Re-imagine your Scrum to firm up your agility

Many of today’s enterprises are hardly fit to play a leading role in today’s world. They are designed on the past-world premises of stability and high predictability, of repetitive work with easily scalable results. They experience profound difficulties having to navigate the predominantly uncertain and unpredictable seas of today’s world. An increase in agility is needed. They adopt Scrum. Rather than updating their past-world structures while introducing Scrum, they twist Scrum to fit their current organization. No more than an illusion of agility is created as a result.

Imagine they would re-imagine their Scrum and re-emerge their organization to firm up their agility…

Organizations, certainly if they have been around for a while, grew into very complicated and extremely interdependent internal structures. These structures are often the root of the problems organizations seek to resolve by adopting Scrum. Work is essentially seen and organized as assembly line work. Many bodies, meetings, hand-overs, resources, deliverables, processes and departments are required to produce and deliver even the smallest chunks of work.

Organizations naturally revert to familiar recipes when facing the need to become more Agile, including mass-production and cascaded approaches, separate transformation projects, copy-pasting what other organizations do or blindly following blueprint prescriptive models.

Individuals are grouped into ‘teams’. The teams are ‘coached’ into complying with standard sets of practices and processes, unified Sprint lengths and electronic process tools. This is uniformly done across the whole organization, regardless business domain, expertise or technology at play.

The existing organizational constructs are not touched, or touching them is cleverly obstructed, if not sabotaged. Teams (often micro-sized) are typically established within existing departments or other forms of functional separations. Higher-up optimizations, like synergies across teams and departments, are ignored in the same way they were before. The systemic disconnectedness that used to inhibit collaborative problem solving between individuals now inhibits collaborative problem solving between micro teams.

More Agile teams does not make a more Agile organization.

Practitioners worldwide turned Scrum into the most applied definition of Agile. Despite Scrum being the new reality, most organizations continue struggling with Scrum. They struggle as they think teams can be constructed. They struggle as they try to map Scrum’s accountabilities on existing functions. They struggle to understand that inspection without adaptation is pointless in Scrum. They struggle to understand how Scrum can wrap a variety of practices, allowing each expression of Scrum to be tuned to a specific context without fundamentally altering the framework. They struggle to re-invent their organization around Scrum to inject agility in their internal structures, although this will ultimately be reflected in their business outcomes. Organizations lack the imagination to picture how Scrum can work for them, mentally blocked to think beyond their current set-up.

Can you imagine Scrum being employed as designed and intended, regardless your current organization? Do you have the will to deeply reflect? Go back to the ‘why’ of your Scrum? Face your clear and apparent urgency? And take action? Recover, reboot, re-imagine?

In order to firm up their agility, courageous seekers re-imagine their Scrum to start re-emerging their organization. They leave behind past attempts, choices and approaches (all that didn’t work). Over-ambition, magnitude anxiety and deflation angst are mitigated by downsizing to small again and subsequently growing iterative-incrementally. They go through incredibly hard work when they:

1/ Re-consider what the ‘product’ is for the implementation of Scrum (or select another clearly bounded and meaningful initiative). Slicing the initiative if it is too BIG.

2/ Re-imagine Scrum for the selected product/initiative/slice.

    • Use Product Backlog as the single plan, holding all development work, whether technical, functional or non-functional. Establish what it means for product Increments to be releasable.
    • Reset the accountabilities to Product Owner, Scrum Master(s) and Development Team(s), full-time dedicated to the initiative and optimizing for the whole rather than for titles, positions and utilization. The eco-system, this newly established Scrum zone, is facilitated with tools, infrastructure and space.

3/ Create coherent, small and tasteful sashimi releases, no later than by the end of each Sprint, through a controlled and automated deployment pipeline.

Repeat.

Courageous seekers take a few Sprints before expanding to a next product/initiative while still improving the existing initiative(s) and relentlessly removing all impediments to the envisioned state of product delivery. Is an environment in place where people are willing to demonstrate the undiluted accountabilities of Scrum? Are teams self-organizing toward delivering releasable Increments providing start-to-finish value, no later than by the end of a Sprint? Are the teams fully equiped with all skills needed, a dedicated team space, all tools, infrastructure and authorizations?

It takes quite some persistence and belief to keep fighting the past-world tendency to control individuals. Remind yourself (or welcome others reminding you) that value is in the outcome of the work, not in the volume produced. At the Sprint Reviews, consider the value a team has potentially created in a Sprint, and align with them on what seems most valuable to work on next. Move away from judging individuals for their hours spent on individual tasks. Team Engagement is the key.

People who are engaged actually care a lot more about customer outcomes and profitability.

Continue re-thinking your internal constructions as initiatives grow, new initiatives spin up and start delivering value. Solve further organizational issues and inadequate policies as you run into them. Start re-emerging the organization upon conscious acts of re-imagining Scrum; funding, HR policies, rewards and incentives, governance, quality assurance, sales and marketing, legal and regulatory compliance. Unleash a way of working that will sometimes lead you to quite unpredictable destinies.

It is hard work. It is a path of learning, experimenting, falling and getting back up. It is transforming how you work, not adding work and complexity to what you already do. It is gradually re-merging your organization towards a networked system of self-sustaining product hubs. A product hub grows or shrinks as needed (following product ambitions and market needs). A product hub is added or disappears as needed (when spinning up or exiting a product). Embed the empirical approach of inspection and adaptation in your managerial practice and in your organizational set-up.

Use Scrum to grow Scrum.

 

Scrum Day Germany 2018 (a tree for a talk)

Tuesday 5 June 2018. I arrive home late in the evening after another exciting 2-days Professional Scrum experience in the Netherlands. I find a mail asking whether I can come to Stuttgart (Germany) less than a week later to deliver the opening keynote of the Scrum Day Germany event. Unfortunately, Bob Galen had to cancel his travel for the event last-minute. The desperate tone of the mail shows the urgency. I check with my wife, re-plan my work, check for flights and get in touch with the organizers hoping to quickly relieve them of some stress with my confirmation.

Tuesday 12 June 2018. I enjoy the happy reunion with my friends of Scrum at the event; the practitioners, organizers, trainers, coaches. I share my Scrum Caretaker tales on how to humanize the workplace with Scrum. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my tales with the crowd. I am happy I was able to help out my organizing friends. I appreciate being thanked by having a tree planted on my behalf via the Plant for the Planet organization.

My “thank you” goes out to all involved. I hope to meet you at some future occasion (again). I still prefer early invitations though.

Gunther

Traces of my presence at events (Selected Recordings 2012-2017)

I go to speak at events without commercial or monetary intentions. I primarily go to meet people and share ideas and connect with the Agile communities and Scrum practitioners. On my YouTube channel I have uploaded all recordings of my sessions that are available.

Following is a selection (so far):

2012 – Entering the public domain

In March 2012, at a Scrum.org trainer event, Ken Schwaber checked with me on the possibility of a yearly event about Scrum in the Netherlands. We moved it forward and the first Scrum Day Europe event happened on 11 July of that same year in Amsterdam. My session, “The emergence of the Customer-Oriented Enterprise”, wasn’t recorded, but you can check out my rehearsal of the presentation at the mentioned March trainer event.

Find the presentation at Slideshare.

Note: At the heart of the concepts presented (2012) is the belief I expressed in my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013) and the ideas I am building on again in my “re-vers-ify” narrative (2017).

2013 – Scrum for the enterprise

At Capgemini I had already  worked with Ken Schwaber on Agile transformation ideas and Scrum at the enterprise level. As I entered Scrum.org as director for the Professional Series in June 2013, that was our first priority to elaborate on. We presented a first set of ideas at the second edition of the Scrum Day Europe event on 4 July 2013 in Amsterdam.

2014 – Evidence-Based Management

We started focusing more on the inspection part of “Agility Path”. We separated it into “Evidence-Based Management (of software)”. The plan was to present it jointly as the opening keynote of Scrum Day Europe 2014. However, as Ken had visum troubles, I presented it alone.

I had already written a paper about the core ideas of the concept presented. As ideas keep evolving, I started using the term ‘Empirical Management’ and am tending towards using ‘Exploratory Management’ nowadays.

2015 – Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus

Our focus shifted from organizational transformations back to helping people and teams to employ Scrum. A lot of concerns existed around employing Scrum in the large. Figuring that ‘Scaled Scrum is still Scrum’ we probably ignored the need for too long. We created the Nexus framework, and described it in the Nexus Guide. I presented our approach to Scaled Professional Scrum with the Nexus framework as the opening keynote at Scrum Day Europe 2015.

2016 – The Future Present of Scrum

Scrum has been around since 1995. In the spring of 2015, Ken and I discussed how “Done” was a much misunderstood and certainly undervalued purpose of Scrum. Having created some blog notes about it, I used the 21st anniversary of Scrum (2016) to make it my core speaking topic, as “The Future Present of Scrum (Are we Done yet?)”.

2017 – re-vers-ify

In 2016 I continued my journey of Scrum as an independent Scrum Caretaker. The opportunity to work with diverse organisations and teams helped me consolidate over a decade of ideas, observations and beliefs of Scrum. I realized that all ideas I had been working on before and -certainly- after 2012 were connected. I created a narrative called “re-vers-ify”, or “re-imagining your Scrum to re-vers-ify your organization”.

Too often still the organisational waste, abuse and impediments, ruthlessly highlighted by Scrum, are ignored. Meanwhile organizations grasp for rhythm, focus and simplicity. Re-vers-ify shows a positive path forward, without falsely predicting the end result.

It became my speaking topic for 2017. I presented it as the opening keynote at the first ever Scrum Day Ukraine event in Kyiv on 11 March 2017.

Since 2003 countless people have told me I limit myself by ‘just’ doing Scrum. After 14 years, still, every day is like my first day of Scrum. Every day again Scrum turns out not a limitation but a gateway to options and possibilities to help people, teams and organizations.