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Making The Move To Agile With Scrum - How Scrum Supports Agile

We should probably start clarifying what is the relationship between the two. Let's put it this way:Agile is the mindset, the WHATIt is not about ‘doing’ Agile but being Agile.Scrum is the framework, the HOWIt is one of the available frameworks most used to become more Agile.The Agile Manifesto tells us that it values the items on the left more than the items on the right:Individuals and interactions over processes and toolsWorking software/product over comprehensive documentationCustomer collaboration over contract negotiationResponding to change over following a planScrum defines specific concepts and practices, divided into the three categories of Roles, Artifacts, and Time Boxes. This aims to get the most out of uncertainty.So the question is, how is Scrum supporting the Agile principles?(1) Individuals and Interactions over processes and toolsThe Scrum team members work together to achieve a shared business goal. The set of roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master & Development team) and how these are 'played' / contribute to each sprint is the key to success.Each individual within the Scrum team has a high responsibility and ownership towards the goal: from refinement of the work (backlog items), to their estimates, which are actually committed (sprint items), removing obstacles, optimising the backlog, definition of what a 'Done' item means.To enable the interactions in a consistent manner, Scrum framework uses:Sprint Planning - To discuss items of most value, clarify, decide which to commit to the Sprint, breakdown some tasks which enables seeing different approaches / points of view for the very same item.Daily Sprint - For progress transparency, collaboration, ownership, clarification, obstacles and team alignment.Review - Open to all stakeholders where the 'potentially shippable product' is transparently reviewed, demoed and new possible increments may arise. The review is the 'what', the deliverable tangible concept.Retrospective - Internal for the Scrum team where openly the 'how' is reviewed, to determine what could be changed that might make the next imminent sprint better.The Agile principle of Individuals and Interactions is supported by the 3 pillars of Scrum: Transparency, Inspection & Adaptation.(2) Working software/product over comprehensive documentationScrum requires a working, finished product increment as the primary result of every sprint which the team had chosen and commit to it at the start of the sprint.Even that the increment may not be 'shipped', the team’s job is to ensure the functionality is delivered by the end of the sprint as a 'potentially shippable product' which could go to market.During the sprint, the team works together, cross-skilled, with continuous testing, focusing on the defined goal to be achieved.Agile values the working product more. A quick note on documentation, avoid long winded documents no one will read, think of it with your Agile hat on: modular, iterative, easy to digest and reuse.Agile principle of Working product is supported by the Scrum pillar of Inspection.(3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiationMore often product reviews (including demos) enable more often feedback, and the frame on the event sets an open and transparent environment, so that the increment of product is being delivered early and often.The role of Product Owner is the key here to work closely with the business to prioritise the possible future increments by value (return on investment, refinement, size, risks etc)Collaboration is supported by the Scrum pillar of Transparency. At the beginning of the sprint you have a very open and clear prioritised committed items into the Sprint and the Review openly show what was accomplished and a place to highlight obstacles that may have disturbed the flow within that cycle.(4) Responding to change over following a planScrum is based on empiricism (inspect and adapt) which uses feedback loops to cope with complexity and risk. Scrum emphasises decision making from real-world results rather than speculation.Empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.As new information is discovered, the team updates the backlog, adapts towards the goal and constantly responds to change to deliver what has been committed as a 'possible shippable product'.Responding to change is supported by the Scrum pillar of Adaptation. Out of the 12 Agile principles, personally if I had to choose one it will be “Reflect regularly, tune & adjust to become more effective”, Retrospectives are the key to this. Only the organisations following this will keep up with the future.
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Making The Move To Agile With Scrum - How Scrum Supports Agile 215
Making The Move To Agile With Scrum - How Scrum Supports Agile

We should probably start clarifying what is the relationship between the two. Let's put it this way:

Agile is the mindset, the WHAT
It is not about ‘doing’ Agile but being Agile.

Scrum is the framework, the HOW
It is one of the available frameworks most used to become more Agile.

The Agile Manifesto tells us that it values the items on the left more than the items on the right:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software/product over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan


Scrum defines specific concepts and practices, divided into the three categories of Roles, Artifacts, and Time Boxes. This aims to get the most out of uncertainty.

So the question is, how is Scrum supporting the Agile principles?

(1) Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools

The Scrum team members work together to achieve a shared business goal. The set of roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master & Development team) and how these are 'played' / contribute to each sprint is the key to success.

Each individual within the Scrum team has a high responsibility and ownership towards the goal: from refinement of the work (backlog items), to their estimates, which are actually committed (sprint items), removing obstacles, optimising the backlog, definition of what a 'Done' item means.

To enable the interactions in a consistent manner, Scrum framework uses:

Sprint Planning - To discuss items of most value, clarify, decide which to commit to the Sprint, breakdown some tasks which enables seeing different approaches / points of view for the very same item.

Daily Sprint - 
For progress transparency, collaboration, ownership, clarification, obstacles and team alignment.

Review -
Open to all stakeholders where the 'potentially shippable product' is transparently reviewed, demoed and new possible increments may arise. The review is the 'what', the deliverable tangible concept.

Retrospective -
Internal for the Scrum team where openly the 'how' is reviewed, to determine what could be changed that might make the next imminent sprint better.

The Agile principle of Individuals and Interactions is supported by the 3 pillars of Scrum: Transparency, Inspection & Adaptation.



(2) Working software/product over comprehensive documentation

Scrum requires a working, finished product increment as the primary result of every sprint which the team had chosen and commit to it at the start of the sprint.

Even that the increment may not be 'shipped', the team’s job is to ensure the functionality is delivered by the end of the sprint as a 'potentially shippable product' which could go to market.

During the sprint, the team works together, cross-skilled, with continuous testing, focusing on the defined goal to be achieved.

Agile values the working product more. A quick note on documentation, avoid long winded documents no one will read, think of it with your Agile hat on: modular, iterative, easy to digest and reuse.

Agile principle of Working product is supported by the Scrum pillar of Inspection.

(3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

More often product reviews (including demos) enable more often feedback, and the frame on the event sets an open and transparent environment, so that the increment of product is being delivered early and often.

The role of Product Owner is the key here to work closely with the business to prioritise the possible future increments by value (return on investment, refinement, size, risks etc)

Collaboration is supported by the Scrum pillar of Transparency. At the beginning of the sprint you have a very open and clear prioritised committed items into the Sprint and the Review openly show what was accomplished and a place to highlight obstacles that may have disturbed the flow within that cycle.

(4) Responding to change over following a plan

Scrum is based on empiricism (inspect and adapt) which uses feedback loops to cope with complexity and risk. Scrum emphasises decision making from real-world results rather than speculation.

Empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.

As new information is discovered, the team updates the backlog, adapts towards the goal and constantly responds to change to deliver what has been committed as a 'possible shippable product'.

Responding to change is supported by the Scrum pillar of Adaptation. Out of the 12 Agile principles, personally if I had to choose one it will be “Reflect regularly, tune & adjust to become more effective”, Retrospectives are the key to this. Only the organisations following this will keep up with the future.

Ines

Ines Garcia

Blog author

Founder at get:Agile. Empowering Agile mindset evolution (not revolution). Helping organizations to become more Agile with Scrum framework and Kanban elements while delivering Salesforce technology.

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The Importance of the Transparency Value in Agile

1. Introduction In this article I’ll be writing about Agile and the importance of transparency in Agile Software Development.  This article is focused mostly around Scrum teams, but many points would apply to Lean and Kanban environments as well. Transparency is one of the core values of Agile.  Transparency is critical to the success of organizations and groups adopting Agile.  In Scrum we use burndown and/or burnup charts to report the progress of the team throughout the Sprint.  In Scrum we also have “ceremonies” or meetings that help with transparency, which include the Daily Standup, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Retrospective meetings.  These all give the team and product owner a chance to raise issues and be honest about things like the team’s progress.  The meetings also give the team a chance to adapt and improve. 2. Why is transparency important to Agile Transparency in Agile Software Development cannot be overstated.  In some organizations it is not easy to be transparent and open.  There are lots of pressures to say what the business wants to hear.  But I believe in the long-run a lack of transparency hurts an Agile team, the project, the organization, and ultimately the company.  I've seen firsthand organizations that claim they want “openness” but then, I can say that true transparency is not easy.  Transparency is critical to the success of Software Development using Agile Methodology  and it is well worth the effort.  Without full transparency there are lots of bad things that happen, including: Lack of trust with the Product Owner Team has to get caught-up in politics instead of focusing on what needs to be delivered Team morale can suffer Measuring future work is more difficult The team’s true velocity is not known 3. How teams can be more transparent with a Product Owner There are several steps a team can take to prevent the issues raised in the previous section.  In this section, we will cover some of those steps.  Use burndown charts to be honest about how the team is performing in a given Sprint. A burndown chart tells the true story of how the team is performing. Some teams also use a burnup chart for this purpose. If you cliff-dive at the end of the Sprint, that's not the greatest, but at least you are being honest to the Product Owner in terms of what happened.  If you are not going to make the Sprint commitment, at least that will be more obvious during the Sprint (i.e. the burndown will show that the team is not closing enough points each day and is at risk of either cliff-diving or not meeting the commitment). The point is that the team is being completely transparent.  The velocity is what it is.  The product owner knows what the team is capable of delivering. Using the raw data and not hiding anything from the business frees an Agile team. I believe it is Kent Beck that has an excellent quote in one of his presentations about what he calls “schedule chicken.” He tells a story about people around the table during a typical project meeting and the project manager is going around asking each team how things are going. Everyone wants to put on a good face and says “umm, yeah we are on schedule” even when they are not. Now they have to sit there and know that they might be caught in a lie later. Better to just be honest and say “Well, we are about 2 Sprints behind.” Done.  Now there is nothing to hide and you can move on and deal with the reality of the situation you are faced with. There are a couple things that happen when the team is honest with the Product Owner.  The first, as mentioned previously, is the relationship between the Product Owner’s trust in a team and the team’s transparency.  Figure 1 below shows this relationship.   But there is another benefit we get from being transparent: the team’s velocity becomes more accurate.  This can be seen in Figure 2 below.   4. What Product Owners Should Ask If you are a Product Owner what are some of the signs that a Scrum team is not being 100% transparent?   This section will focus on some of the red flags or “smells” that may indicate a team is not being truthful and transparent.  If a team does not want to share their burndown and/or burnup charts, that is an obvious red flag and is simply not acceptable. If the velocity of a team is very static, that may also indicate issues.  This may indicate that the team has a fixed amount of points they will always commit to for a Sprint, regardless of their actual capacity.  More on this in the section below on case studies.  Another possible red flag is when most User Stories have the same point value.  It could indicate that the team is using a “one size fits all” for their estimates.  The Product Owner should not be afraid to press the team if they feel the team is not accurately estimating User Stories.  But you need to ask in a way that is not accusatory. 5. Case studies In one Scrum team I saw a real lack of transparency and it really was not a good experience. Soon after joining this Scrum team, I attended my first Sprint Planning meeting on this team. In the meeting I noticed something odd. Their true velocity was let's say, 40 points, but they would only commit to around 30 points. They would then find a few more stories and put them in the next Sprint. These additional stories were what they would call “a stretch goal”. But they knew their velocity was much higher than what they were committing to. This seemed very wrong to me. It was a total lack of transparency and honesty. Not surprisingly, the team would typically finish the stories in the current Sprint and then work on a few more stories from the next Sprint that they had put aside. For the most part, this was a management decision because they did not trust the team to meet their velocity in a consistent fashion. This led to a lack of transparency with the business, and normal tools like burndown charts could not be trusted. Also, it did not make the team feel very good because they knew they were not being honest with the business. Instead of using this "stretch goal" approach, use the velocity of the team to measure how much work can be done in a given Sprint. Then, based on capacity, commit to what you know your team can complete that Sprint. Be honest about the team’s velocity and don't give into political games about trying “to look good” on some presentation slide. This type of misrepresentation does not benefit anyone in the long run. 6. Conclusion The bottom line is to let the quality of the team’s work speak for itself. Have a consistent velocity, deliver software without defects, deliver business value, and adapt to what the business needs.  This will lead to more trust with the Product Owner and will make the team feel better since they are being 100% honest not having to play any games.  This lets the team focus on what truly matters:  delivering quality software that adds value.  
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