projects, the business has to handle important interrupts on a daily basis versus a weekly basis. The purple card has enabled us to handle new, frequent, and changing requirements in an efficient and effective manner. With only few modifications, this practice could be wonderfully adapted to a production environment where enhancements must be combined with support tickets.
Lesson 4: "Trusting" our velocity
As most practitioners of Scrum can testify, a burn down chart is a simple but highly effective tool that provides meaningful visibility to a team, its product owner, and other stakeholders. While its most common use is to measure actual progress versus a target, a burn down should not be over simplified. Information about each sprint should be careful noted; over a period of time the collection of sprints can be understood. I was surprised to discover that most teams do not take time to analyze a project across multiple sprints. The information can be extremely useful and can be used for countless benefits–including establishing trust between the team and its product owner.
Because marketing covers such a broad array of important business functions, several simultaneous "projects" are usually progressing during a single sprint. Our typical sprint backlog might include posting a press release to the company website, developing a new brochure, maintaining a blog, managing a sales campaign, etc. Once we got past the meetings and interruptions, we started to see other trends by evaluating our burn downs. We certainly have a velocity that has become reliable for planning purposes (more on this later), but we observed that it actually changes in a repeatable fashion throughout a majority of our sprints. We start out slow and finish fast (see diagram). This is logically apparent given the nature of many marketing tasks. They are started early in the sprint, but there is usually some factor that delays completion until late in the iteration. E.g. writing a customer news article for the website cannot be posted until a client approves it. The article is written early, then posted midway to late in the sprint. In the beginning, the slow start to a sprint created a sense of de-motivation within the team; furthermore, it created concern for the product owner who was usually very anxious about progress. Over time, however, we recognized the typical pattern and began expect it with no concern unless the velocity did not pick up midway through our sprint. Truly understanding our velocity helped to establish trust throughout our organization.
Lesson 5: In Retrospective - it's a valuable tool
Perhaps the most valuable part of each sprint is the retrospective. Every couple of weeks our team takes the time to reflect and understand the work we performed, our team dynamics, and our overall effectiveness. While our current retrospectives last for merely an hour, they bring a constant and formal attention to improving ourselves, our company, and our team. In a standard business environment, such frequent and formal reflection is rare. It is truly amazing how productive a team can become by improving in a small aspect every couple of weeks. Compared to previous marketing teams at previous companies, we estimate that our current team is twice as productive. Although, we have no definitive baseline to reference, the raw results outlined in the introduction provide more than ample evidence to support our findings that we at conducted more events, hosted more user group meetings, produced more collateral and added more meaningful contacts to our database than teams in the past.
The success of our marketing Scrum has now caused us to launch additional agile efforts within our