Doing Scrum – Leading the way – Learning agile

“I have heard Scrum is ‘the thing’, please google it and implement accordingly!”. This was the exact words from a previous boss of mine, when he wanted me to make our team deliver on time and with the desired quality. This was the beginning of my career in “doing Scrum”.

I have learned quite a few lessons since. In this blogpost I will deal with a few of the hardest challenges I have faced. You will most likely not learn from my mistakes, but being aware of them, may help you overcome them faster when you face them.

My boss was partly a joke, and partly not, when he wanted me to google Scrum and implement it. He knew that he wanted things to be different, but he didn’t want to do things differently – after all he had been in the business for 20+ years. He gave the task to me, so he would not have to deal with it, himself.

Not that he wanted me to fail, but when I think back on this, I think he kind of expected me to fail.

Lesson learned #1: Management ignorance cannot be talked away – Lead the way!

Every decent manager will easily buy-in to the benefits of going agile, but it seems harder to make them commit and start acting agile. But Why? Firstly, You are telling management that they have to give up their traditional control measures, which in their ears sounds like “give up ALL control measures”. Managers don’t like that. Telling a manager to quit his way of managing, which he has been trained to and been doing for decades, won’t get you far.

Instead of wasting your energy on the manager, which I did way to much, use your energy on the team. Build the trust in your team. Focus on improving small things that you and the team actually have control of. Improving even small things will influence people and things around the team. This will lead to even more things the team can control and do something about, and eventually, you will also be influencing the manager. Don’t even bother trying to change the things you cannot change, and while we are at it, immediately stop complaining that you cannot change things you cannot change. Seems obvious, yet, the last bit is what we humans tend to do.

The exercise “In the soup” or “Circles and soup” , can help you identifying what you can actually change. Use it for your own actions and/or together with the team.

Take the lead. Be a leader. Remember you don’t have to be a Boss to be a leader. You might want to look into the difference between being a boss and a leader.

Lead the way, for your team, an eventually for your manager.

Lesson learned #2: Agile is not something you decide to do – It is a learning process

When you take a Scrum Course it will be on slide 2 that “Scrum is not a silverbullet”. It will not solve your problems, and in the best case it will make your hidden problems visible. Scrum is a tool in helping you transforming into being agile – Following the Scrum process does not mean that you are agile over night. Becoming agile is a learning process, that over time will help you build principles, values and mindset!

Slide 3 on a Scrum Course will state “If you are not doing like this, then you are not doing Scrum”. We are being taught that “Scrum-buts” are dangerous, and have to be avoided. Shame on you if you do a Scrum-but. Shame on you if you deviate from Scrum.

Even though I fully understand both points, this contradiction is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, obstacles for implementing Scrum successfully. Like I did back in my early days with Agile Management, inexperienced agile practitioners might conclude something like: “If you are not doing Scrum by the book, then shame on you, because then you won’t get a successful Scrum-implementation”. And then the scrum-implementation in itself becomes the goal, leaving the overall goal of becoming agile behind.

Acknowledging that “becoming agile” is the goal, and not “We do Scrum by the book”, was the breakthrough for me. Even though I see value in Scrum and the process and roles Scrum prescribes, it must not stand in the way for collaboration between people. Value individuals and Interactions over processes and tools!

Working with teams inexperienced in working agile and teame who do not “believe” in Scrum, I have had success in looking at the challenges the teams were facing, and then implementing parts of Scrum to deal with that problem. New problems arise, which can the be dealt with implementing new parts of Scrum, and so on.

This is a Just-in-time approach to implementing Scrum. To me it made a big difference in my success as ScrumMaster compared to the “all or nothing” mindset. The just-in-time approach, fosters the learning process in becoming agile.

Agile is not something you decide to do, it is something you have to learn to be!

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