Is Your Scrum Team Really Agile?
This question keeps every Scrum team's leaders up at night. Find out if your team is doing it right here.
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Scrum is a framework used effectively across industries to address complex adaptive problems. It creates a setup where developers, testers, and business users make a cross-functional team and work closely within rules and values of Scrum to create beautiful products with agility.
You may be following all the Scrum principles, values, and rules stringently, but still may not be as Agile as you can be. Every Scrum team needs to have a global look at Scrum in terms of tools and practices, irrespective of their role, and see what can be done to increase agility. If your team faces one or more of the following issues, then you need to re-visit your way of doing Scrum.
You Do a "Release Sprint" Regularly
Scrum does not propose any term like "release sprint" apart from regular sprint. But many teams often use this kind of sprint when a release date approaches. The usual idea behind such a sprint is to:
Complete the undone tasks from previous sprints for the upcoming release.
Perform regression tests, performance tests, and merge code from different teams.
Perform other release-specific tasks with no other development (hopefully).
Why Is This Bad Idea?
According to the Scrum methodology, the outcome of every sprint is a potentially releasable increment with the expected level of quality, even though putting something in production at end of every sprint is not always realistic and necessary. If your product is not potentially releasable by end of the sprint, then there is something seriously wrong with your definition of done the quality and transparency of artifacts, the lack of automation tools, and commitment to Scrum rules. Most organizations have regular release plans announced well in advance as part of their bigger plan, so make your team aligned to such plans.
Also, what if there is a need to release something urgently? If your team needs a specific sprint to release, then your team is not Agile enough in such situations.
Your Team Has Lot of Meetings
The Scrum team is collaborative, and members must feel free to communicate with each other, but too much communication is not always a good sign. Scrum suggests 5 timeboxed meetings only, but if your team is having a number of meetings within or outside the team it may suggest that:
Clear documentation or transparency of artifacts do not exist, and people are dependent on each other.
The team is not cross-functional. Developers do not possess the skill needed to handle the issue alone.
Such meetings are consuming team’s development sprint hours. So, make sure the outcome of meetings is recorded or published for future references if needed.
Of course, the team will improve and learn new skills over the time, and they need to communicate to each other for various reasons on a daily basis, but try to regulate tasks that are solely for meetings, as it clearly implies that clear communication guidelines do not exist. A team’s inability to stay independent will impact its agility.
Automate, Automate, Automate
If you don’t automate, you aren't necessarily bending any Scrum rules or values, but remember your competitors can and will go to any length to reduce efforts for repetitive, time-taking manual tasks to ease shipment of product.
Automation is at an all-time high in IT and has become the norm. If your team does not have automated test cases, DevOps, and continuous integration and deployment, implemented then your team is doing a lot of manual work and losing a very important edge in the Agile world.
Though he product owner’s purpose is to add value to the product, it is equally important in the IT world to prioritize tasks to implement these tools for smoother and less time-consuming deployments, integrations, and testing.
If such tools are restricted by organizational guidelines, then the Scrum team should openly highlight the shortcomings of the organization itself.
People Resist to Change
In an Agile transformation, a lot of people will come from a traditional background who are comfortable working in a certain way and may not be very open to new tools and methodologies.
Agile transformation should not end at adopting a new way of working, but the whole team should have an open mind to adapt to new tools and platforms.
People who are skeptical of Scrum rules can hinder the overall team’s morale and agility.
No Documentation as “Working Product Over Documentation”
Make sure your developers do not use the above phrase as an excuse not to document. People leave the team and some key knowledge always goes away with them.
A proper documentation guideline must exist to identify what must be documented and when. Such a practice will not only increase the transparency of the task but also make sure that when new people join the team or a senior architect/executive needs to review a certain task, then information will be readily available. For instance, if there is no documentation, you can look at an old user story and not be able to identify what was delivered. Was it delivered only for certain customers? Did the change introduce any business or security risk?
Though you are not missing any Scrum values, not documenting things properly which will hamper team’s agility.
When teams use shortcuts to implement a feature without following any standard guidelines, they may intentionally or un-intentionally add complexities to the existing code base which in long run may become difficult to maintain, which implies that in the future, the change that takes a week now to develop can take more time, clearly impacting your agility.
The team must take some actions and improve the definition of done to reduce the possibility of technical debt. Even if the team agrees to have inferior code with acceptance of risk in future, it is still a bad idea and must not be encouraged as the team will spend some time be testing, planning and developing the same thing twice.
It's Time to Search and Introspect Scrum Implementation
Scrum methodologies are used all around the world, and every team claims to be different in their approach to implement Scrum.
A few teams will use IT applications to fullest and use tools and dashboards to measure their daily progress, velocity, burndown charts, filter tasks based on priority or any other attribute and more, and other teams will be happy to attach sticky notes on their Agile board.
Teams must research different methodologies to prioritize and estimate tasks, and find a suitable way rather than just relying on manual methods. A basic question a team can ask is:
Can we quantify the improvements suggested or new skill gained by the team so far?
How much time did the team spend on innovation and improve the way of working?
Again, you don’t bend any Scrum rules or values here but there are lot of tools and applications solely created to implement Scrum.
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