As a technical program manager implementing Scrum for the past two years, bottom line, it works. If you do not know about Scrum, we have an introductory article titled “The Basics of Scrum, Sprints and Cycles” which I highly recommend you read first.
If you are really interested, then you can check out an awesome white paper on what you need to know about implementing Scrum. I am going to tell you about how it actually works and the highlights to focus on for getting results.
It’s All About Execution!
Scrum works because of its simplicity. Sticking to the framework and the Scrum assets are vital to successful execution. Focus on the following key takeaways:
1) Actively maintain the backlog.
The backlog holds all the requirements both for the project (product backlog) and for the current cycle (sprint backlog). Continuously review and prioritize entries according to team capacity. Reviewing these during the standup will align daily activities with backlog items.
2) Master the daily standup.
Keep the team laser focused during daily standups while staying disciplined to the routine. Table all unrelated conversations to the end of the standup or for future discussion.
3) Implement retrospective feedback.
After the end of each sprint, review the cycle and add an action item for each reflection point. Set specific time-based goals that address improvement areas and continue strengths.
Now, let's dive in a little deeper into each of these points...
Maintaining the Backlogs
Keeping happy clients revolves around managing expectations. The scrum framework enables project and program managers to accurately communicate team capabilities and project deadlines, as long as you maintain the backlog according to the cycle time. Logging work completed against the sprint backlog maintains visibility and clearly shows progress until complete.
Once the sprint backlog has been cut and prioritized, be diligent about adding all new requirements to the product backlog. Accurately prioritizing requirements will help improve client expectations and build trust with your customer(s). Routinely review the backlog with the product owner and the development team to establish a strong foundation for success. Review often to keep communication channels open.
Mastering the Standup
The daily standup is all about the team reporting to one another. The scrum master simply facilitates this process to maintain the framework. Clearing impediments and roadblocks is vital for continued progress. Understanding interdependencies among the team will greatly help in removing any blockers.
Allowing all team members to hold each other accountable is another important factor in mastering the standup. Accountability comes in the form of tabling unrelated or lengthy discussions as well as sticking to timeliness and structure. Open discussion at the end of the standup gives each member the opportunity to bring up a tabled topic or surface any overarching concerns.
Following Up on the Retrospective
Perhaps the most important part of the Scrum Sprint is the team review and retrospective which follows the end of each cycle. The opportunity to provide feedback, both positive and negative, is vital for continuous improvement. Allow each member to add feedback and then involve the team in voting for the most important items. Work on the top three in each category.
Also review the process as a whole and allow feedback on the framework. The simplicity of Scrum is the beauty of the methodology. However, interpretation and implementation may differ among groups so allowing the team to discuss improvements on the process itself is equally important.
The agile scrum framework and methodology calls for a very simple set of rules, roles, and guidelines that can be applied to many different projects and processes. One must understand the basics of scrum and the different assets required. More importantly, applying the key concepts and maintaining discipline through execution will yield much more effective results.
Best of luck scrumming! Please share your Scrum experience with me in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!