Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scrum is about Business. Do not be afraid to talk business when talking Scrum.

The situation...

The team has 4 days left in a 10 day (2 week) Sprint.

Person with some "Power": "I want to get this special feature done right now by inserting it into the Sprint because it is important for my division."

Scrum Master: "I am sorry, but we don't allow new work into the Sprint."

Person with some "Power": "Are you telling me that you don't care about this valuable work.  (usually not in a very nice tone).  Scrum is not very flexible".

Scrum is a Framework for delivering Complex Solutions.  It does not solve problems, but one thing is clear.....  Scrum used properly is about Business.  Actions by people in "Power" can have significant negative impact on the expensive group of people called the Scrum Team.

Scrum teams are EXPENSIVE to maintain (especially if distracted).  Don't be afraid to acknowledge that fact!  I once worked with a team who knew exactly what they cost each Sprint as a total including burden (other company costs including building, legal, etc.). It certainly changed conversations.

If your team is not allowed to focus on their current goals for the company, warning bells should be going off.   The team is too expensive to allow this to continue.  The team is already focused as a whole on what has been deemed as the highest Return on Investment from customer feedback to the business.

Please note, Return on Investment (ROI) does not have to be about Money. Return on Investment could be about many other factors.  (A post for another time).

A potential response to the situation above... (Yes, I know, easier said than done).

"Sure. As a Scrum Team, we work by ROI (Return on Investment) and we are highly aligned with business needs. The cost of the team of being redirected is material.  They are a very Expensive as a team.

We wouldn't be doing what we are unless it was important to reaching our Goal.  We are serious about it and serious about protecting the company's money.

For us to be diverted, we would let the Customers and the Business know that this work is more important than what we are currently focused on.  We'll Cancel the Sprint and re-plan.  Based on the size of our team, that should only cost about $12,000.00 all-in.  

We will leave it up to you to explain to the stakeholders who are waiting for our current deliverable.  

An alternative is to ask the Product Owner to put it as the first thing on the list for the next Sprint.  That's only 4 days away.   We're happy either way. I'll leave it up to you.  We'll just need to publish the reason for the cancellation if you choose that path."

This direct approach assumes that the team is actually following Scrum themselves and doing what they agreed to work on. If that is not the case, think carefully about what problem you should address first. 

The example assumes your teams are not just working on whatever they want to or something that was just assigned to the team in a haphazard way.  

If someone is assigning work to individual team members that is a whole different problem.  PLEASE Call an experienced Agile Coach or Consultant who has courage immediately. 

If the conversation would not go well in your organization, I believe you should be asking yourself (or your organization).

- Why are we doing Scrum?

- Why can we not allow the team to focus?
- Why are teams not working on the highest value items already?
- What can I do to educate people and/or executives about how and WHY we keep the Sprint Focused on the current goal?
- Should we be using OpenAgile or Kanban ? (there are more Agile Frameworks)
- Are we being honest about the costs of diverting a Scrum team?

Scrum does not fix problems.  It's rules are designed to expose them

Although it may be tempting to just ignore those rules, realize they are there to protect the investment the company is making in this very expensive team.

By not using them as designed, you are potentially wasting money.  The problems caused by changing the teams' focus are compounded by the cross-functional nature of the team and the work they are already engaged in.

Mishkin Berteig has been posting a series about Scrum Rules and why they work on   Here are some links for you if you're interested...

Sprint Review
Sprint Planning Timebox
Why is each Sprint the Same Length

If you really should be using Scrum and your company would prefer not to re-organize to allow this very expensive team to do the highest ROI work now...

Perhaps Scrum has already exposed a Material problem.  Think about it. Maybe it is working perfectly.

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile

Scrum - Scrum Alliance,  Scrum.Org
OpenAgile -
Kanban - Kanban for Development

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