Scrum: How to manage work that delivers value

Scrum: How to manage work that delivers value

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Are there elements of your product mix that your customer doesn’t care about? Or maybe your entire range is suffering from a lack of customer interest. Then you need Scrum. Scrum will put you in continuous development mode, ensuring you focus on value rather than getting stuff done.

What is Scrum?

Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber developed the Srum methodology in the 1980s. It became a framework for efficient working that could be applied to a variety of industries. It was a departure from the traditional approach which often involved a large amount of planning upfront and a linear workflow i.e. you designed, developed and produced with no feedback or re-modelling.

With Scrum, a product is built in a series of fixed-length iterations called sprints that provide teams with a framework for producing deliverables. The pace of these sprints creates a feeling of tangible progress that energises people. Short iterations also reinforce the importance of good estimation and fast feedback in order to continuously develop.

How does Scrum solve complex problems in a team environment?

Scrum teams are truly cross-functional. All the skills needed to complete their goals are contained within the team. Crucially the people in that team also have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the subject area they represent. This sense of autonomy makes them powerful enough to be able to solve even the most complex of problems.

Roles

There are three distinct roles in a Scrum team:

  1. Product owner – product owners are the champions for their product but they are not a project manager. They focus on ensuring the team delivers the most value to the business, rather than simply managing the status of a programme.
  2. Scrum master – Scrum masters are the champions for Scrum within their team. They take on a coaching role and help the team overcome problems, be transparent and remain focused on value.
  3. Scrum team – anyone working on the product or goal.

Sprints

At the core of Scrum are sprints. These are set periods of time during in which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. They are usually two-weeks long.

The Scrum process

A quick summary of how the Scrum process works:

  • Sprint planning – a team planning meeting that determines what to complete in the coming sprint i.e. the goal(s).
  • Daily scrum – a short (usually 15-minutes) meeting to check how the team is doing.
  • Sprint demo – a sharing meeting where the team shows what they've shipped in that sprint.
  • Sprint retrospective – a review of what did and didn't go well with actions to make the next sprint better.

How does Scrum build trust in teams?

Building trust in teams can be difficult. In large organisations this is particularly true because the people doing the work are often very different to the people they’re reporting to. This means decisions frequently get overruled or ideas are quashed when someone more senior decides they want to approach a task differently.

Scrum builds trust through creating transparency. For example, in instances where Scrum is being used for the first time or where trust is lacking in a team a whiteboard can be used for each sprint session. The whiteboard is placed in a position where the whole team can see it. Three columns are drawn on the whiteboard with the following headings: ‘backlog’ (ie what you need to do), ‘WIP’ (work in progress) and ‘done’ (completed ‘backlog’ items). Attach sticky notes at the start of each sprint underneath the left column with the aim of moving all the sticky notes from the left column to the right column by the end of the sprint.

This simple technique means everyone can track progress and provides momentum to the sprint.

Using Scrum in your organisation

The big shift in mindset that needs to take place for Scrum to be effective is that of focusing on value rather than getting stuff done.

When you focus on the big picture rather than individual tasks you move into a much more effective (not just productive) way of working. This type of successful working is created by providing people with purpose, giving them autonomy and encouraging mastery.

Further information of scrum can be found by heading over to Scrum.org and the Scrum Alliance.

If you need further advice, get in touch via My Website or LinkedIn.

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