An interesting email landed in my Inbox the other day that was asking if I had research on justifying the ROI of Agile over traditional development methods, such as Waterfall. If you Google this you are sure to find a number of articles that show that when you have an organization that is truly Agile that you are able to deliver greater value in less time and for less money.
As the email discussions went back and forth it appeared to be that the real root cause of the original question was that management was getting frustrated with why it appeared that everyone was showing up to the Agile ceremonies (not a bad thing for the Sprint demo/review, in fact, encouraged). But, we are talking about the daily stand-ups and constant interruptions to the teams to understand what they were working on, when they would be finished, etc.
Below are observations that I have made and some recommendations on how to address each one. Looking forward to hearing what you think and any observations and recommendations that you have.
The teams are not successfully delivering the stories that they committed to during Sprint planning. Therefore, people want to know why. Possible causes:
- Teams do not feel empowered to push back and are therefore over committing where they should only commit to what they know they can deliver within their Sprint cycle.
- Teams are accepting stories into their Sprint without fully understanding what it is they need to deliver (requires more story grooming).
- Teams are not good at estimating stories. Do they have a good reference story they use during planning poker (assuming they are using planning poker)?
- Stories are not sliced small enough to fit within a Sprint.
- No acceptance criteria, or poorly written.
- No Definition of Ready.
- No Definition of Done.
Once the teams have shown that they can deliver and are increasing their velocity over time, they will be able to plan better and show that the process does work.
The teams are not true cross-functional teams and are siloed/component/system based. This will lead to more dependencies and more teams showing up for story grooming sessions.
Better to align teams to be more cross-functional and create feature teams. Therefore, during grooming sessions, you will hopefully need just the one team as they have all the resources to build the story/features as well as the product owner.
Ineffective Scrum Master
Given how easy it is to obtain a Scrum Master certification it is no wonder that there are so many ineffective Scrum Masters out there. It is the Scrum Master's job to:
- Make sure that the team does not over-commit themselves in terms of what they can achieve during a Sprint.
- Protect the team from outside influences and pressures.
- Remove impediments that prevent the team from successfully delivering.
- Coach the team in self-organization and cross-functionality.
The organization does not have true product owners, so instead, they send a number of people from the business side.
Ideally, you want a dedicated Product Owner, but this is not always the reality. You may want to look into creating a Value Team that is comprised of SME’s from the different businesses. The size of the Value Team should be the typical Scrum team size of 7 +/- 2 people. Request someone to act as the Value Team Facilitator to be the single point of contact for the Value Team and to ensure that the team is doing their job of prioritizing the backlog of features to be worked on, etc. The Value Team Facilitator also needs to be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the Value Team.
Lack of transparency
When teams are not being transparent and do not have a sufficient Information Radiator, management has no idea how the team is performing and where they are in a current Sprint. Transparency is key. If there is a lack of transparency, you tend to get everyone showing up at daily standups and then the team is less likely to be honest if their manager is in the room (I’ve witnessed this many times).
Managers see Agile as a threat to them.
Managers do not typically know what to do when organizations move to Agile, as the old command and control structure is being removed. They now become threatened and want to start sitting in on all of the meetings. Coaching is needed to help them transition into a new role of supporting the teams and removing impediments and ensuring that the teams have the right training, etc.
Lack of trust, when there is a lack of trust people show up to see what is happening.
- For Agile to be successful the teams have to be trusted to plan the work and empowered to make decisions.
- Move as much decision making as possible (and where it makes sense) down.
One last thought, smaller teams will work much faster than larger teams, so it is critical to reduce the number of people attending meetings so that decisions can be made, and made fast.
If Agile is done right, to quote Jeff Sutherland you can deliver “twice the work in half the time,” and with fewer people.