Posted on 2 Comments

A Professional Organization Defines Quality

An often observed problem of Scrum adoptions is the isolated way that Scrum Teams operate, being or acting as if detached from the wider organization. There are several possible causes, one of them being the disconnect between people creating standards and people implementing upon those standards.

An organization that thrives and depends on software products and services can be expected to have a definition of product qualities in place, and to express such through standards, guidelines, rules, service levels and other expectations. Scrum Development Teams, consisting of professional product developers, are an integral part of an organization, rather than being isolated gangs of thug coders within the organization. Such Development Teams can be expected to adhere to overarching product standards.

It explains why, on the topic of the creation of a definition of Done, the Scrum Guide says (see

If the definition of “done” for an increment is part of the conventions, standards or guidelines of the development organization, all Scrum Teams must follow it as a minimum. If “done” for an increment is not a convention of the development organization, the Development Team of the Scrum Team must define a definition of “done” appropriate for the product.

If, as can be expected, the minimal definition of Done is provided by the organization, a Development Team can still complement it with context-specific elements; the product, a release or technology.

If organizational guidelines are not provided, a Development Team should, as professionals, create an appropriate definition of Done for their development. How else does a team know what work to do, what tasks to undertake, if it doesn’t know, and have a shared understanding of, the characteristics of the Done or end product? How else can Product Owners and stakeholders know what quality they will be receiving? Quality should not be their concern, or their primary focus. Market reception, business opportunities, offered functionality should be.

The lack of such standards or provision of them is therefore also best raised within the organization to serve wider organizational improvement. Remember that such improvement will also benefit others within the organization.

Scrum can be a lever for organisational improvement. Scrum Master is a servant-leader role for the organization too.

Often organizations provide a list of guidelines that is presented as ‘minimal’, yet proves to be unrealistically long and heavy. This again is a great area for conversation, improvement and removal of organizational waste. The organization might have not adapted their standards and expectations to the reality of iterative-incremental development, or their standards might for a long time have not been matched against actual implementation of them. ’Standards’ might be in place that were created as part of long, sequential processes where quality problems typically accumulated heavily before they were detected. As the people maintaining standards typically do not engage in creating quality upon those standards they start adding demands to the expectations that prescribe the delivery of proof that ‘quality’ is created. They started confusing defining quality (‘what’) with evidence of quality ‘(how’).

Avoiding the conversation is not helpful. Self-organization is not an excuse to do so. A Development Team might push back toward a realistic definition of Done with arguments on how they will actually build in quality, Sprint after Sprint after Sprint. A feedback loop from practice to theory is best established. It is important, and often surprisingly revealing, for the people creating standards to experience what practical application of these standards entails, or what waste is in them when iterative-incrementally delivering versions of releasable product.

Quality, in the end, is in the product, not in paper documentation. Paper documentation allows lies and illusions of quality, working software doesn’t.