Agility and Scrum According to OpenAI’s ChatGPT
Will Scrum Masters, agile coaches, PMs, and POs be rendered obsolete?
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TL; DR: Business Agility, Scrum, and Generative AI’s Take on Getting There
There has been a lot of talking about generative AI recently, mainly fueled by excellent work results in the text and graphics area. A few days ago, OpenAI made a new model available that “interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” (Source.)
I thought it might be fun to ask ChatGPT a few questions about business agility in general and Scrum in particular.
Will Google Be Toast Anytime Soon?
The question is obvious: What if a Generative AI can not just answer questions but also learn while constantly improving its model? Wouldn’t that lead to the long-run obsolescence of many knowledge workers, for example, Scrum Masters, agile coaches, product managers, and Product Owners?
Let’s put the model to the test! (Moreover, please try ChatGPT yourself; access is free for the time being.)
My Questions to the Generative AI on Business Agility and Scrum
Chatting with OpenAI’s ChatGPT is straightforward: you add a question to the entry field and trigger the reply, which typically takes no more than 1-2 seconds. Then you can rate the response, thumb-up or thumb-down, and ChatGPT provides an opportunity to add some remarks, clarifying your feedback. Moreover, you can ask ChatGPT to make another attempt to answer the question. (There are a few examples of that below.)
I chatted with the Generative AI on December 3, 2022.
OpenAI’s ChatGPT on Business Agility
Let's get started with some general questions:
Question 1: “Why is agility beneficial?”
Answer: “Agility is beneficial because it allows people and organizations to respond quickly and effectively to changes in their environment. This can help them stay competitive, adapt to new situations, and make the most of opportunities as they arise. In sports, agility is important for making quick changes in direction, avoiding obstacles, and staying balanced. In business, it can help organizations respond to market trends, changing customer needs, and new technologies. In general, agility is an important quality to have because it enables people to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to the world around them.”
We are off to a decent start; responding to change seems to be the hook, and ChatGPT distinguishes between business and sports.
Question 2: “Why is agility beneficial in business?”
Answer: “Agility is beneficial in business because it allows organizations to respond quickly and effectively to changes in their environment. This can help them stay competitive, adapt to new situations, and make the most of opportunities as they arise. For example, if a company is agile, it can quickly adapt to changes in market trends, changing customer needs, and new technologies. This can help the company maintain its competitive edge and continue to grow and succeed in a rapidly changing business environment. Additionally, being agile can help a company be more flexible and adaptable, which can make it better able to respond to unexpected challenges and opportunities.”
Now responding to change is related to preserving competitiveness in the face of changing customer needs and technology. Also, ChatGPT adds a bit of uncertainty to the mix.
Question 3: “What defines business agility?”
Answer: “Business agility refers to the ability of a company to quickly and effectively respond to changes in its environment. This can include changes in market trends, customer needs, technologies, and other factors that can affect the company's operations. A company that is agile is able to adapt to these changes in a flexible and effective manner, which can help it stay competitive and successful in a rapidly changing business environment. Business agility is often achieved through the use of agile practices and methodologies, such as agile project management and agile software development. These practices help companies to be more flexible, adaptable, and responsive to changes in their environment.”
It gets a bit repetitive; however, the Generative AI adds agile practices and refers directly to agile software development. Let's drill down a bit.
Question 4: “What factors contribute to business agility?”
Answer: “There are several factors that can contribute to business agility, including the following:
- A culture of continuous learning and improvement: In order to be agile, companies need to create a culture that encourages learning and growth. This means creating an environment where employees are encouraged to learn new skills, share knowledge, and try new things.
- Flexible and adaptable processes: Companies need to have processes in place that are flexible and adaptable. This means being open to trying new approaches and methods, and being willing to change course if something isn't working.
- The ability to make decisions quickly: In order to be agile, companies need to be able to make decisions quickly and effectively. This means having the necessary information and data available, as well as the ability to analyze it and make informed decisions.
- Collaboration and communication: Agile companies rely on collaboration and communication to get things done. This means having strong communication channels and mechanisms in place to allow teams to work together effectively.
- The use of agile practices and methodologies: Many companies use agile practices and methodologies, such as agile project management and agile software development, to help them be more agile. These practices help to create a more flexible and adaptable environment, and can help companies respond to changes in their environment more quickly and effectively.”
So far, that is OpenAI’s ChatGPT most prolific answer, ticking many boxes at the heart of successful transformation, from Kaizen spirit to flexible processes to fast decision-making, and, lastly, the importance of collaboration and communication.
Question 5: “What are agile practices and methodologies?”
Answer: “Agile practices and methodologies are a set of principles and approaches that are used to help organizations be more flexible and adaptable. These practices and methodologies are often used in the context of software development, but they can also be applied to other areas of business, such as project management and product development. Agile practices and methodologies are based on the idea that organizations need to be able to respond quickly and effectively to changes in their environment. They focus on creating flexible and adaptable processes that can be easily changed as needed, and on fostering collaboration and communication among teams. Some of the most common agile practices and methodologies include agile project management, agile software development, and Scrum.”
So, our Generative AI knows Scrum and that agile practices can be used outside of software development. However, there is no mention of other practices, for example, Kanban or Lean, or the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
Question 6: “What is the role of the management in agile?”
Answer: “The role of management in agile is to provide support and guidance to teams as they work using agile methodologies. This can include providing resources, training, and support to teams, as well as helping to remove any obstacles or challenges that they may face. Additionally, management plays a key role in fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, and in promoting collaboration and communication among team members. In general, the role of management in agile is to provide the support and guidance that teams need to be successful, and to help create an environment that is conducive to using agile methodologies.”
OpenAI’s ChatGPT has a remarkably enlightened stance on management in an agile environment.
Question 7: “Do we need managers in an agile organization?”
Answer: “It is not necessary for an agile organization to have traditional managers. In fact, many agile organizations use a more decentralized and flat management structure, in which teams are self-organizing and empowered to make their own decisions. This approach is based on the idea that teams are best equipped to make decisions about the work that they are doing, and that they are more likely to be successful if they are given the freedom and autonomy to do so. However, this does not mean that agile organizations do not need any form of management. Agile organizations still need leaders who can provide guidance and support to teams, and who can help to create an environment that is conducive to using agile methodologies. These leaders may not have the same title or role as traditional managers, but they still play an important role in helping the organization to be successful.”
No traditional managers are needed, but decentralized organizations and flat hierarchies — hear, hear! I like ChatGPT pointing out the necessity that managers in agile organizations create an environment, a culture that enables agility to flourish.
Question 8: “Do managers hinder or advance agility?”
Answer: “It depends on the approach that managers take to agility. In some cases, managers can hinder agility by being resistant to change, failing to provide sufficient training and support, or not setting clear goals and objectives. These actions can make it difficult for teams to implement agile practices effectively, and can hinder the organization's efforts to become more agile. On the other hand, managers who are supportive of agility, who provide the necessary training and support, and who foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement can help to advance agility within the organization. In general, the role of managers in promoting agility will depend on their approach and their willingness to support and enable agile practices.”
The Generative AI mentions goals and objectives for the first time.
Question 9: “Can we fund an agile transformation by letting go of the managers?”
Answer: “It is possible to fund an agile transformation by letting go of some managers, but this may not necessarily be the best approach. While cutting costs can be one way to fund a transformation, it is important to consider the potential consequences of letting go of managers. In many cases, managers play a critical role in providing guidance and support to teams, and in helping to create an environment that is conducive to using agile methodologies. If managers are let go without adequate planning and support, it can create disruptions and challenges for teams, and can hinder the organization's ability to successfully implement agile practices. Additionally, simply cutting costs may not be enough to fully fund a transformation, and the organization may need to explore other options, such as securing additional funding or finding new sources of revenue. In general, while cutting costs can be one way to fund a transformation, it is important to carefully consider the potential consequences and to have a comprehensive plan in place.”
The answer seems more driven by linking change with cost-cutting than considering the particular case of becoming a learning, self-managing organization with a flatter hierarchy.
Generative AI ChatGPT on Scrum
Now that we have a first idea of the model’s capability at the meta-level, let’s have a look at Generative AI’s idea of Scrum:
Question 10: “What is Scrum?”
Answer 10.1: “Scrum is an agile framework that is used to manage complex projects and products. It is a flexible, iterative approach that allows teams to quickly and effectively respond to changes in their environment. Scrum is based on the idea that projects and products are best managed through collaboration, continuous learning, and iterative development. It consists of a set of roles, meetings, and artifacts that help teams to work together and deliver value to their customers. The key roles in Scrum include the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the development team. Scrum meetings include the daily stand-up, the sprint planning meeting, the sprint review, and the sprint retrospective. And the key artifacts in Scrum include the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and the increment.”
Answer 10.2: “Scrum is an agile framework that is used to manage and control complex projects. It is a flexible, iterative approach that focuses on delivering high-quality products and increasing efficiency and productivity. Scrum is based on the idea that projects are complex and unpredictable, and that the best way to manage them is through collaboration, transparency, and adaptability. In Scrum, teams work in short, iterative cycles called "sprints," in which they identify and prioritize the most important tasks, and then work together to complete them. Scrum emphasizes regular communication and collaboration among team members, as well as regular feedback and reviews to ensure that the project stays on track.”
Here I tried the opportunity to have another answer from ChatGPT. Generally, it is aware of the basic Scrum principles; however, the answer looks superficial to me. Somehow, OpenAI’s ChatGPT seems stuck with the 2017 Scrum Guide, still referring to the Development team and not mentioning commitments. Moreover, there are only three artifacts. Also, it repeats a typical sloppiness with the terminology, for example, talking about the “daily stand-up.” But, at least it got two out of three elements of empiricism, and we know that “two out of three ain’t bad.”
Question 11: “What is the purpose of the Scrum Master?”
Answer: “The Scrum Master is a key role in the Scrum framework. The purpose of the Scrum Master is to facilitate the Scrum process and help the team follow the Scrum values and principles. The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the team has the tools, resources, and support they need to be successful. This can include helping the team to identify and prioritize their work, facilitating communication and collaboration among team members, and providing guidance and support as needed. The Scrum Master is also responsible for protecting the team from distractions and disruptions, and for facilitating regular meetings and reviews to ensure that the project stays on track. In general, the Scrum Master is an essential part of the Scrum process, and plays a crucial role in helping teams to be successful.”
Question 12: “A Scrum Team member refuses to participate in retrospectives. As a Scrum Master, what can I do?”
Answer 12.1: “As a Scrum Master, it is your responsibility to facilitate the Scrum process and ensure that all team members are participating and contributing to the best of their abilities. If a team member is refusing to participate in retrospectives, it is important to have a conversation with them to understand their reasons and address any concerns they may have. It may be helpful to remind them of the importance of retrospectives in the Scrum process and how they can help the team improve and become more effective. If the team member continues to refuse to participate, it may be necessary to escalate the issue to the team's Product Owner or other relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, it is important for all team members to be fully committed to the Scrum process in order for it to be successful.”
Answer 12.2: “As a Scrum Master, you can try the following approaches to address the situation:
- Address the issue directly: Talk to the team member and find out the reason behind their refusal to participate in retrospectives. It could be due to lack of understanding of the importance of retrospectives or any other personal issues. Try to address their concerns and explain the benefits of retrospectives for the team and the individual.
- Facilitate the retrospectives: As a Scrum Master, you can facilitate the retrospectives to make sure that everyone is participating actively. Use different techniques and activities to engage the team members and make the retrospectives more interactive and enjoyable.
- Provide feedback: After each retrospective, provide feedback to the team member on their participation and highlight the areas where they can improve. This can motivate them to participate more actively in the next retrospective.
- Involve the team: Encourage the team members to share their feedback and ideas with the team member who is not participating in the retrospectives. This can help the team member to understand the importance of retrospectives and also encourage them to participate in the future retrospectives.
- Follow up: After the retrospective, follow up with the team member and check if they are willing to participate in the next retrospective. If not, repeat the above steps and continue to provide support and guidance to help the team member understand the importance of retrospectives.”
Coming up with a definition of an element of a framework is a thing. Applying the spirit of a framework like Scrum to a practical issue is a different beast. I consider answer #1 good up to the moment when ChatGPT suggests escalating “the issue to the team’s Product Owner or other relevant stakeholders.” Answer #2 starts convincing but quickly falls into some meta-level talking about facilitation. The suggested “guidance” from the Scrum Master looks more like line managing to me.
Question 13: “What are the first steps to introduce Scrum?”
Answer 13: “The first steps to introduce Scrum in an organization are as follows:
- Educate yourself and your team about Scrum: Before introducing Scrum, it's important to understand the basics of the framework and how it works. This means learning about the Scrum values, principles, and practices, and how they can be applied to your specific project or organization.
- Identify the project or team that will use Scrum: The next step is to identify the project or team that will use Scrum. This will typically be a project or team that is complex and unpredictable, and that would benefit from the flexibility and adaptability of Scrum.
- Create a cross-functional Scrum team: In Scrum, teams are cross-functional, which means that they have all the skills and expertise they need to complete their work. This means that you will need to bring together team members from different departments and disciplines to form a Scrum team.
- Appoint a Scrum Master: The Scrum Master is a key role in the Scrum framework, and is responsible for facilitating the Scrum process and helping the team follow the Scrum values and principles. You will need to appoint a Scrum Master for your team who has a good understanding of Scrum and can provide the necessary guidance and support.
- Identify and prioritize the work: The next step is to identify and prioritize the work that the team will complete during the first sprint. This will involve creating a list of tasks and objectives, and then prioritizing them based on their importance and value to the project.
- Begin the first sprint: Once the work has been identified and prioritized, the team can begin the first sprint. This will involve working together to complete the tasks and objectives that have been identified, and regularly reviewing and reassessing the work to ensure that the project stays on track.”
Again, for my taste, too much classic management is included in the Generative AI’s answer: identify a team, appoint a Scrum Master, and identify and prioritize the work. OpenAI’s ChatGPT has a limited understanding of the importance of self-management and how that will manifest itself in practice; for example, by the self-selection of Scrum teams.
Question 14: “What factors contribute to the failure of Scrum?”
Answer 14: “There are several factors that can contribute to the failure of Scrum. Some of the most common reasons include the following:
- Lack of commitment from team members: In order for Scrum to be successful, all team members must be fully committed to the process. If some team members are not fully invested in the project, or if they are not willing to follow the Scrum values and principles, the process can break down and the project may fail.
- Insufficient training or support: In order for Scrum to be effective, team members need to have a clear understanding of the process and how it works. If team members are not properly trained or supported, they may struggle to understand their roles and responsibilities, and the project may suffer as a result.
- Poorly defined goals or objectives: In order for Scrum to be successful, the goals and objectives of the project need to be clearly defined. If the goals are not well-defined, or if they are not aligned with the broader business objectives, the team may struggle to make progress and the project may fail.
- Lack of collaboration and communication: Scrum relies on collaboration and communication among team members to be successful. If team members are not communicating effectively, or if they are not working together as a team, the project may suffer.
- Resistance to change: Scrum is a flexible and adaptable process, but it requires teams to be open to change. If team members are resistant to change, or if they are not willing to adapt to new approaches and methods, the project may fail.”
While the answer covers five critical reasons why transformations fail, the answer is not Scrum-specific but applicable to any project management framework.
Question 15: “Can you force Scrum upon an organization?”
Answer 15: “While it is possible to introduce Scrum to an organization, it is not recommended to try to force it upon the organization. Scrum is a flexible and adaptable framework, but it requires commitment and buy-in from all team members in order to be successful. If team members are not fully committed to the Scrum process, or if they are not willing to follow the Scrum values and principles, the process can break down and the project may fail. Instead of trying to force Scrum upon an organization, it is better to educate people about the benefits of Scrum, and to work with them to create a plan for introducing it in a way that will be accepted and embraced by the organization.”
The suggestion is a correct, universal answer to the question of how to bring about change. It is not Scrum-specific.
Question 16: “What should be avoided if you want Scrum to succeed?”
Answer 16: “There are several things that should be avoided if you want Scrum to succeed. Some of the most important things to avoid include the following:
- Trying to force Scrum on the team: As mentioned earlier, Scrum is a flexible and adaptable framework, but it requires commitment and buy-in from all team members in order to be successful. If team members are not fully committed to the Scrum process, or if they are not willing to follow the Scrum values and principles, the process can break down and the project may fail.
- Not providing sufficient training or support: In order for Scrum to be effective, team members need to have a clear understanding of the process and how it works. If team members are not properly trained or supported, they may struggle to understand their roles and responsibilities, and the project may suffer as a result.
- Not having clearly defined goals and objectives: In order for Scrum to be successful, the goals and objectives of the project need to be clearly defined. If the goals are not well-defined, or if they are not aligned with the broader business objectives, the team may struggle to make progress and the project may fail.
- Not fostering collaboration and communication: Scrum relies on collaboration and communication among team members to be successful. If team members are not communicating effectively, or if they are not working together as a team, the project may suffer.
- Not being open to change: Scrum is a flexible and adaptable process, but it requires teams to be open to change. If team members are resistant to change, or if they are not willing to adapt to new approaches and methods, the project may fail.”
Cool, our Generative AI seems to learn while we chat, referring to the previous question and answer. Otherwise, it is primarily a repetition of answer 14, a set of generic answers from a project management handbook.
Generative AI — Conclusion
We do not know what data was used to train OpenAI’s ChatGPT model. There are indications that, as far as business agility, Scrum, and other agile practices are concerned, the data seems to be limited or not up-to-date. Nevertheless, the answers are often acceptable, some even good, despite some repetitiveness and superficiality.
At this stage, though, I am not concerned that a Generative AI will soon render agile practitioners obsolete in practicing Scrum, Kanban, or other agile frameworks.
Published at DZone with permission of Stefan Wolpers, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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