Delwyn Hicks
Delwyn Hicks
April 13, 2017

Successful Scrums: Lessons Learned from Agile Delivery Wins and Losses

As with many a great endeavor; it all starts with grand intentions. A new ecommerce site that doubles revenue, a fantastic mobile app that quickly becomes a top charter in both Apple’s and Google’s stores. And all of this within six months! If not managed properly, the project can become stuck in the ditch soon after it kicks off. Requirements change, priorities shift, key resources and stakeholders transition… Soon that six-month endeavor becomes a two-year marathon that results in unhappy clients, frustrated employees and missed opportunities. Software development can be like trying to hit a bullseye, on a moving target, while blindfolded, and moving yourself. What compounds this issue is that we often try to use 19th-century project management solutions to solve 21st-century project management problems.  

At the core of the value, we provide our clients is our use of an Agile approach to digital transformation. The ability to quickly adapt to change allows the opportunity to have production ready solutions available to our clients in rapid time. High performing scrum teams are at the heart of this ability. They have learned to welcome change and developed a culture that fosters success in this complex arena. As a ScrumMaster®, I’ve seen the benefits of this approach and have learned (and continue to learn) what factors create successful scrum teams. Here are my key takeaways:

Successful Scrum Teams Are….

Small: If you’ve ever planned a wedding or played a game of “Pass it On,” you know just how difficult it is to get everyone on the same page. Even a simple message distributed to a large group can become distorted. Imagine a team of just nine individuals. A message distributed in that group would potentially traverse 36 separate channels! Successful scrum teams consist of six (+/- two) members.  This limits the number of channels and thus the potential for miscommunication. In scrum, communication is essential!

Co-Located: This seems a simple concept but it’s no less important. Teams that sit together work better.  Whether across town or around the world, the value of face-to-face interaction is extremely valuable to successful scrum teams. Messages don’t get lost, the ability to resolve conflict increases and strong bonds are developed. These all play a role in a team coming together to become highly effective.  

A Good Blend: Like a bowl of Pho at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, there are no shortcuts to forming a successful team. Top-notch scrum teams are staffed appropriately with technical, business and team focused individuals who are eager to learn new skills and share their knowledge with others. It requires a full commitment by each individual to the team (and the team to the project) to achieve the best results. If a project team consists of partial members, expect to achieve partial results. The old adage is true, “when it comes to a ham and eggs breakfast, which animal are you? The Chicken or the Pig?”  

Are Not Afraid of Failure: A core principle of scrum is that failure is not something to avoid at all costs. In fact, you should work towards “failing fast.” Only through trial and error can a team truly learn what tools, processes and practices work. In addition, by moving to iterate quickly, clients can learn what they really are seeking in their digital transformation. Successful scrum teams understand and embrace this concept. The key is to always try new avenues to solve problems and learn from past failures.

Agile can be a powerful tool to address ever-increasing complex issues that our digital life creates. Fostering a culture whereby scrum teams leverage these key aspects is an important ingredient in tackling these challenges. Successful scrum teams have these key concepts incorporated in their daily practices. As you form your project teams, try blending in the concepts discussed in your trials. Win or lose, you’ll find the mix that works best for you. Visit our services page to learn more about our agile project management and other core services.


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