Who stole all my Scrum benefits?

Big Thoughts

2 May 2013 • Written by Edwin Dando

You've implemented Scrum, but you're not reaping the benefits the same sort of benefits as other organisations. Edwin Dando examines why

You’ve seen the statistics – Jeff Sutherland’s group consistently achieving 500-750 percent increases in productivity and organisations tripling their productivity in a few months. You’ve implemented Scrum. So how come you aren’t reaping the same benefits?

When you spend time with a high-performing Agile team, something quite profound, yet subtle happens. What you notice is not how well they’re sticking to the rules of the framework they use, but more how well they all focus on regularly delivering business value. I’ve noticed two key patterns:

First, they’re all working together on delivering business value

Secondly, they support this notion using high-quality agile engineering practices.

Let’s unpick these a little.

Working together to deliver business value

One of the major mistakes many Agile teams make is strong demarcation of roles. I believe this is often a misinterpretation of frameworks such as Scrum, resulting in the beliefs that:

• Business value is the product owner’s job

• Coding and testing is the team’s job

• Facilitating and guiding is the Scrum Master’s job

This style of linear thinking completely misses the mark and takes us right back to the very relay race thinking Takeuchi and Nonaka identified as sub-optimal.

Scrum is a simple, yet strong framework based on a core set of values. The real benefit of Scrum is focus on value and, probably equally importantly, is not focusing on things that don’t add value. This applies to everyone in the Scrum team.

Keeping the product owner separate from the team – or the belief that the product owner is the only one responsible for business value – is an epic fail.

In our education and consulting work, we often see product owners deeply distressed at the idea of having to ‘do it all’. They are really worried about the state of their ever-growing product backlog and ensuring the top items are ‘well groomed and understood’ by the team. Many of them look like they are about to pop.

When we suggest that they work at a more strategic level, focusing on the product strategy, roadmap and vision and involve the team in developing the Product Backlog, they almost melt with relief. “You mean I don’t have to do all of this on my own?”

Quality software development

The second challenge is the idea that simply implementing Scrum will somehow result in massive benefits. Let me tell you now – it probably won’t.

What it will do is highlight, with an extremely intense and regular focus, every single deficiency your organisation has. Like a defiant yet brilliant child, it will protest, complain and disrupt until you either address the core problem or accept it and work around it.

In our experience, one of the most common core problems is the change in approach required in software development.

Scrum and Extreme Programming are a marriage made in heaven and the most effective Agile teams tend to be very strong at XP-type practices.

I asked Jeff Sutherland, “How do you achieve these 750 percent increases?” “Do all the things we have discussed [Scrum+XP]. Each time you choose not to do one of the practices, you need to accept that your improvement figures will likely be much less” he replied.

Simply put, in my experience the real gains in Agile come from improved software development practices and a relentless focus on business value.

These include Test-driven Development, Acceptance Test-driven Development, Refactoring, Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, Test Automation and Specification by Example.

This is why we’re partnered with Industrial Logic, the world’s leader in Agile software development. They train some of the biggest names in the industry such as Google, GE etc.

You know the benefits real Agile can bring. Now it’s time to step up and grab them. We've got a range of Agile Software Development courses.

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