundamental change in the way 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, team can lose sight of what the goal is. It is recommended that the action on Scrum should commence within 2 weeks of the alignment session.

Setup a Scrum office (in similar manner like a PMO function). This office would have Certified Scrum Coach as a lead in the system, the profile of this function / office should to manage adoption, deployment and sustain the gains from the transformation. The team is entrusted with this job is called the Scrum Office. The Scrum coach takes the leadership position

Scrum Master 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 team’s involvement

Change takes time, It is not like instant noodles. Adopting and implementing Scrum in any organization would require a significant shift in organizational mind-set that include breaking up of the old habits and this process would take time. There would be a lead time required for the new set of approaches to be sinked in the minds of all relevant stakeholders including the development team members, as they would be used to the command-and-control style of working, before they embrace the Self-Organizing, Self-management concept and start to practice the same in the idealistic manner.

One of things that I would strongly recommend that Scrum Master to do is to have performed the art of observation.

Mastering the art of observation is a key aspect in Agile Scrum adoption and implementation. This is not easy and the Organization and the Scrum Master needs to really invest time to master the same. Observation refers to what you see in a workplace or a certain context as you walk through it or are a part of it. This can be done via a leadership mandate; It has to be taught how do it.

The following are a few objectives which can be accomplished through observation:

  • See at source what is happening?
  • Discover potential problems
  • Get beyond data and see the facts
  • Understand the customer
  • Understanding what is working and not working in the team

At times it is important to perform a GEMBA (concept from Lean to see the work at source) and observation information at source. Sometimes observations would lead you to unlearn a few things, that one would have thought working as a standard approach. Of course observation has to be followed by evaluation, analysis and inferences.

Scrum Master with its ability and role in the project should facilitate the discussion with the development team members to define and implement process that would be working for the team. Scrum Master should ensure that the team understands and appreciates the following:

  • Process should have effectiveness criteria built in
  • Process should have efficiency criteria built in

My worry is that in today’s fast working world and changing technology, there is little element of patience with the top management of the organization, somewhere in this rat race, we have actually forgotten the elements of people , feelings, respect and empathy along with listening.

Patience and nurturing is 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 Scrum Master not practice the patience part of the game, very soon we shall be Patient ourselves


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