How Scrum Increases Productivity

[article]
Summary:
Scrum has become the most popular exponent of agile software development frameworks. Organizations-and those developing software, in particular-are drawn to Scrum for many reasons. They include its capacity to mitigate risk, facilitate frequent communication, reduce cycle time and cost, and deliver the right products to customers. From a managerial standpoint, Scrum's most appealing attribute is its ability to boost productivity through autonomous, hyper-performing teams.

Scrum has become the most popular exponent of agile software development frameworks. Organizations-and those developing software, in particular-are drawn to Scrum for many reasons. They include its capacity to mitigate risk, facilitate frequent communication, reduce cycle time and cost, and deliver the right products to customers. From a managerial standpoint, Scrum's most appealing attribute is its ability to boost productivity through autonomous, hyper-performing teams.

Not only can the organization leverage Scrum to help teams self-organize and do more (and do it better), but that self-organization also frees up the Product Owner to focus on longer term strategy, macro-measurement as well as determining the ‘what' will be developed versus the ‘how' the work will be completed. In total, the Scrum framework's minimal structure is designed to facilitate frequent communication and ongoing process improvements, the byproduct of which is enhanced productivity.

The Scrum Framework
Scrum's unique framework is designed to be a lightweight management wrapper. That is, while none of the framework's constituent parts are redundant or expendable, there are relatively few of them, thereby making it an approach to management that complements existing processes. However, the framework's streamlined composition emphasizes the specific role each piece of the framework plays in facilitating productivity.

As such, each of Scrum's three primary roles-the ScrumMaster, the Product Owner, and the Team Member-play an essential role in enabling teams to perform at a higher level. To illustrate how Scrum facilitates productivity, in general, I'll examine its three roles to consider how they boost productivity on an individual basis. Of course, when all three roles work in tandem, the overall effect is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The ScrumMaster
Every framework or methodology has a set of rules and processes, but the Scrum framework includes an individual dedicated to making sure they are followed: the ScrumMaster. The work performed by this role is very easy to summarize:  The ScrumMaster resolves impediments that obstruct the team from making progress; assists the Product Owner to make sure the backlog is prioritized; and works to make project status and team successes visible to all stakeholders.

However, the scenarios that might fall under any of the three listed responsibilities are virtually limitless. Factor in the ScrumMaster must execute without any formal authority and it becomes clear that this role requires a particular personality type. Typically, individuals must experience as much satisfaction from helping steer a team toward success as they would from personal heroics. That a ScrumMaster should lead a team through various "soft" skills-as opposed to the command-and-control approach of traditional project management-underscores the necessity of an individual who can motivate through accountability and shared commitment.

As time goes on and the Scrum transformation begins to take root at the organization, fleeting moments of leadership should arise from multiple sources, including all members of the Scrum team. An example follows: While working on a large scale government Scrum transformation (circa 2004), although the ScrumMaster Ann demonstrated an uncanny ability to show leadership in the midst of a difficult political landscape, individual team members (who'd gone through similar transformations) showcased their leadership abilities by holding brown bag lunches on engineering practices or advanced programming skills.

Given how central the pursuit of productivity is to Scrum, the ScrumMaster is not only working to remind all stakeholders to observe Scrum's rules, but actively focusing the team's attention on the ultimate goal: increased productivity and improved processes. One way teams can improve their processes is during the ‘forgotten' meeting, the sprint retrospective. A team is given an opportunity to evaluate itself to determine what's working and what's not so that adjustments

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