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BIBIANA GARCÍA | June, 2022

What lessons did SCRUM teach me?

My Scrum Master journey in retrospect.

As a Project Manager, I had the opportunity to take a Scrum Master course and apply those learnings into our company. That experience made me reflect on the way we work and understand a framework I thought I knew more about than I really did.

In the following sections, I'd like to share with you the key concepts of this method, as well as some lessons I've learned from this experience.

For those who don't know: what is SCRUM in one phrase?

Scrum is a lightweight framework (within the mindset of agile methodologies) that allows collaborative work between teams generating value through adaptive solutions to complex problems.

What is the goal of SCRUM?

The goal is to drive teams to move forward together, in a self-organized way, learning through experiences, reflecting on their victories and defeats in order to achieve continuous improvement and produce value.

How does it work?

Scrum involves groups of people who collectively have all the skills and experience to do the work and share or acquire those skills as needed.

It is based on empiricism, which states that knowledge comes from experience and from making decisions based on what is observed, and Lean thinking, which emphasizes the elimination of waste or non-value added through a focus on continuous improvement to streamline operations.

What are the pillars of SCRUM?

  • Transparency - The process and the work performed must be visible to all involved, both those who perform and those who receive it.
  • Inspection - Scrum artifacts and progress should be inspected. Doing so frequently and diligently allows for detection of variations or potentially undesirable problems.
  • Adjustment - If the inspection finds unacceptable deviations, the process should be adjusted as soon as possible to avoid further deviations.

Is it possible to apply scrum in smaller companies?

Scrum has proven to be a framework that has given very good results in software development and that is why it has been widely adopted by the IT Industry.

So how can the principles of the Scrum methodology be best applied to smaller teams?

There are some tools that, if we adapt them, allow us to develop better and more efficient software:

  • The Kannban board used for the sprint backlog is an artifact that we use regularly and that allows us to organize the work in a clear and transparent way, where each team member can see which features are pending, which are in process, which are finished and which team member is in charge of each one of them.
  • Expand the scope of communications to reduce the number of meetings and ensure key stakeholders are kept informed of project progress, successes, and challenges. Our team is in continuous communication throughout the day via a messaging application, such as Slack, which allows us to simplify our update meetings and consultations between the team and with the client.
  • Move daily meetings to twice a week when work is going well and once a day when work is not going well, this allows the team to remain agile and lightweight.

As we have larger teams, we could incorporate:

  • Dailys - they help us to know the status of each one's tasks and evaluate if there are blockages or adjustments to be made.
  • Planning type events - prior to starting the tasks and that it is the team of developers who take the tasks to be developed, define priorities, assignments and commitments to be assumed.

Surely, and regardless of the size of the team, adding retrospective events at the end of each deliverable would give us feedback on what was delivered and the execution process. That could be used in future decision making and would certainly help in improving teams and projects.

Conclusion

Implementing Scrum or other agile development methodologies is about making adjustments and compromises where it makes sense. Small companies should at least try these practices first before abandoning them. If they’re not quite right, teams can tailor the practices later to fit to their specific small-company situations.

Ultimately agile is about doing things rapidly, so keep trying new approaches with your small team until you figure out what works.

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Bibiana García
✍️Bibiana García

June, 2022

I think what surprised me the most is the organization chart. What goes from the traditional "hierarchical" pyramidal structure, to a much more horizontal structure where there are no hierarchies, but a cohesive team, self-organized and responsible for all activities related to the product to be developed.