There are valid reasons why a company would want to implement Scrum. Scrum is widely used in many businesses, particularly in IT. However, why would a company want to implement Scrum? Are there any misunderstandings? And what is the reason that resonates with me the strongest?
Adopting Scrum for invalid reasons (and its dangers)
Scrum has generated a lot of buzz. A lot of people (in technology) are using it, so why shouldn’t we? Scrum is not a magical tool. It is not a silver bullet. Scrum will not solve all of your problems. Managers may adopt Scrum with the expectation that it will solve all of their organizational problems, only to be disappointed when they realize that it requires a cultural shift and a shift in mindset! And if they adopt Scrum without making the necessary cultural changes, they are unlikely to reap all of the framework’s benefits.
Others may employ Scrum as a (new) method of team control and micromanagement, or to improve project management efficiency. Scrum emphasizes transparency, collaboration, and self-organization. Managers who use Scrum to control and micromanage their teams will not only miss the key principles and values of Scrum, but will also undermine the framework’s principles.
In the Cynefin® Framework, a framework that is developed to help leaders understand their challenges and helps in decision making, there are five different domains in which ‘problems’ can be categorized. Software development is in the complex domain because requirements are constantly changing, technology is constantly changing, and people (stakeholders and end users) are unpredictable and thus complex. And, for complex problems, employing empiricism (and thus Scrum) is a sound strategy. Some of the most compelling reasons to adopt Scrum are its merits based on empirical process control theory, which revolves around transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
Scrum implementation that is done correctly can increase transparency in project status and progress. Scrum provides regular opportunities for stakeholders to inspect project progress and provide feedback. This increased transparency fosters trust and confidence among stakeholders while also providing a clear understanding of what has been accomplished and what remains to be done.
Scrum can also help to improve flexibility and adaptability to change. Scrum is intended to be adaptable and flexible in response to changing requirements and end-user needs. This enables businesses to respond quickly to market changes and make necessary changes to their product plans. Scrum emphasizes the delivery of working software in small, incremental steps, allowing for faster delivery times, higher product quality, and higher customer satisfaction. Not only is the product important, but so is the process: Scrum allows for regular retrospectives and continuous improvement, allowing teams to identify and address areas for improvement.
Aside from the reasons based on empirical process control theory, there is another important factor to consider: the nature of teamwork, collaboration, and communication among teams.
Scrum necessitates cross-functional teams with all of the required skills and expertise to complete a project. This allows teams to collaborate and share knowledge and ideas, resulting in better collaboration and communication. Scrum Teams meet on a regular basis to foster collaboration and keep team members focused on their goals and objectives. Scrum also encourages teams to work toward a common vision and set of goals, as this fosters a sense of purpose and a shared understanding of what the team is attempting to accomplish, resulting in improved teamwork and collaboration. Finally, Scrum empowers teams to self-organize and make work decisions. This fosters a culture of collaboration and cooperation, as well as a sense of ownership and accountability.
Efficiency, productivity and Jeff’s book
So, what about productivity and efficiency? Yes, when Scrum is properly implemented, people may experience a high(er) level of efficiency. However, it is not the primary reason for using Scrum, but rather a pleasant side effect.
In that case, the fact that Jeff Sutherland, one of Scrum’s founding fathers, wrote a book titled “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” does not help. To some extent, the title is deceptive, as the focus of Scrum is on delivering value and improving the overall process, rather than simply increasing output or doing more work in less time. The book’s title emphasizes efficiency and productivity, but these are not Scrum’s primary goals. After reading the book, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more about the general merits and the development of the framework. The title, in my opinion, is an excellent way to persuade managers who are primarily concerned with efficiency and productivity to purchase his book. Well played, Jeff!
Furthermore, focusing solely on the efficiency and productivity benefits of Scrum will be hollow if the other benefits are ignored. As I previously stated, Scrum is more than just another way of working; it necessitates cultural change and a shift in mindset.
Value for the end-users
The reason that appeals to me the most personally, is “delivering valuable, usable, and high-quality increments”.
That has a lot to do with my background and professional experience. I’ve been very focused on involving end-users in product creation and improvement. Throughout my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, I placed a strong emphasis on user-centered design. Observing end-users during rapid prototyping and conducting in-depth interviews solidified my belief in a pragmatic and cyclical approach to (continuous) product development. Scrum, with its emphasis on rapid delivery and cyclical nature, fits this approach perfectly.
The adoption of a product by its end-users determines its success or failure. And, while we work on our projects, sprints, epics, user stories, velocity, and story points, what is the point of it all? What motivates us to do what we do? We can all go through the motions, but what really matters – or should – is the value we ultimately deliver to our end-users. This is the motivation I most often appeal to in my work as a Scrum Master, as well as to the rest of the Scrum Team, stakeholders, and management. And it is for this reason that I believe it is critical to assist in the creation of a sense of purpose, which stems from a Sprint Goal, a higher Product Goal, and the overarching Company Goal(s).
Everyone has their own reasons for adopting Scrum, and it is my job as a Scrum Master to assist others in getting there. Even if it means holding up a mirror and assisting them in determining whether their reasons are valid or not.
I would suggest reading the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto is a set of software development values and principles that prioritize customer satisfaction, collaboration, and flexibility. It was first published in 2001 and is widely used in the software industry today. It provides a good understanding of the “why” of Scrum.
I would also recommend Gunther Verheyen’s “Scrum – A Smart Travel Companion for more background on the Scrum framework.
Finally, if you’re a manager looking for a good story to read, give Jeff Sutherland’s “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” a try. It’s not a how-to guide for implementing Scrum, but rather an easy-to-read, approachable, and amusing story about the framework and its success.