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Life beyond Scrum

A few years ago I spoke to a company about implementing Scrum into their organisation... I had a call out of the blue from their delivery manager who declared that they wanted somebody just like me to go in and setup Agile... But Agile with a little 'a', They said I was the perfect guy because apparently I was... And I quote 'A rule breaker' I was the kinda guy who understood being Agile but could also be no-nonsense and break the rules!

I went along to discuss what they wanted... And because I'm a 'Rule breaker' turned up two hours late just to prove that I was indeed a 'rule breaker' But jokes aside a lot of companies are realising that being 'Agile' is a way of delivering quicker and reducing waste from their process..... However those same companies want the delivery benefits without really committing to the process!  

As everybody who knows me will testify... I'm a massive fan of Scrum, I think it's a brilliant model for developing complex, poorly understood products... It builds teams, aids collaboration, visibility, trust,  encourages good governance and helps to stimulate the behavioural changes that many IT teams need to work efficiently in a lean market place. Where rapid delivery to market and elimination of waste is a real game changer!

I've been working with Scrum for over ten years... But over the last 5 years or so I've realised that Scrum is not the end-game...  Many years ago I took over a BI(Business Intelligence) team that was working with Scrum and evolved their process's to be more Kanban based, almost overnight we could see the advantage of doing this... Our average lead times dropped,stories per cycle increased and surveys showed that  satisfaction improved (both in the customer base... and the development team). Ever since I've tended to introduce more and more Kanban techniques into my implementation of Scrum.

When implementing Agile into organisations I still usually tend to suggest the Scrum approach..... Because it's brilliant at creating those behavioural changes that organisations really need to make... And the 'rules' of Scrum provides a method of enforcing some of those rules until the organisation itself starts to understand what it is to adapt an agile mindset and massively importantly the 'why'

On the road to being Agile many teams will take a very half baked approach...   I've spoken before about companies I've worked with who honestly believe their being agile by doing a Stand-up every day... Or that having a Kanban/Task board means their Agile!

A few of those teams will be brave enough to go further... To fully expose their processes, to be fully honest with their stakeholders and engage those stakeholders with the decision making process - Those teams are the ones who will start to see the true advantage of being Agile...  Scrum when adhered to will help provide the mechanism to do just that....

I like to introduce a strict interpretation of Scrum with clear rules (perhaps controversial) but unless a company truly understands the 'why' of doing Scrum to play with those 'rules' or to introduce Agile with a little 'a' (I despair every-time I hear that saying) will usually result in failure or at best very few benefits.

But that's the point... In my view Scrum should be seen as a transformational model to aid new teams on their journey to being Agile. I'm not advocating getting rid of Scrum or replacing Scrum, Indeed in many companies it will be a more perfect model than what existed before and sticking with it will deliverer much better results than before.... But you should realise that Scrum is a way of transforming a non-agile organisation to being on the road to becoming agile.. Scrum does not understand your company or how your company works and will rarely be the best model for your company!

Once you understand what Scrum has delivered into your organisation it's perhaps time to look at tweaking that model.... Looking at Kanban techniques is a good start... decoupling delivery of stories from the end of a sprint is another (Await a blog post all about that soon).

Great Agile teams are prepared to change the rules... because they understand the behavioural changes, safeguards and phycology of being Agile... 'Bad' agile teams change the rules because they don't understand and are not prepared to take the leap of faith required to achieve greatness!