Enough of Scrum Already

The conversation goes on in the Scrum and Agile circles about how far a team can stray from the hard and fast “Rules of Scrum” before becoming a “Scrum Outcast” and … earning the derision and scorn of the “True Believers.”  But there is something about the stasis of staying the same and always playing by those rules that might bother some people.
Here are some thoughts on the concept of keeping to the rules or improving out of them.

The Rules Of Scrum

Scrum, despite its definition by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland as “a framework for developing and sustaining complex products” [1], has a distinct set of rules. Unbreakable rules. In fact, the subtitle of the Scrum Guide from which that definition is taken is “The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game.

The rules are what make Scrum, Scrum. If you don’t follow the rules you are not doing Scrum.

Now this is not a consideration uniquely tied to Scrum. If you want to play chess, you follow the rules of the pieces (the way they move), the board (8 x 8), and the other rules of the game. If you want to do something else (say, introduce a new piece, for example, the “jester” (moves 2 up, 2 over, and the player has to tell a joke) then you are no longer playing chess. There are many variations of a game with balls, bats, bases, and players, but there is only one set of rules governing baseball. And so forth.

Each of the agile approaches has rules. Extreme Programming (XP) has its Twelve Principles which establish the rules for XP. If you do not follow all twelve of the Principles, you are not doing XP. Feature Driven Development (FDD) has its processes. And so on.

The concerns of the Scrum elite are valid. They are trying to make sure that teams that only follow some of the Scrum rules and not others, and fail, do not blame Scrum for the failure. In other words, the belief is that if you follow Scrum exactly as it is defined in the rules of Scrum, the software development (or the product development) effort will be successful. If not successful, the rules were not followed, in the form of software development called “Scrumbut” (“we are doing Scrum, but [specify some rule that is not followed. e.g. we still have a project manager] ).

When asked if Scrum can be performed without various of the defined components, such as having a Scrum Master, or daily stand-ups, or a retrospective, the Scrum community is fairly unanimous is saying, “no.”

Here are some random comments from the Yahoo Scrum Development Group and the LinkedIn Agile and Lean Software development Group over the past several years.

When asked if it were possible to “do Scrum” without Scrum Master (names withheld):

“No, it is not possible to have Scrum without Scrum Master. Have a great day.”

“You can still go and do the development work without a Scrum Master, but you can’t call that Scrum.”

“If you do not have a Scrum Master on your team, you are not doing Scrum. If you do not have two bishops at the start of a chess game, you are not playing chess.”

Similar responses applied to doing Scrum without a standup and without a formal end of sprint retrospective: “It’s not Scrum, it’s Scrumbut.” So changing the rules should be avoided since no one likes to be called a “but” especially a “Scrumbut.”

What If The Rules Stop Applying?

But what happens when the team or the players find the rules constraining or restricting or decidedly non-Agile?

Is that possible?

Example:

The team had been together over three years, using Scrum as their software development approach. They were by any measure a performing team under the Tuckman model. They regularly made all their sprint commitments and performed at a high velocity especially when compared to the other Scrum teams in the department.

Over the years, in their quest for continual process improvement, they made a number of changes which affected the basic tenets of Scrum.

Because they were co-located and talked among themselves continually, they decided that their Daily Stand Up was redundant. At the Stand Up, they retold what everyone already knew from the day before. Basically, they all knew what each other was doing. They said that they didn’t miss the Stand Ups and liked the extra fifteen minutes a day the got by not having it.

They also decided that waiting until the end of the Sprint to review what they were doing was too late, making the Retrospective also redundant. They were making changes during the Sprint and adjusting and having ad hoc meetings to address issues. The Retrospective had become a review of what already happened and a waste of time.

They eliminated it.

Finally, they realized they were able to deal with all the obstacles and impediments themselves. They didn’t need to go to a Scrum Master to act as an intermediary. They ran their own Sprint Planning Sessions, and Reviews with the Product owner and they certainly needed no further instruction on how Scrum works.

Since they were functioning as a high performing team, they also worked out all their issues among themselves. They suggested that the Scrum Master could better spend his time with other teams. The Scrum Master did. (I talked to the Scrum Master, who voiced no feeling of failure or resentment at being relieved of his duties. He had more of a sense of a parent watching the child graduate from college and enter the workforce on his own. He expressed that he hoped other teams would ask that he be removed.)

Their velocity and output continued to be high in terms of both quantity and quality. But they were not doing Scrum because they were not following the Rules of Scrum. And this is all right. Certainly, the team was not concerned about labels and in any case they still assumed they were doing Scrum. The Scrum Sheriff had not arrived in town as yet to tell them to cease and desist.

First Follow All The Rules

You have to follow the rules because you need a baseline from which to evolve. Otherwise, how would you know you have improved? To paraphrase the comment from Seneca, how are you going to know the direction you want to take if you don’t have a point to start from?

If you improve your process and change one of the rules of Scrum to make it better for you, then you are no longer doing Scrum. You can call it something else. Maybe Cricket or NuScrum or Murcs (Scrum spelled backward).

What Do You Call It?

So if it is not Scrum then what is it? We can probably call the process whatever we want. The team mentioned above had just such a discussion. One suggestion was to call it “Elvis” (from an Elvis fan) because “We’re fast and we rock.” Other suggestions included “Super Scrum” (with appropriate uniforms), “Uber Scrum,” “Scrumptious,” and, of course, “Over Scrum” which the team member highlighted the double entendre by stating, “We are so over Scrum.”

What was their final answer? What did they answer when other developers or management asked them what they were doing? What did they finally end up calling their approach?

Nothing. They decided that they didn’t need a name. Or a title. Or an “Agile approach.” They decided that they didn’t even need to call themselves “Agile.” They were simply developing software the best way they knew how. And that was enough for them.

Agile Is Not About Developing Software Or Product

Maybe we have it wrong. Maybe “Agile” is not about better ways to develop software. Maybe Scrum isn’t really a “product development framework.” Maybe Agile is a way to get a group of software developers together and work as a team and then as a high functioning team. Maybe software development is just what is done while the team is forming and performing. All of the practices and indications of Agile, from pair programming to the Scrum Master, to collective ownership of code, and so forth seem to be about improving the collaboration of the team as much as producing software.

Perhaps if we view “Agile” as a team development method rather than a software development approach, all the issues with being one approach or another start fading away. When the focus is on developing a high-performance team, backlogs, refactoring, having only three roles, Feature Lists, prototyping sessions, and all the rest become methods and techniques for developing the high-performance team.

Graduation Time

In the public school system in the US during the 1950s (I don’t know how long it continued) a graduation ceremony was held when the children moved from kindergarten to first grade of elementary school. I have an old photograph of myself graduating from kindergarten, passed on to my wife from my mother. In sepia tones, I am standing in front of a school wall replete with suspenders (the dress of the day), mortar board and some kind of certificate in my hand.

Am I suggesting that Scrum is like kindergarten? In a way.

Just as Robert Fulghum said, “All I really need to know (about life) I learned in kindergarten” so we might say about Scrum: “All we need to know to be a highly productive software development team we learn in Scrum.”

Just as in kindergarten and throughout all school, the ultimate goal is to learn something and to graduate. With Scrum (and with all Agile approaches) our goal is to learn something (especially about being in a team) and eventually to graduate from Scrum. And it doesn’t matter what we call the process we use after we “graduate” from Scrum. We can simply call it “Agile,”

Your goal should be to start with all the rules of Scrum so that you are doing Scrum and then improve to the point where you are not doing Scrum and graduate to something better: your team’s own software development process.

As Tobias Meyer once said,” the ultimate goal of Scrum is to eventually stop using Scrum.”

Author: 

Steve Blais, PMP, has over 43 years’ experience in business analysis, project management, and software development.  He provides consulting services to companies developing business analysis processes. He is on the committee for the IIBA’s BABOK Guide 3.0. He is the author of Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success.

10 Team Motivation Killers

It happens to everyone: sitting at your desk, you realize that you lack any motivation whatsoever to get any work done. Good luck being productive when this motivation slump hits hardcore, infecting your entire office.

The only long-term fix for a lack of motivation is to find the motivation killers in your workplace and eradicate them. Whether it is an awful office space, a micromanaging boss or a lack of clear goals, getting to the source of the problem can boost productivity for your entire team. Learn about the top 10 motivation killers and how to banish them from your office. Then, make the fixes and get back to work.

10 TEAM MOTIVATION KILLERS - Infographic

10 Things that Successful People Do Before Bed

1. They review their day

Steve Jobs was a strong proponent of living life to the fullest every day. He wonderfully explained this concept when he said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

All successful and wealthy people, before going to sleep, they think about if what are doing has meaning. At the end of each day, they think about how have positively contributed to the world and review if the goals achieved are in line with their overall vision. Thus, they make plans to track their progress and take notes to put the best in every single things they do.

So today, before going to sleep, review your day because it will force you to clarify what you want and motivate you to take action on your goals.

2. They write down their thoughts

Emmy-winning talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres used to write down her thoughts, feelings and emotions when she was younger:  “Writing is truly cathartic, because it just lets it all out and brings the best out of you”.

Super productive and successful people write down their thoughts,  sensations, feelings and emotions. They try to analyze when and why things went right and wrong. They write to improve their communication and thinking skills to be a better leader. So, by writing things down you can help yourself to sharpen your thinking, clear your mind, destroy negative self-talk and pay attention to your most dominant emotions through the day. Journaling may tell you something that you haven’t really paid much attention to about yourself or about your life.

People like Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winston Churchill kept a diary, so why not giving a shot?

3. They stick their noses into books

This is the proof that readers are great leaders. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is an avid reader. Each night before bed, he spends an hour reading a book, ranging on a variety of topics.

Many successful people in the world are voracious readers. They read at least for 10-20 minutes before going to bed every day and they learn from what others talk about. They expand their know-how to be better prepared to lead and motivate their team and build multimillionaire businesses.

Another big benefit from sticking your nose into a good book on a nightly basis is because reading  improve the long term health of your brain.

4. They set priorities for the next morning

With so many things happening on a daily basis it can be really easy to lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish. That’s why, before bed time, productive people review their schedule and plan for the following day.

They make a list of everything they have to do and before they start working they set priorities on the list. This allow them to go into the next workday feeling better prepared, more confident, and less stressed. Include this life-changing tip in your daily routine by writing down your top 3 to 5 most important tasks you need to do the next day. If for any reason you don’t do this, it should be the first thing you do every morning. And remember, every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.

5. They spend quality time with family

“A man should never neglect his family for business.” -Walt Disney

Totally true! You have to spend quality time with your family in order to get connected and stay connected. Life is really hectic, and whatever you are an entrepreneur or an employee it always feels like there are a million things to do and the clock is against you.

But it’s really important to treat time with your family as a priority. So spend more time having meaningful conversations with your children, siblings or parents. Turn off the TV, eat dinner with your family and talk. The more time you spend together, the better chance you have of sharing quality experiences.

6. They get things done

Super productive people use their skills, talents, energies, and knowledge to the fullest extent possible. They do the things that need to be done, not just the things they like to do. They are willing to work hard and to commit themselves to getting the job done by the end of the day.

Nobody knows this better than US President Barack Obama that start the day the night before. When he awakens at seven, he already has a jump on things. We all have 24 hours and you need to use your time wisely, that’s why successful people squeeze the most out of those 24 hours as they can.

7. They do a digital detox

After being collapsed to the floor from exhaustion and lack of sleep, Arianna Huffington has been an evangelist for “unplugging”. In her best-selling book Thrive, she shares the importance of disconnect from our hectic life, relax and take care of our body and soul, redefining what it means to be successful in today’s world.

So, every night before bed, put your phone in another room, turn off the Tv and spent some time in stillness. You will feel your energy soar and overall health improve. In addition, you will have more time for other activities you really enjoy.

8. They spend time in nature

There is no greater example than Sir Richard Branson. However as Branson has demonstrated throughout his hectic business career, that doesn’t mean you have to cut out the things you enjoy most in life. To be refreshed and ready for anything, you need to find time to go in nature and have fun.

If you can’t swim in the crystal clear water of the Caribbean, having a walk routine could be a perfect way to turn off your thoughts about work after a stressful day and reflect on different things that interest you or to just empty your mind and enjoy the silence.

9. They meditate

Russell Simmons, Tim Ferriss and Oprah Winfrey, just to name a few, all meditate in the morning and before bed to perform to their full potential throughout the day. In fact, when our mind is more relaxed we are more receptive to ideas and find even easier to focus on frustrating tasks.

So set aside 10 minutes each day before going to sleep to meditate and let your thoughts flow naturally. The next day you will be more energetic, focused and productive.

10. They envision their future

Many successful people take a few minutes before bed to envision a positive outcome unfolding for the projects they’re working on. Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s super productive people who use visualization techniques to picture tomorrow’s success and get clarity on challenges and obstacles. So, spend a few minutes each night visualizing yourself as successful the next day. This will help motivate you to make it happen because you’ve already seen it in your mind’s eye.

If you can develop these 10 habits of successful people you will increase your productivity overnight and your life will be a lot better. So, what successful habits do you practice before going to bed?