Coaching is Key for Scrum Success – Part One of Two

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Summary:

Organizations eager to solve the problems they see in their projects or processes often decide to adopt Scrum in the belief that it will immediate solve all those problems. Although Scrum can and often does resolve some problems immediately, it also has the potential to expose or exacerbate other existing problems and can even appear to create a few problems of its own.

In some cases, this can be seen to be a “failure” of Scrum, even when implemented by an organization that was initially enthusiastic and determined. This perceived failure can cost the organization considerable time and money if the Scrum team continues along the same path they are on, despite the unresolved problems. These costs, as well as frustrations and even pressures from inside or outside the Scrum team can cause Scrum to be abandoned without ever demonstrating its full potential.

How can an organization maximize the benefits of Scrum while minimizing its learning curves and stumbling blocks?

Common problems when implementing Scrum

It’s common to have some issues when first implementing Scrum, especially for the first Scrum teams within an organization. These problems can continue to plague the organization until they are addressed and they can compromise the success of Scrum across the entire organization.

Some common issues are:

  • Teams are unable to achieve success but claim to be “doing Scrum.” Upon closer examination, these teams are shown to be using something only half-jokingly called “Scrum-But.” Scrum-But is where one or more key facets of Scrum are dropped, in whole or in part. This can happen for many reasons including not seeing the value in the parts of Scrum they have not implemented, an inability to see how to implement Scrum for their specific situation, or even because Scrum has exposed problems and impediments they feel they have no control over.
  • Teams adopt Scrum and see some small changes but not as much as they hoped and, over time, the culture of their organization pulls them back into their pre-Scrum methods and techniques. This can happen for many reasons. The team may revert to the old way of doing things when faced with only a partial success; the team may react to Scrum’s exposure of existing problems and issues by going back to methods and techniques designed to hide or work around those problems
  • Teams try to adopt Scrum based on self-education or a limited amount of training, but their organization does not empower them to do so with time, education and support. Organizations can even sabotage a team’s Scrum efforts by requiring adherence to seemingly arbitrary reporting, workflow or organizational rules despite evidence of how changes could be highly beneficial.

Common efforts to resolve these problems that don’t work

As common as some of these problems are, many organizations or teams have attempted to resolve these problems on their own, usually with mixed results, at best. These resolution attempts vary in their base goal and their execution but they share the fact that that they do not work.

Some common resolution attempts are:

  • The organization insists that the Scrum team follow an arbitrary list of criteria or processes, no matter how compatible those are with the team, the project or the organization itself. This creates immediate friction and extra work and tends to sabotage the Scrum team from the start.
  • The organization provides the Scrum team with additional training classes, either internal or external. While Scrum training is important, the Scrum team may still not be able to apply the Scrum facets to their own project, team or organization correctly.
  • The Scrum team performs ad hoc alterations to Scrum itself in order to attempt to fix the identified problems. This, in turn, creates more problems because the team ends up implementing Scrum-But instead of Scrum.
  • The organization or Scrum team gives up on Scrum entirely. Not only are the benefits of Scrum not realized but the team members consider themselves a failure and are frustrated. The organization has now spent money on a “failed” process and will be extremely hesitant to try Scrum again, despite evidence of how it can benefit them.

What is the most effective way to resolve Scrum problems?

Call in a Scrum coach

One of the best decisions an organization can make when faced with Scrum “failure” is to realize that there are problems occurring that the organization may not be able to identify or resolve on its own. These organizations will certainly benefit from

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