Can I Do Perfect Scrum and Still Fail?
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Okay, so let's explore our Credit Card Processing team a little more. They are in a large organization that is delivering large, complex products. They know that the traditional way of planning and building software isn't really working. The big up front requirements analysis and the the big up front design is really slowing the organization down. It routinely takes 18 months or more to bring any new product offering to market. This company is at risk of having smaller, faster competitors take their market share. This team wants to do something about it.
They've heard quite a bit about Agile and Scrum and like the idea of getting to hyper-productivity in just a few iterations. Let's say that this team moves mountains and gets everything they need to be successful... they get the team through agile bootcamp and bring in a coach... they get a top-notch product owner, identify a scrum master, they build the ideal cross functional team, they do all the right XP practices, they do iteration planning, daily standup meetings, demos, and retrospectives.
This is a team that would make Ken and Jeff proud. No Scrum-but here.
The product owner does a great job working with all the stakeholders... both her external customers and the other product managers in the organization. She balances the needs of her market with the needs of the other products that are dependent on her product to be successful. She crafts a backlog that is full of the right features, in the right order, to get everyone all the features they need when they need them. The team starts building... and starts getting really good at delivering done-done software every two weeks.
Just as it should be... right?
We'll... yes and no. The PO for the Credit Card Processing team is probably doing a great job satisfying the needs of her Credit Card Processing customers... that is a good thing. It also sounds like she is doing a great job meeting the needs of her internal stakeholders. But what about that new Payment Processing product that the business is counting on for a significant part of next year's revenue? How has Scrum impacted the overall flow of value for the entire company? The short answer is... it hasn't.
Clearly, this Scrum team has done it's part. I'm not even suggesting that this is a Scrum problem. But, if the Payment Processing initiative fails, where does that leave our Scrum team? It leaves them in the same boat as everyone else... downsized, outsourced, and reorganized.
But Mike you say... what else can I do? The only part of the system I own is the Credit Card Processing engine. I'm doing the absolute best I can with what the people and resources I have been given... I have been successful to the best of my ability. You know what... you're right... you have been successful to the best of your ability. That is what is so frustrating with localized Scrum implementations, it just doesn't matter how good you do Scrum. How well your team adopts agile doesn't matter... how well you adopt Scrum doesn't matter... at the end of the day, all that matters is the value the business get's from your efforts.
In this case, they didn't get the ultimate benefit and the Scrum team suffered. Here is what you have to keep in mind... if the system is bigger that your Scrum team... if the enterprise value stream requires more teams that just yours to deliver... you need to take that into consideration as you adopt scrum. Getting good at team based agile is NOT ENOUGH when it comes to adopting agile in the enterprise... it is NOT ENOUGH when you are part of larger, more complex products. All the pieces have to work together.