“Doing Scrum” means adhering to the letter of the Scrum framework, including:
- having the designated roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Scrum Team
- using the Scrum artifacts, including the Scrum Board, Burn-up and/or Burn-down charts
- Sticking to the prescribed meetings / ceremonies, such as the Daily Scrum, Scrum Planning, Scrum Review and Retrospective.
On the other hand, “being Agile” is about living the spirit of the Agile Manifesto and the 12 principles. It’s about producing maximum value at the shortest time in the environment of rapid change and uncertainty.
Martial artists have a concept of Shu – Ha – Ri:
- Shu: literal adherence to the rules and techniques
- Ha: understanding the meaning behind the rules, and then branching out from the prescribed path; bending the rules
- Ri: creating your own approaches and making your own rules
If your organization is new to Scrum, then “doing Scrum” (Shu) is not a bad place to start. Once you have mastered the basis of Scrum, XP, Chrystal or whatever Agile framework you started with, you will develop a deeper understanding of why each activity, role or the artifact are important. At some point, you will realize that blind adherence to the prescribed rules might be in conflict with the goal of producing maximum value and adapting to change. This means that you are past the “Shu” stage and are ready to move forward.
A great illustration of the difference between “doing Scrum” and “being Agile” is the way teams approach the Daily Scrum meeting, a.k.a. the Standup meeting. Among the teams I worked with, the Standup seemed to have been the least favorite activity. Now I realize that this was because, like nearly 80% of teams that call themselves “Agile”, were were stuck in the “Shu” stage for far too long.
The Standup is supposed to play an important role in keeping the team aligned and coordinated. During what should be 15 minutes, each team member answers the following three questions:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- Are there any impediments in my way?
Seems like it should be a short and productive meeting. The team members get in sync, so they progress faster towards the Sprint goal. Here is what often happens in reality:
- The Standup often deteriorates into yet another status update meeting. The danger of this is especially strong when one of the team members or the Scrum Master has a manager title.
- It gets lengthy. Our Stand-up ran as long as 25-30 minutes. I have heard of some teams which took nearly one hour–each day!
- The Stand-up adds very little value for small co-located teams that check in with one another multiple times during the day anyway. They already know what each person did yesterday and what they need to do today. The impediments that arose yesterday were handled yesterday.
- When team members work on fairly independent projects, coordination is not particularly valuable.
So, what is the Scrum Master/Agile leader to do if the Daily Stand-up turns into a lengthy status update that everybody hates? Those who “do scrum” struggle with this, because it is a key prescribed activity. However, if you are being Agile, then first and foremost you need to be concerned with producing value. If an activity does not add value, change or even (gulp) eliminate it.
A Few Tips for Better Daily Scrum Meetings:
- The first two questions, as they are prescribed, do seem like status update. For small co-located teams that update one-another on their daily activities anyway, you could change the prescribed questions to something like:
- what did I learn yesterday, which could be valuable for the team to know?
- where I might need help or coordination?
- If your 15 minute meeting drags for 30 minutes, tell the team members that they now have only 10 minutes while eliminating the 1st question from the agenda. Make it all about getting help. Time each team member and remind them that they have 2-3 minutes for thei>r part. Dave Chapelle’s Wrap It Up Clock comes to mind. As you might have guessed, there’s an app for that–both iOS and Android.
- If you happen to have a manager title, emphasize that you are not a micromanager and this is not a micromanaging meeting. The goal of having you, the Scrum Master is to remove impediments and for the other team members to coordinate and help when they can.
- If you see that the team is speaking to you as opposed to the other team members, take a literal step back to make sure that you are out of sight so that the teammates face one-another.
- Don’t engage in lengthy technical discussions. Take that offline.
- Do not sit for the stand up. Standing has an effect of keeping the meeting shorter.
- Finally, when your team members work on independent projects, which require little coordination, then kill the damn thing until they need to coordinate again.