Get started the right way

11. July 2010

Go together

I was recently approached by a disappointed colleague. She told me she had read a lot of our communities’ introductions to scrum and agile and applying it to her  team Scrum had failed almost completely.

First of all I asked her about her role and relationship to the team. She told me she was the the project lead of a small team and as the project didn’t work very well (budget and timeline wise) she thought about introducing something else to improve the situation. As we always say “start small”, she decided to establish the Standup-Meeting and introduced the burn-down-charts.

What was meant as a support turned out to be completely negative to the team

The result was devastating: The team didn’t like the Scrum Standup at all. They actually kind of refrained from telling what was happening in the project. The burn-down was even worse. No one was willing to provide  information. What was meant as a support for the team actually became a threat to the team.

I talked a bit more about the project with her and we quickly found out that team had no background at all about  Scrum or Agile in general. No one ever had told them about the principles of the agile approach. They hadn’t learned that the techniques and principles are about the team and not about someone who leads the project. They only perceived the techniques as a new way a becoming even more controlled by the project lead.

Explain what agile means

The issue is that the team never learned what the idea behind Agile is. No wonder that they felt even more supervised instead of being empowered. They hadn’t understood that the Standup meeting for them was meant to be an information platform to spread news about what happened lately, what is going to happen soon and what’s an issue currently within the team. They thought it was kind of a standing investigation of the project lead. I may exaggerate that real situation a bit (I was never with them unfortunately) but I am sure I am not too far off. Even worse of course becomes then the situation when you introduce the burndown too. Not knowing that the burndown is for the team (actually only) to synchronize themselves if they are still on track to their commitment, the team of course even more got the feeling of being even more tightly controlled than before.

Start small but explain first

So what had went wrong is that the team never got an introduction to Scrum. You need to do that wisely. Many teams that have gone astray with their project are very sensitive when someone introduces new techniques that make the project more transparent. Us agilists know that Agile Projects are in many cases more transparent than one would think. Most people who know nothing about Agile and who go through my courses tell me in the end that firstly they haven’t thought that agile is more controlled than the word agile made them thinking and secondly that they were extremely surprised how transparent the project all of a sudden becomes. To many this really comes so much to a surprise that even though they were enthusiastic about agile before the course, they feel a bit scared about that after knowing that. It is just too human sometimes not wanting to be too clear about where you are..

What I would recommend is

  • Tell your team about Scrum – tell about the principles and techniques
  • Only the understanding of the whole Scrum process with understanding all feedback loops and techniques makes you understand what the intention of Scrum is
  • However, when the team knows the whole Scrum Framework, it doesn’t need to implement all of it as long as it knows what the aim of all is
  • Have the team trained as Certified Scrum DevelopersThis course was only introduced lately by the ScrumAlliance. It is the course for the Scrum Team Member. I highly recommend that. This could be easily even done by a knowledgeable ScrumMaster (Be aware though that you need to be CST to certify people!) and could be also done by the those who drive the community within your company.
  • Be sure you have a Certified Scrum Master on board -either full time or as a coach who helps you with getting the project started.

the above image was taken nearby our house where the sign on the street reminds people to go slow because of children. To me it looked as a nice metaphor for going together the same way holding each others hand in a trusted way.

1 comment zu “Get started the right way”

  1. Endlessam 13. July 2013 um 12:02 pm Uhr

    That’s true, sometimes it can lead to funny sottauiins.We tried the technique for 2 weeks and reviewed it during the retrospective. Everybody was very positive, and our daily stand-ups were always less than 15 minutes. Thanks for sharing!

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