What is the most impressive turnaround you have seen a scrum adoption achieve?
It depends on what the turnaround entails.
- Are we talking about a team’s ability to deliver?
- Are we talking about an increase in velocity?
- Are we talking about an increase in product quality?
- Are we talking about an increase in customer satisfaction?
I’ve seen all these outcomes being achieved, and each was impressive given the context of where we started and what our objectives were.
Increased Customer Satisfaction
I was a developer, and our team was using an approach that wasn’t delivering the outcomes we were looking to achieve. Adopting scrum enabled us to shift our focus exclusively to the customer, rather than to contractual obligations and deadlines.
So, there was a dramatic turnaround in customer satisfaction.
Up until the adoption of scrum, we rarely spoke to customers. We were an introverted group of customers, and our customer was notoriously difficult to work with (according to the team who did interact with the customer) and so our focus lay in doing as we were told and delivering against the deadlines and specs that were required.
We were a very strong development team, and we consistently built what we said we could build, and so people largely left us alone to get on with our mysterious programming capabilities.
Adopting scrum meant that we acquired a product owner, and she played an integral part in helping us – the developers – and the customer communicate regularly and effectively. She also helped us understand what was valuable to customers, prioritized work effectively, and gave us insight into the purpose of the items we were building.
We went from being a great team in technical terms to becoming a great team in product terms.
We were able to solve the customer’s problems and develop complex solutions that they needed.
Scrum gave us a way, as a highly technical team, to bring the customer into the very centre of our thinking and focus on helping them achieve the goals and objectives that most mattered to them.
I’ve also witnessed scrum help accelerate the amount of time it takes for a team to get started.
You often find that an organization will make the decision to adopt agile or scrum but spend months in meetings and programs before they start doing any work.
They build backlogs, they estimate it, they evaluate it, they refine it, and so forth but they never get around to building the item and delivering it to a customer. Just endless rounds of meetings and projects about the work they intend to do at some point in the future.
In one example, the organization took 9 months before they wrote a single line of code.
So, it wasn’t that they didn’t have the coding capability, it just took a strong commitment to working with the scrum framework, as professionals, to deliver the work.
A focus on what is needed for the upcoming sprint, followed by a commitment from the developers to delivering the sprint goal. Stop starting work and start finishing work.
Our product owner took on the responsibility of guiding the team, rather than telling them what to do, and the magic started to appear. At the end of that first sprint, the team had delivered the sprint goal and delivered a working piece of product/software to the customer for review and deployment.
We brought customers, product stakeholders, developers, department heads, and so forth into a room and ironed out what our priorities were, and why those mattered to the customer.
A strong focus on value delivery, agreement that we were going to deliver those items, and from there it was a matter of building the items and delivering it to the customer for review. Sprint 1, done and dusted. Rinse and repeat for Sprint 2 and before you know it, we were consistently delivering working software to customers.
So, just by focusing on what we needed to get started, identifying whether we have enough work to get started with the first sprint, and working through that sprint backlog meant that we could deliver a working product to a customer in 3 weeks.
Concept to customer delivery.
This achievement for the scrum team led to the entire organization assessing how they approached work.
- Were they taking on too much work at a time?
- Were they spending too much time on analysis and not enough time on getting started?
- Were they focusing on the most valuable work?
- Who was the work they produced for and was it valuable to that group?
And so forth.
A ruthless focus on getting work into the system and flowing from concept to customer delivery.
So, sometimes a scrum adoption can impact the entire organization rather than just a group of 3 to 10 people. It can highlight problems that are systemic rather than localized and lead an organization to completely reinvent how they work.
About John McFadyen
For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.
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