Agile project management methodologies provide a proven framework that have enabled countless software development organizations to more rapidly deliver releases that meet their, and their customers, needs. Still, companies that are learning the Agile process and transitioning to a Scrum development cycle can sometimes struggle to apply the theories in practice, particularly when real life obstacles present themselves.
• What happens if a team member doesn’t buy into the process or isn’t pulling his weight?
• What if someone is out sick during a sprint?
• How do you establish priorities when there is lack of support from the top?
As with any framework, flexibility is key. No development cycle will run exactly the same, or perfectly.
When managing a Scrum process, focusing on these five guiding principles will ensure that, even when faced with inevitable real world obstacles, the sprint will be productive and ultimately a success.
1. Be Dedicated to the Daily Scrum Meeting
Susan’s child is ill so she’s out today. Dinesh is having trouble dialing into the conference line. Yesterday’s all-staff meeting put us all behind.
Why don’t we cancel today’s Scrum meeting.
Throughout any sprint cycle there will arise seemingly good reasons to cancel the daily Scrum meeting.
Don’t fall victim to this temptation.
Once you cancel one, it becomes easier to cancel the next … and so on. The daily Scrum meeting is essential to the ongoing success of any sprint as it keeps everyone focused on the deliverable and, perhaps more importantly, keeps everyone committed to the other team members.
Even if only a few team members are able to attend on any given day, NEVER cancel a daily Scrum meeting.
2. Enlist a Strong Scrum Master
The Scrum Master (similar to a Project Manager) acts as the day-to-day lead for the team. The Scrum Master schedules meetings, runs the daily standups, removes obstacles that present themselves and ensures the entire team works as effectively as possible throughout each sprint.
This person also has a keen sense of the overall dynamic of the personalities of the team, and should be aware that each member is getting the support and tools that they need to perform their job effectively.
The Scrum Master also acts as a facilitator for the group to ensure they stay focused in daily stand-ups, reach a consensus on what can be achieved throughout each sprint, and works to keep external distractions at bay so the team can focus on their daily tasks.
At the beginning, and end, of each product development process, the strong skillset of the Scrum Master can make or break the success of the entire team.
3. Make Scrum and Agile training a high priority
Understanding that Scrum is a methodology that was created with very specific processes and goals in mind, training your team on Scrum and Agile development is key to ensure each member understands how to play a role in creating an environment that allows for the most efficient product development.
Getting project managers, developers and product owners trained and prepared to dive into Scrum doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. We recommend Agile in the Enterprise Training Online to get them started in understanding Agile and Scrum, as well as learning how to execute the processes in real-world environments.
4. Obtain complete buy-in
Culture is the number one roadblock hindering every agile transformation. Your training can be top-notch, your team members’ book knowledge of agile processes may be spot on, but if the organizational culture does not change to accept and support a full transition to an agile way of working, the transformation will fail.
Set the tone that your company is an Agile development organization that runs on a Scrum methodologies. Show department managers and C-level executives how they can benefit from the Scrum process by having further visibility into product development, allowing for more insight to develop the company strategy.
To get things started, invite members of other departments to be a fly on the wall of daily Scrum meetings to get an idea as to how the product team works together.
5. Record, Report and Rejoice Results
Agile is not just a theory. Its success can be validated. This is important to understand because your initial enthusiasm for what you learn will only carry you so far. To continue putting agile methodologies into practice, you need to be able to see the positive results for yourself.
Record what has been achieved during each sprint cycle. Report those achievements to your managers, and the C-level executives who aren’t as involved in the day-to-day process.
And remember, even if a sprint didn’t go as planned and several of the goals remain unachieved, a sprint review that leads to actionable steps resulting in more productive future sprints can be considered a viable achievement in its own right.
Most of all, rejoice with your team and celebrate their accomplishments. It’s all too easy to get caught up in planning for the next sprint, and then get caught up in the next sprint itself, and to neglect to reflect on all that has been achieved.
While the burndown chart can be a great motivator, a “burned through” list is a reminder of the team’s capabilities.
And it’s a good excuse for cake too.
Practice Makes Perfect
To successfully manage Scrum processes, there is no substitute for practice. The more you do it, the better you will become.
To help organizations who are new to the Agile project management methodology gain invaluable experience cPrime offers the “Mastering Agile and Scrum Training Online” course. This 1-day course walks you through a hands-on simulation of a complete scrum project from start to finish and teaches you how to manage and execute Scrum processes within real-world project environments.