Process improvement initiatives have always been a driver of constant business change. Over time, there have been numerous ways to approach the issue of implementing business improvements, but it feels like Scrum as a process improvement tool has been to a large extent, overlooked or at least miscategorized.
Scrum has generated plenty of excitement that executives at companies associate with producing software faster, better, or more reliably. This has successfully helped to kick-off many Scrum initiatives. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of implementations fall woefully short of what I feel is the true gist of the framework: A process improvement initiative. More succinctly, Scrum is a process improvement initiative implemented by an empowered, highly performing Scrum team. By empowered we mean the team has the ability to alter its process without management approval, or at least without to do so without too much bureaucratic overhead.
The Scrum framework is a fairly loose framework, which enables it to easily be adapted to varying business scenarios. In fact, the Scrum framework only defines 4 meetings. Arguably, the most important meeting of the four is the “Sprint Retrospective”. This meeting is designed to discuss the course that has been taken, and to recommend continuous process improvements. By ensuring that the Scrum team follows this step, and that they have the power to implement changes, any chaos or variance in the project, process, or team can be corrected.
Having talked to several organizations using Scrum, its concerning how many don’t actually have empowered Scrum teams. This is unfortunate, and I will argue that it is in fact the whole point of the framework. Without a properly empowered Scrum team who practices the retrospective and implements improvements, key benefits of Scrum remain un-realized.
If you are a manager with a Scrum team, what are some of the symptoms that your Scrum team isn’t providing your organization with the full benefits offered by Scrum?
- Does the team need your approval to modify its processes? If so - to what extent?
- Do you attend the retrospective?
- Do you approve changes to the teams Scrum process or framework?
- Do you approve their estimates?
- Do you question your team’s estimates? Have you ever worked to get an estimate lowered?
- Have you ever assigned a task to team members?
If so, your team is neither empowered nor is your company realizing the process improvement benefits of Scrum. If retrospectives aren't conducted properly or your Scrum team is not empowered, you have simply missed the boat.
A good read: