The upstream adoption of Scrum

Since 2003 I have been involved in successful implementations of Scrum, through various projects and in different organizations. This was primarily on my local market, Belgium. Since 2010 I started promoting adoption of agility through Scrum beyond my professional consulting activities, as board member of the Agile Consortium Belgium.

While worldwide the Agile portfolio is going through the Bowling Alley and Scrum is emerging as the Gorilla, my local market seems to struggle to even cross the chasm. One of my re-occurring findings is the lack of upstream adoption of Scrum. I consider it a major impediment.

Retrospective of a Belgian ScrumMaster

In my position as consultant I rarely have complete control over the delivery process, and even the decision to actually call it ‘Scrum’, let alone full-scale adoption. But the least I always do is master a project instead of manage it as a traditional command & control-like dictator. I refer to it as my Scrumitude: iterative phasing with end-of-iteration demo’s, mastering a Team into Sprint Planning and self-organization, being a facilitator, removing impediments over being prescriptive, establishing a close relationship with the Business, promoting on-site presence of cross-functional team skills, using visible information radiators and high transparency. All information gets consolidated in a Product Backlog Tracking model I created. The actual course of Sprints and the reality of what the Burn-downs show is used to continually adjust expectations, for better or for worse.

In the absence of outspoken Scrum, even such stealth application of Scrum results in regular, often perceived as on-time, and on-budget, or better high return delivery with higher satisfaction. And it does make projects fun again. No surprise that downstream adoption of Scrum, i.e. by Teams, end-users and business representatives, is generally huge, outspoken or stealth.

Although good figures and great, highly visible results are generally synonymous for upstream ‘success’, the Scrum process and its essential causal part in this success seem hard to capture and to accept for many old-skool commandistos.

  • The first upstream obstacles are lower level management that likes to operate below corporate radars. They object the transparency and visibility as they feel personally less beneficial on the ‘success’.
  • The more upstream levels don’t care about the process, just about the figures. In the best case they tolerate a deviant process. An unpredictable and unreliable base for deeper transition.

What we need is active and explicit upstream support and promotion. Think about operational management (‘pure’ IT), sales divisions, delivery managers and hierarchical management.

Confessions of a Belgian ScrumMaster

The success of stealth Scrum is limited because it disguises the essential change. Stealth Scrum is certainly less intrusive, but the leverage of advantages and benefits that will last, is generally wasted. As a consultant it remains a struggle to articulate about Scrum more clearly without losing commercial opportunities.

PSMIIAnd a tedious effect is that people start instructing me with their fantasies on Agile/Scrum. Which is not why I re-entered the world of Scrum and greatly engage in Ken Schwaber’s Scrum.org. And decided not to let the momentum pass this time. And became Belgium’s first PSM II (in August 2010).

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